British photographic history

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I am interested in commercial seaside photography, beach photographers, comic head-through photographs and walking photographs know by those in the trade as “walkies.” I was born in Great Yarmouth and am particularly interest in the local photographers like John Barker/Cine Snaps and Jackson’s Faces. However I am interested in the work of seaside photographers from any UK town. I feel this is a largely forgotten genre of photography and deserves to be written up so that future generations can understand how these photographs were taken, processed and printed.

The attached photograph is by Cine Snaps of Great Yarmouth and was taken with a redundant 35mm cine camera. These cameras were used by street photographers from about 1930 and the photographs are printed in a walking sequence strip.

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Marcel,

Thanks for getting in contact. I have been collecting commercial seaside photographs for a couple of years now but my interest extends well beyond these two years. I was born in the Norfolk town of Great Yarmouth and as a child I remember the photographers in their bright red jackets who worked for J Barker and Sons taking photographs with Leica 250s on the seafront there. Before the Leica 250 era Barkers were taking 3 in a strip walkies using pre-WW1 cine cameras. Have a look at:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q0l2w5Xox_4 and see Malcolm Howard showing an ex-Barkers camera made by Alfred Darling of Brighton in about 1904. It’s this era of walking photography that really interests me at the moment.

 

My late father-in-law George Meadows worked for Barkers for many years before and after WW2. I also worked for them for one summer season in 1975 printing colour walkies on a Kodak S4 colour printer; so this now largely forgotten trade is in the blood.

 

I have a couple of Australian walkies in my collection but I do not think they are seaside examples. Street photography was not confined to seaside towns and certainly Barkers were active in other towns beside Great Yarmouth before WW2.

 

Best wishes

Paul.

Paul,

I show a couple of examples of "walkies" in my book, Whitby Photographers their lives and their photographs from the 1840s, and can let you have scans, if you wish, They are from Happy Snaps [c.1929] and Walking Pictures.

Regards,

Ruth

Ruth,

Thank you for the reply. I certainly would like to see scans of the two walkies that you have published in your book. I am compiling notes about commercial seaside photographers and have an on-line list at:-  http://www.greatyarmouthphotographic.co.uk/streetphotographers/Seas...

I do not have any entries for Whitby photographers so I would be very interested to see the scans you mentioned. My email address is at the bottom of my on-line list.

Best wishes

Paul.

On their way!

Ruth,

Many thanks for these. I do not think “Walking Pictures” is the trading name of a photographer but something pre-printed by a photographic paper manufacturer onto the materials they supplied to “walkie” photographers. I have several in my collection that are back stamped in this way and are in yet to be identified locations. Your example looks like it was part of a strip of three (or four) taken with an old cine camera. I guess the print measures about 3 ¼” x 2 ½”?

Happy Snaps was a trading name of a South Coast photographer operating in Bognor, Worthing etc between the wars. I do not think the Whitby “Happy Snaps” is the same firm but I would be interested to know if there is an address on the back of the print. The handwritten number looks like it’s been scratched on to the plate with a pointed instrument; probably a dart. This is a fairly common method of numbering on seaside walkies.

Thank you again for your interest.

Best wishes

Paul.

Paul,

I am sending scans of the backs. Happy Snaps says "Scarborough and Whitby". You can compare the writing on the Walking Pictures photo with the others you have.

Best wishes,
Ruth. 

Ruth,

Many thanks for the scans of the backs of the photos. My family find it quite bizarre that when I look at a photograph and turn it over to see what’s on the back. The “Walking Pictures” one is exactly like the ones I have. It’s interesting that Sunny Snaps was a limited company. May I add the address details to my on-line list?

Best wishes

Paul.

Certainly, Paul,

Keep up the good work!

Best wishes,

Ruth

Paul, I may have mentioned this before but Colin Ford - Head of Photography at National Media Museum - is very keen on the history of walkies, head-through and seaside snaps and I know he has a lot of great examples- -including one of him as a baby! Perhaps it would be worth contacting him.

Yes Gavin I did know there was a lot of interest at the NMM regarding this type of commercial photography.

Paul.

Gavin Maitland said:

Paul, I may have mentioned this before but Colin Ford - Head of Photography at National Media Museum - is very keen on the history of walkies, head-through and seaside snaps and I know he has a lot of great examples- -including one of him as a baby! Perhaps it would be worth contacting him.

Paul, good that someone is recording this but I'm concerned that much info is already lost.  History of this on the web is minimal.

I was a beach photographer on Weymouth beach 1964-69ish, using the income to pay my way through college and Uni.  The main firm in Weymouth was John Chambers (father & son business from 1920-1980ish barring WW2).  In the 60s & 70s they had a licence for the west half of the beach and employed 5-6 photographers, each issued with a Leica 350 loaded with Ilford FP3 & later 4.  I also worked the east half for various other companies, once managing the site for a Bournemouth firm.  Both used as series of cheaper Kodak & Ilford 35mm cameras that broke after 2wks use.

The Chamber's kiosk, nr George III statue, was distinctive, with a large model of a Leica 250 on the roof.  Midlands industries, Welsh mines and factories and London commerce supplied thousands of summer holidaymakers to Weymouth for 70 years, most of whom have photos taken by Chambers. Co. as the only record of their visit and often of their lives, but I can find no record of the existence or history of the firm.  One point of interest is the firm had uniforms of red blazers and was sued by Billy Butlin - an action that failed as our red jackets predated Butlins.

By coincidence, John Chambers snr and my great Grandfather worked together as engineers at Whiteheads Torpedo Works before the great depression.  John snr often checked up on us workers (then in his 80s) to keep us motivated,

Before moving on to Leica 250s, they used Thornton-Pickard Ruby's.  Glad I did not have to juggle 1/2 plates, a heavy camera and wooden frame/quadropod while taking walkies.  Exhausting.  Volume, then and later, was important.  My best score was 1,200 in one day with a Leica.  Sales was more important as pay was calculated on 3d/sale and less than 60% sales won a threat of sacking.  Before the Thornton-Pickards I don't know what they used but have seen photo's of the times.  The technology was much slower, allowing a bigger showman performance to summon interest; one was famous for his use of his bowler hat as a shutter, counting the exposure seconds by waving it in the air before covering the lens.

As well as the beach & promenade we had camps and clubs to cover in the evening plus some press work when it could be dug out;  John also had a conventional photography business which included panoramas and fleet reviews.

I changed to a computing career but kept in occasional touch until John's business stopped.  I noticed, in my last years on the beach, a big change in the trade.  People had become more sophisticated and understood their cameras and earnings dropped.  John told me he had destroyed his entire history of negs and prints.  I suppose this deserves being wiped from history in this web age.

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