British photographic history

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Hi all. I am currently researching the supposed prevalence of Tintypists operating in Seaside towns in the UK and on beaches. My initial focus was on Scottish Seaside towns owing to the hunch that the Tintype was more popular there than it was in England. I was wondering if anyone out there knew anything about this or (now i'm really stretching) where I might be able to find any primary material or even writing on the subject?



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Oh thats a nice one, John. Thansk for this. Yes, it was probably a studio near a seafront somewhere though it could be the states also.

John Toohey said:

Hi, I'm guessing this was taken at a seaside, either Australian (where it was bought) or most likely somewhere in the UK.

Hi Gavin,

Although from Scotland, I work at the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture, in Exeter, and wrote a short essay on the photographic collections for the Centre's website last year. In this, I state:

Ferrotypes - also known as tintypes - were similar to ambrotypes but used a sheet of lacquered iron instead of glass plates. As they were cheap, durable and quick to make, they proved ideal for outdoor photographer working at carnivals or
fairs – as indicated by the beach scenes depicted on the three ferrotypes (EXEBD 58106-108) in the collection.

If you wish, I could scan these three images and send them to you? I cannot recall at present if there are any clues as to location. How is your research going?

Best wishes,



Yes please, that would be amazing! The work trundles along but is currently on the backburner in lieu of other essays and research.

My email is if you could send them there and of course I will reference you and/or the museum if used.

Thanks again!

Hi Gavin,

The following article on my blog Photo-Sleuth displays and discusses two seaside tintypes, probably taken by an itinerant beach photographer in the summer of 1877.

Also on my blog is another article written about a much later seaside tintype in my collection, probably taken in the 1930s.

You're welcome to use the images for your study.

Regards, Brett


I've just looked at your website and seen that you have listed American Gem Portrait studios in the UK. You do not mention Whitby, but it may well be amongst the "fresh information to be added" that you mention. Just in case you hadn't spotted it, there is an advert for Gems in Whitby on page 34 of my Whitby Photographers their lives and their photographs from the 1840s, which you have. Whitby Museum, where I found it, had a  date of 1880 for it. I did not find any other adverts for this Chapman in Whitby, so it may well have been seasonal competition or a short-lived venture. There were four photographers with full-time premises at that time.

Best wishes,


 Marcel Safier said:


You might like to check out my website on gem and carte de visite tintypes: I have fresh information that is yet to be added. I will be including a fuller account of the medium in Australia in the book on the history of the carte de visite in Australia I am currently researching.

Cheers! Marcel (Brisbane, Australia).

Hello Dear Gavin,

I expect you have, but in case you haven't Colin Hardy writes a fine piece 'Sunny Snaps: Commercial Photography at the Water's Edge' in Art and Identity at the Water's Edge edited by Tricia Cusak.

If not yet read - really worth seeking out.


Thanks Karen,

I have met Colin and was aware of his research. I think he was just writing/researching that when I met him. I haven't heard of the book though so will look it out.

Thanks for your help! 

Hi Gavin, I am doing a PHD in one off photographic processes and tintype is one of them. I would love to hear more re tintype in seaside who were the photographers and some of the results. Love the dog.

Forgot to add my email


There is an old book published in the 1950s called "The Magic Box" by Ernest Pendrigh. This is an autobiography of an Australian who seeks his fortune in the UK as a ferrotype street photographer. Nothing technical in this but it is an account of someone making a living from street photography using ferrotype cards and an Aptus Camera.
Best wishes

Nice to hear from you Lynette! I shall zip you an email.



Hi Paul

What's this book like? I've seen a few copies going for $35. There aren't that many books or even accounts by itinerant photographers but at that price I don't want to snatch it up straight away.


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