British photographic history

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Spotlight: Bensusan Museum of Photography

If you happen to be in Jo'burg this summer, do try and pop into this unique museum located on the top floor of Museum Africa along Bree Street, Newtown. Established in 1968, the collection includes more than 400 antique cameras, 5,000 photographs and 2,000 photographic books, dating back to 1860 - all of these were part of a 30-year collection donated to the museum by Dr Arthur Bensusan, an amateur photographer and one-time Johannesburg mayor, in 1968.

It houses spy cameras from the 1800s, a camera that once belonged to Winston Churchill, as well as what may well be the first official war photograph, a Crimean War scene taken in 1854. There is also a display on the development of cinematography. For those research/ephermera fans, there is a specialised library filled with photographic cuttings, pamphlets, journals, books and magazines on the work of photographers, their equipment and processes and techniques. The book collection is broad and includes reference works, how-to guides in many fields, and a large collection of the published work of photographers.

One of their star attractions on display is the negative of the oriel window in Lacock Abbey by Fox Talbot.  It was purchased by the City of Joburg from Bensusan back in 1970 for R860.

Details of the Museum can be found here.

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