British photographic history

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Francis Frith showcased on BBC Television in March

BBC Two Daytime has commissioned Reef Television to produce Britain's First Photo Album, a 10x30-minute series on the extraordinary achievement of Francis Frith, the pioneer Victorian photographer who embarked upon a colossal project to photograph as much of the United Kingdom as possible during the second half of the 19th century. The series will air from 12-23 March 2012. 

The pictures taken by Frith and his staff are viewed as one of the first and most comprehensive pictorial records of the UK, a wonderfully evocative record of our shared history, and equally a present-day insight into the social landscape of Britain.

Presented by John Sergeant, each episode will focus on four storylines, all inspired by a Frith photo. Over the series, 40 of Frith's best images will be showcased, demonstrating his remarkable endeavour to visually capture Britain on camera, along with another 40 new ones that John will take himself.

To get to the heart of each picture, John will look to unfold the significance of each image, bringing them to life by meeting present day people who have a connection to these stories from the past. Each show will have a fascinating mix of different stories, taking us on a journey across Britain.

This is the first time Frith's collection has been brought together in one series, and so Britain's First Photo Album will offer viewers a look back on this astonishing visual record of our nation: at what has changed; at what remains the same, and ultimately, what it tells us about who we are today.

A book with the same title will be published in February to accompany the series. John Buck of The Francis Frith Collection said: “We are delighted to be part of this project, which showcases our archive photographs in such an entertaining way. This tie-in book from the TV series will link the evocative Frith images with an insight into present-day Britain, forming a fascinating record of our shared history and the social landscape of our country, past and present.

The book will include a selection of Frith’s photos, plus those taken by Sergeant of the same locations in the present day. Each chapter will focus on four storylines inspired by Frith’s photographs, as Sergeant travels the country to meet those with a connection to the images. Sergeant will also write a foreword.

In addition to the television programmes and book, and to harness the enthusiasm generated from the programme, BBC Learning is  working with a range of partners, including museums, libraries and historical societies to support free events which will tie in to the series. The programme airs at the beginning of March, with a call to action at the beginning of the series, and events will take place from the weekend 16-18 March.

How you can get involved

Organisations will be encouraged to host events and activities which encourage the public to find out about their local heritage and the history of photography. There are lots of ways to get involved - host an event or talk, design a walk, showcase local photographer’s work or the work of Francis Frith and much more.

BBC Learning is producing a number of resourses to support events and activities of many sizes these include:

 - Suggested Activity Guide

- Marketing Materials e.g. Posters and Postcards

- Souvenir learning booklets to accompany the series

- Stickers

- Downloadable bunting

Want more information?

If you are planning to run a Britain’s First Photo Album event, open workshop or exhibition the team can also offer support and help add your event to the Things To Do website,  


If you would like more details about Britain’s First Photo Album, or would like to order resources, please email:

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Comment by Michael Pritchard on February 5, 2012 at 22:03

Thanks, John! 

Comment by John Buck on February 5, 2012 at 21:51

Copies of the accompanying book - Britain's First Photo Album" will be available from The Francis Frith Collection from publication date (5th March 2012) - Tel: 01722 716 376 or the web site  Stock will be available to trade customers from 1st March.

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