Recognition Award for service to Maltese photography

The MIPP president, Dr Charles Paul Azzopardi, presenting the Recognition Award to Ing. Ian Ellis.
(Photo: Nathan Camilleri)

The Malta Institute of Professional Photography (MIPP) has awarded its Award of Recognition for Sterling Service to Maltese photography to Ing. Ian Ellis, who is the archivist and CEO of the Richard Ellis Archive.

The Richard Ellis Archive, totalling close to 45000 negatives, survived two world wars and multiple conservation issues. The archive is one of the most valuable of its kind since it uniquely chronicles Malta and its way of life through the ages. Ing. Ian Ellis is a Richard Ellis descendant who has been painstakingly conserving and digitizing the archive in close conjunction with Malta Image Preservation Archive (MIPA). Ing. Ian Ellis, an engineer by profession, took over the archive’s management in 1993.

Sliema’s most popular bathing spot, then as now: Exiles, back in c.1920s.
(© The Richard Ellis Archive- Malta)

“I became involved in the care of this collection and in the eventual publication of his pictures quite perchance and quite late in life… I was pretty close to my uncle so that when he passed away aged 82, I was landed the responsibility of taking over his photography shop. Actually photography had been phased out of the business because by that time (1990s), photography was pretty much accessible to everybody and there was no scope in keeping the photography services going. My uncle had shifted to frame-making and in 1993, I decided to take over the business. I knew of the archive and over the past years I have been sifting through it.

– Ing. Ian Ellis, interview with TheSynapse Magazine Online, Jan. 2012

Richard Ellis, born in 1841 and died in 1924, was active in photography between 1861 and 1920. He is widely considered to be among the best photographers Malta ever produced, having a vast repertoire of expertise in portraiture, landscape work, architectural photography, naval documentation, as well as forensic and medical photography. The voluminous photographic cultural and historical heritage which the archive contains, still see its images published till this day in several media forms.

Great-grandson Ing. Ian Ellis’s sterling work has managed to save the archive from destruction, and he deserves all the recognition and appreciation for the extremely important endeavour he took on for Maltese photography. The importance of the archive to Maltese national history is enhanced by its almost unique characteristic, that of still being organized in accordance with the original order Richard Ellis imposed. 

Set up in 1996, the MIPP strives to improve the technical knowledge, professional status and image of persons involved in the photographic industry. This it does while maintaining standards in professional practice and conduct for the benefit of photography and buyers of photography. Its role is also to safeguard, monitor and deal with matters which affect professional photography.

MIPA was founded in 2020 by Dr Charles Paul Azzopardi and master photographer Kevin Casha, the two foremost experts of photographic archival material in Malta. MIPA is dedicated to cultural heritage digitization and preservation. The scope of cultural heritage digitization is to create a Preservation Digital Object (PDO), which can, for all intents and purposes, be used instead of the actual object needing to be handled.