British photographic history

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This unique collection represents the work of three generations of a local family of photographers who captured images of life in and around Wick between 1863 and 1975. During that period they produced around 100,000 glass-plate negatives. Of these, nearly 50,000 survive and are held in trust by the Wick Society.

Brothers Alexander and James Johnston, Alex's son and Alex's grandson captured an era when Wick was the “herring capital of Europe.” “The silver darlings,” as the herring were nicknamed, attracted over a thousand boats which crowded into the harbour in August and September each year for the season and thousands of migrant workers swelled the town’s population. They were photographed preparing their boats, setting the tan sails for sea, landing catches, and onshore were recorded in scenes of intense activity which show the teams of workers who gutted, cured, packed and carted the salted herring barrels for export all over the world. The Johnston plates also show the boat builders, the coopers, rope makers, basket weavers, plumbers, shopkeepers and others in supporting industries to give a wonderful glimpse of social history.

The collection is now available online, and details can be found here.

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