Research: Edwardian Stickyback portraits

Hello everyone, I am currently working on an archival project, The Family Museum, focused on amateur family photography. Over the past 25 years, my project co-founder, Nigel Shephard, has collected around 25,000 photos and 300 family albums dating from the mid-19th century to the present day. Inspired by the richness and size of this archive, we’d like to use it as a resource for exhibitions and presentations exploring themes related to family, popular culture and amateur photography. Its present content is focused almost wholly on British photography and amateur photographers.

The first exhibition we’re researching and planning for 2018 is centred on ‘Stickybacks’, the popular Edwardian studio portraits produced as a strip of six images on gummed paper, each portrait measuring approx 2in x 1.5in. The spur for this show was a selection of these photos originating from a Swindon studio, and we’re in touch with the Swindon Musuem and Art Gallery and local history networks there to collaborate on the exhibition.

Our fascination with the Stickyback phenomenon stems from its itinerant and ‘pop-up’ nature (the studios sprang up around the UK, on the Isle of Man and in Dublin), and the portraits themselves, many of which have intimate and playful aspects borne out in later photo-booth and even selfie photo culture. The ‘travelling box’ or ‘sliding box’ technology used in the Stickyback studios (developed principally we believe between the late 1890s and 1910 by Spiridione Grossi, originally from Liverpool, and later patented by him in 1916, as ‘Improvements in Strip Printing Photographic Apparatus’) is also an aspect we’re researching.

There are some excellent notes on the Stickyback phenomenon on a few local photography websites (notably Sussex PhotoHistory and Cambridgeshire Photographers), and Michael (Pritchard) thank you very much for your help on a couple of questions. If any other members have researched or come across Stickybacks, it would be great to hear from you.

The Family Museum

  • Tanya Kiang

    The Stickybacks sound fascinating - especially because we are (as usual) repeating history by reproducing enlarged vernacular photos for exhibitions drawn from our Photo Album of Ireland project on low-tack vinyl ( Have you any further info on the Dublin stickyback studios?