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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When I worked as a beach photographer in Weymouth, our licence made us give the customer the choice to buy or reject after seeing the snaps.  This required us to issue them with numbered tickets to take to the kiosks after a period of time so the snaps could be retrieved.  At the start of the day or change of film we would take a photo of a number chalked on the tarmac'ed prom - the number of the next ticket to be issued.  This allowed the prints to be stamped with the number In reverse side).  When using a Leica 250s, film change was at the end of film or at set times of the day to allow regular film processing; the 250s allowed a part used film to be cut and the remaining film rethreaded without use of a darkroom.

Those who took money up front promising to post prints on (often unlicensed) do not need this complexity and can simply process overnight - those that put film in their camera, that is.

Hope this helps

Paul Godfrey said:

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.

Terrence,

Thank you for sharing these memories. I will add your comments to my notes. Much appreciated. I will be in touch through here once I have digested your info. Thanks for your interest.

Best wishes

Paul.

Terence Baggett said:

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.

Hi I have just joined and I am interested in this topic and have collected examples over a number of years The earliest ones being tin types.. I understand that some seaside photographers used to take school pictures during the out of season periods. Certainly it would appear that school photographs were taken by photographers from costal locations sometimes many miles from the schools. I wonder if anyone can confirm this for me. It would also seem that there were a number of photographers who worked in the centre of large towns none of these pictures in my collection have company names whereas the seaside ones were occasionally identifiable.

Roger,

Many thanks for this. The main cut and thrust of my research is about photographers in this area (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth), Barkers of Great Yarmouth were very much a seasonal business but in the early 50s a small core of employees were  retained in the winter months. School photos being one avenue that they took. Not groups but individual photos of the children. There is a Barker school photo of me in my collection. My late father-in-law worked as a photographer for Barkers and was retained for a couple of winters in the 50s. After that he worked the winter in the local sugarbeet factory and for Barkers in the summer where he was resident photographer at Caister Holiday Camp.

I have a few Tintypes in my collection but most of the collection consists of pre WW2 postcard walkies and a small number of cine camera strip of three walkies that Barkers took in GY for many years  before and after WW2.

Best wishes

Paul.

Paul, I will have a look through my collection for pictures taken in your area. I am going away on holiday so I am afraid it will be in a couple of weeks time.

Regards

 

Roger
 
Paul Godfrey said:

Roger,

Many thanks for this. The main cut and thrust of my research is about photographers in this area (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth), Barkers of Great Yarmouth were very much a seasonal business but in the early 50s a small core of employees were  retained in the winter months. School photos being one avenue that they took. Not groups but individual photos of the children. There is a Barker school photo of me in my collection. My late father-in-law worked as a photographer for Barkers and was retained for a couple of winters in the 50s. After that he worked the winter in the local sugarbeet factory and for Barkers in the summer where he was resident photographer at Caister Holiday Camp.

I have a few Tintypes in my collection but most of the collection consists of pre WW2 postcard walkies and a small number of cine camera strip of three walkies that Barkers took in GY for many years  before and after WW2.

Best wishes

Paul.

Hi Roger, welcome to the wonderful world of Seaside photography. I am interested in Tintypes pref from Scotland and would love to see anything in your collection.

Best,

Gavin.

Roger Mead said:

Paul, I will have a look through my collection for pictures taken in your area. I am going away on holiday so I am afraid it will be in a couple of weeks time.

Regards

 

Roger
 
Paul Godfrey said:

Roger,

Many thanks for this. The main cut and thrust of my research is about photographers in this area (Lowestoft and Great Yarmouth), Barkers of Great Yarmouth were very much a seasonal business but in the early 50s a small core of employees were  retained in the winter months. School photos being one avenue that they took. Not groups but individual photos of the children. There is a Barker school photo of me in my collection. My late father-in-law worked as a photographer for Barkers and was retained for a couple of winters in the 50s. After that he worked the winter in the local sugarbeet factory and for Barkers in the summer where he was resident photographer at Caister Holiday Camp.

I have a few Tintypes in my collection but most of the collection consists of pre WW2 postcard walkies and a small number of cine camera strip of three walkies that Barkers took in GY for many years  before and after WW2.

Best wishes

Paul.

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