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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Plus one cut-out from an unidentified photographer...

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I had previously seen the invisibleworks web site with the early photographs taken at Great Yarmouth. The text on that web site suggests that these could be attributed to John Penrice. The images of men standing beside boats look more like the work of a beach photographer to me. “Drayton’s Shilling Photos Next to Turner’s Concerts” is interesting as a there was a troupe of entertainers on Yarmouth’s central beach in the 1880s called Turner and Lenton and are they are mentioned in an article about Yarmouth  in the Lowestoft Journal 9th August 1879. 

Thank you for sharing these

Thank you for sharing some more of your photographic archive. It’s interesting to hear about your family’s work as carpenters and joiners. I have found evidence of other seaside photographers being involved in woodwork and cabinet making. This leads me to wonder if these photographers made their own cameras?

I am interested to hear about your activities in a D&P works in the 1960s. I worked in that trade as a teenager in the 1960s at Great Yarmouth. I wonder what machines you worked with? One season I processed the films using an Ilford dunk and dip processor and the next season I operated a Kenprinter and a Kodak Velox Projection Printer, all in the black and white era. I returned to the D&P trade for the 1975 season and operated a Kodak S4 colour printer.

I was interested to hear your Uncle Ralph worked for James Hobson at the Butlin Camp. I am also interested in the history of holiday camp photography and the three-in-a-strip walking photos that James Hobson’s Empire Films took on the streets of Clacton using cine cameras. I believe they also took photos on the Crested Eagle paddle steamer

There’s an extremely interesting and well-researched chapter entitled ‘Pavement Portraits’ in ‘The Victorians – Photographic Portraits” (Tauris Park Books, 1993) by Audrey Linkman. It includes a section on Beach Photography, and some very fine examples. 

Plus two more cut-outs from my collection.

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How interesting to hear that you worked Leighton’s of Hastings. My late father in law worked for John Barker in Great Yarmouth who also used converted wooden cine cameras to take three-in-a-strip walking photos. Before WW2 John Barker traded as Cine Snaps and I believe Leighton’s also called their photos “cine snaps.” Before WW2 these were a walking sequence. But after WW2 they converted the cameras to single frame and printed them three times, again because of the post war film shortage.



Patrick Archer said:

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

Hi Paul

Regarding the D&P House. I worked for Rapid Photographic Development Co Ltd in a run down building at the back of a wood yard. I'm sure that the machine was a KODAK ENPRINTER. We had two machines in the printing room. I used to collect films from local chemist. I started in 1962 and used to cycle around the Clacton chemists. By 1964 I had a scooter and my round extended to Holland-on-Sea, Jaywick and St Osyth Beach. I recall that at the height of the season we were doing three collections / deliveries a day and could process about 300 films a day. We would do batches of 20 to 30 films at a time. These were "dipped" in the deep stoneware tanks. The fixer had an electronic plate to recover silver salts. This paid for some chemicals. In the winter I still worked occasionally and we had a propane fired drying cabinet for the film. If we were really rushed we sometimes used methylated spirits to dry the films. Batches were sometimes mixed. We occasionally got a 16mm film from one of the "spy" cameras. When the 127 Instamatics came out we soon found out how to crack them open in the dark. The printing was great fun. One problem was that most photos were of tiny figures paddling in the sea. The automatic exposure sensor on the printer would produce a tiny black person in a well exposed sea unless we manually compensated. We would print 4 shots on a 5 x 3.5 or 6 shots on a 3.5 x 3.5. The developer was easy to make up but the fixer was Hypo with the addition of Acetic acid. We soon found out if we had a paper cut on our hands. After a wash the prints went out to the finishing room where they had a second wash and were fed onto the glazing drum. After trimming and matching with their wallets they were sent out and delivered by us again. In about 1968 I was working full time for John Meacock, a well established Clacton photographer. I was doing studio portraits using 5x4 plate cameras as well as the usual D&P work. In the evening I also worked for Rapid Photographic. So I saw nearly all of the holiday films that season. It was a great time.

Kind Regards

Malcolm

Paul Godfrey said:

Thank you for sharing some more of your photographic archive. It’s interesting to hear about your family’s work as carpenters and joiners. I have found evidence of other seaside photographers being involved in woodwork and cabinet making. This leads me to wonder if these photographers made their own cameras?

I am interested to hear about your activities in a D&P works in the 1960s. I worked in that trade as a teenager in the 1960s at Great Yarmouth. I wonder what machines you worked with? One season I processed the films using an Ilford dunk and dip processor and the next season I operated a Kenprinter and a Kodak Velox Projection Printer, all in the black and white era. I returned to the D&P trade for the 1975 season and operated a Kodak S4 colour printer.

I was interested to hear your Uncle Ralph worked for James Hobson at the Butlin Camp. I am also interested in the history of holiday camp photography and the three-in-a-strip walking photos that James Hobson’s Empire Films took on the streets of Clacton using cine cameras. I believe they also took photos on the Crested Eagle paddle steamer

What a fascinating thread. Paul, you are great at getting conversations going! Malcolm, I was very interested in your information relating to your Great Grandfather. I wondered if you had any knowledge what he would charge for the early (1890s) portraits? I am seeing some regional variations in end-of-the-century charges and any knowledge you have with regards to this would be most welcome. 

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

Karen. 

One of Malcolm Batty’s photographs that is on this discussion page appears to have been taken in the 1890s shows his Great Grandfather’s beach standing and kiosk that advertises “Your photograph 3 for 1/- on a postcard.”

The only printed evidence of price structures that I have dates from 1909 when Harry Laxon and Albert Dinsdale took over the Mirror Studio that was at 134a King Street, Great Yarmouth. King Street is in the retail quarter of Great Yarmouth and not so near the seafront. Dinsdale and Laxon employed men in sandwich boards, during the summer months, to distribute leaflets along Marine Parade. These leaflets were to entice customers to visit the Mirror Studio and promoted low cost portraits that could be taken night and day. These were six for one shilling and taken by “Potted Sunshine” that was in reality a set of electrically powered carbon arc lamps. I suspect the term “Potted Sunshine” was used to to counteract the fear of electricity that the general public may have had. Studio portraiture around this time  was heading for an even lower price structure with smaller prints and mass print production techniques.

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