British photographic history

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Is any member of this group researching or interested in the activities of Britain’s beach photographers? The Thetford & Watton Times and People's Weekly Journal of Saturday 12 September 1891 carried an article titled “Yarmouth In August” that describes the use by the Great Yarmouth beach photographers of painted head-through cartoons based on the advertisements for Pears Soap. “Large reproductions of the well known and profusely displayed illustrations ‘He won’t be happy till he gets it,’ and ‘You dirty boy!’ are erected on the sand.” This is the earliest record I have found relating to the use of painted boards by beach photographers at Great Yarmouth. This predates the photograph by Paul Martin of a photographer’s pitch on Great Yarmouth sands taken in 1892. http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O1093470/photograph/

The use of head-through boards by the photographers who traded on Great Yarmouth sands continued until 1965 when the town’s last beach photographer Samuel Hollowell retired. Many of these boards had a topical theme while others contained an element of innuendo.

I am aware of the activities of Charles Howell at Blackpool Pleasure Beach where comic seaside souvenir photographs were produced on an industrial scale. I am also aware of the various beach photographers who took portrait and group photographs on the sands at many coastal resorts around Great Britain. Painted head-through boards that were used by the seaside photographers are today viewed as a part of our traditional seaside heritage but were these posing props used in other British resorts beside Great Yarmouth and Blackpool?

“You Dirty Boy” by Great Yarmouth beach photographer Jimmy Thompson. A postcard size print taken in the 1930s.

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Good to see another wonderful example of this genre, Paul. I'm very interested, as you are aware, in the activities of seaside photographers of various sorts. I have the idea that this style of portrait was far more common in the US than in the UK, and maybe prevalent a bit earlier? I've seen lots of US tintypes in this style - the "head over" are perhaps more common than the "head through," but I can't be so sure about dates.

I don't know if my information is relevant but my great grandfather JOHN BATTY was trading as a photographer and picture frame maker in Wood Green when he saw a advert for spaces to rent on Clacton Beach. He set up his stall in 1896 and the family traded as beach photographers until 1933. I have a comprehensive collection of his photographs and occasionally give powerpoint talks on the subject.The next one is a talk to the Clacton Local History Society on June 21st at the Baptist Church in Pier Avenue at 7.30pm.

Malcolm Batty

Further to my message please find attached one or two images of Batty's beach photographs from about 1910

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More pix

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Beach photography seems to have started pretty much with the advent of the railways and day trips to the sea, I would imagine. I have quite a few ambrotypes and tintypes of the genre, which I'll attach here. AMBRO_2 is particularly interesting, using a cutout of a man carrying two ladies into the sea from a bathing-cabin, and the oddly placed (and fully dressed) lady appears in the foreground. If you'd like to see some more - I have a couple where the photographer is identified - just let me know.

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Brett I have a few examples of photographs using head-over style cartoons rather than the head-through types taken at GreatYarmouth. I should have made it clearer in my original post as head-overs and head-throughs are both of interest to me.



Brett Payne said:

Good to see another wonderful example of this genre, Paul. I'm very interested, as you are aware, in the activities of seaside photographers of various sorts. I have the idea that this style of portrait was far more common in the US than in the UK, and maybe prevalent a bit earlier? I've seen lots of US tintypes in this style - the "head over" are perhaps more common than the "head through," but I can't be so sure about dates.

Thank you for sharing the lovely family photos. Despite trying to focus my researches on Great Yarmouth’s seaside photographers I have somehow taken an interest in the seaside photographers of Clacton and I had spotted HJ Batty of 114 Pier Ave in my 1933 Kelly’s Essex directory. Other Clacton operators of interest include Horace Murray and James Hobson. Hobson took three in a strip walking photographs trading as Empire Films and was, I believe, the first holder of the photographic concession at the Butlin Camp at Clacton.

The use of mock cars and aeroplanes is interesting as similar posing props were in use on the sands at Great Yarmouth. However I must say your Great Grandfather went to much greater trouble with the background than his Great Yarmouth colleagues who often had other people lurking in the background.



Malcolm Batty said:

I don't know if my information is relevant but my great grandfather JOHN BATTY was trading as a photographer and picture frame maker in Wood Green when he saw a advert for spaces to rent on Clacton Beach. He set up his stall in 1896 and the family traded as beach photographers until 1933. I have a comprehensive collection of his photographs and occasionally give powerpoint talks on the subject.The next one is a talk to the Clacton Local History Society on June 21st at the Baptist Church in Pier Avenue at 7.30pm.

Malcolm Batty

Thank you for replying to this discussion. I would certainly like to know more about the photographers that are identified. Some of the photographic artists of Yarmouth sands did use preprinted postcard photographic paper that does have contact information printed on them. The majority do not.

michael g. jacob said:

Beach photography seems to have started pretty much with the advent of the railways and day trips to the sea, I would imagine. I have quite a few ambrotypes and tintypes of the genre, which I'll attach here. AMBRO_2 is particularly interesting, using a cutout of a man carrying two ladies into the sea from a bathing-cabin, and the oddly placed (and fully dressed) lady appears in the foreground. If you'd like to see some more - I have a couple where the photographer is identified - just let me know.

In 1950 we were still struggling with shortages after the war with film in short supply.There were no package holidays abroad

at the time and so  Hastings had lots of Boarding Houses with lots of visitors. I worked for Leighton's at White Rock opposite the swimming baths.

We were using government surplus film. I worked as a" WALKING SNAP PHOTOGRAPHER " We were not allowed to take photographs on the beach as Hastings Council sold the sole rights to SUN  PHOTOS.

I used to take photographs of the visitors in Queens Road as they made there way towards the beach . I was supplied with a 

 Vintage 35mm hand crank cine camera Geared down so 1 turn took 1 photo.

I used to take 400 photos in about 2 hours . the proofs were contacted printed for viewing in the shop next day and orders printed 2 on a postcard. all processing done by me.

I thought I had copy of a photo but can not find it . I must have taken nearly  30,000 during the season so there must still be 

some around. I only worked for 1 season but other photographers had worked for previous and later years so there must be a lot of this style still peoples albums

There used to be a'"head though photo  "fun setup on Hastings Pier that was free for anyone to make use of.

Hope this might be of interest.

Patrick Archer

JOHN BATTY and his son HARRY BATTY were carpenter and joiners as well as photographers. The holiday season only lasts about six weeks and they could make a living in the winter. In my youth in the 1960s I worked in a D & P House developing and printing holiday makers photos. It was a short season but for three or for summers I was very pale as I didn’t see the sun from our darkroom. You are right about Empire Films. My uncle RALPH BATTY worked for them in the 1930s when Billy Bultin was starting the Clacton Camp. I have attached some more Pix including one of Billy Butlin in his first season. The others are of John Batty's first kiosk on the beach and my grandmother and her friend bathing (1910?)



Paul Godfrey said:

Thank you for sharing the lovely family photos. Despite trying to focus my researches on Great Yarmouth’s seaside photographers I have somehow taken an interest in the seaside photographers of Clacton and I had spotted HJ Batty of 114 Pier Ave in my 1933 Kelly’s Essex directory. Other Clacton operators of interest include Horace Murray and James Hobson. Hobson took three in a strip walking photographs trading as Empire Films and was, I believe, the first holder of the photographic concession at the Butlin Camp at Clacton.

The use of mock cars and aeroplanes is interesting as similar posing props were in use on the sands at Great Yarmouth. However I must say your Great Grandfather went to much greater trouble with the background than his Great Yarmouth colleagues who often had other people lurking in the background.



Malcolm Batty said:

I don't know if my information is relevant but my great grandfather JOHN BATTY was trading as a photographer and picture frame maker in Wood Green when he saw a advert for spaces to rent on Clacton Beach. He set up his stall in 1896 and the family traded as beach photographers until 1933. I have a comprehensive collection of his photographs and occasionally give powerpoint talks on the subject.The next one is a talk to the Clacton Local History Society on June 21st at the Baptist Church in Pier Avenue at 7.30pm.

Malcolm Batty

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JOHN BATTY and his son HARRY BATTY were carpenter and joiners as well as photographers. The holiday season only lasts about six weeks and they could make a living in the winter. In my youth in the 1960s I worked in a D & P House developing and printing holiday makers photos. It was a short season but for three or for summers I was very pale as I didn’t see the sun from our darkroom. You are right about Empire Films. My uncle RALPH BATTY worked for them in the 1930s when Billy Bultin was starting the Clacton Camp. I have attached some more Pix including one of Billy Butlin in his first season. The others are of John Batty's first kiosk on the beach and my grandmother and her friend bathing (1910?)



Paul Godfrey said:

Thank you for sharing the lovely family photos. Despite trying to focus my researches on Great Yarmouth’s seaside photographers I have somehow taken an interest in the seaside photographers of Clacton and I had spotted HJ Batty of 114 Pier Ave in my 1933 Kelly’s Essex directory. Other Clacton operators of interest include Horace Murray and James Hobson. Hobson took three in a strip walking photographs trading as Empire Films and was, I believe, the first holder of the photographic concession at the Butlin Camp at Clacton.

The use of mock cars and aeroplanes is interesting as similar posing props were in use on the sands at Great Yarmouth. However I must say your Great Grandfather went to much greater trouble with the background than his Great Yarmouth colleagues who often had other people lurking in the background.



Malcolm Batty said:

I don't know if my information is relevant but my great grandfather JOHN BATTY was trading as a photographer and picture frame maker in Wood Green when he saw a advert for spaces to rent on Clacton Beach. He set up his stall in 1896 and the family traded as beach photographers until 1933. I have a comprehensive collection of his photographs and occasionally give powerpoint talks on the subject.The next one is a talk to the Clacton Local History Society on June 21st at the Baptist Church in Pier Avenue at 7.30pm.

Malcolm Batty

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An interesting article on early photography in Great Yarmouth, though the technical details and terms are rough-and-ready: https://www.invisibleworks.co.uk/through-glass-great-yarmouth/

The boat used in a couple of illustrations also appears in two ambrotypes from my collection, one of which is labelled “Drayton’s Shilling Photos.”

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