William Foster Brigham

Following the small display of Walking Pictures I put on at Sewerby Hall in 2011, they are preparing an exhibition on William Foster Brigham for 2012. He was the owner of Snaps in Bridlington who were the busiest Walking Picture business in the town. However he also ran a more upmarket studio and was highly regarded as a portrait photographer. I assume the exhibition will concentrate on this aspect of his work.

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  • Hi Simon, 

    I thought you might be interested in an update on my 250FF reporter. I had a go at running a trial length of old film through it and quickly discovered that all was not well with the wind on mechanism, although the shutter does cock and fire, albeit with all the speeds rather fast. I am delighted to be able to report that the last remaining 250 repair guru in the world, who also has a stock of spare parts, Malcolm Taylor, is back to at least part time work, after his recent illness. He was telling me that when he was working for Derek Grossmark at Hove Camera Co., he had 16 250 Reporters in for repair/service, all at the same time. He has discovered a very worn gear in the wind on mechanism, which he is going to replace. The shutter and the rest of the mechanism is going to get a thorough overhaul. I bought another 2 KOOBF cassettes, one of which was a Brighams engraved one. Malcolm is also servicing another quite rare Leica for me, a 1937 Motor Drive IIIa, where I am only the second owner from new. 

    My son who is a development engineer for a company called Renishaw, who make 3D metal printers and other precision metal object fabrication equipment, is well on the way to making me a new ANZOO film trimmer template for the 250 Reporter, probably the first one that has been made in 80 years. The last ANZOO that sold at auction, fetched close to $3,000. I have checked the first plastic prototype and now it is going to be made in stainless steel. 


  • Hi Simon, 

    If you advise me of a regular email address via a PM, I would be delighted to send you some photos of the 250FF and the engraved KOOBF cassettes I have. I have just bought two more cassettes from Red Dot and it will be interesting to see if they are engraved. I have a suspicion that Ivor at Red Dot may have purchased these from the same source as the person I bought the 250 from, sourced it, so I would not be astonished to find one or more of them also engraved 'Brigham - Bridlington".  The serious Leica collectors in the UK, like me, all know each other and often who is selling what and who has bought. It is quite a small circle, unlike in Germany. 

  • Thanks for your posting Wilson; I have been over in Bridlington for a couple of days so only just seen it.  That's fascinating you may have one of Foster Brigham's actual cameras.  I have seen a couple of the cassettes with his name engraved sold at auction last year I think it was, but did not bid.  It is hard to know WHY they would be so engraved as all processing was done on site.  It would be really nice to see a photo of the camera. I cover the firm in detail in the Walking Picture book I am finishing up, so maybe it could sneak in there.  I am in touch with a couple of his relatives but they are quite slow answering my emails and so far have not turned up anything much by way of old photos of the firm or staff!  And yes, walkie portraits seem to be very much treasured by their owners, although the next generation may not be so ready to keep this kind of material sadly judging by the way they are turning up at flea markets now.

  • Paul,

    That is very interesting. I would bet those seaside photos were treasured a lot more than phone selfies on Instagram! 


  • Wilson,

    I do not know who bought the Barker Leicas but there were some ordinary Leica model 3Bs and 3Cs in with them, so quite a collection. They were all in pretty poor condition and had been rather roughly repaired in-house from time to time using parts from other broken Leicas.

    There was an element of Heath Robinson at Barkers. The 33 ft long lengths of film were processed with a home made dunk and dip processor. Wooden boards with concentric pattern of nails were used. The film was wound emulsion out around the nails. The boards were then lifted into the tanks by bicycle chains drive electric electric motors. Before Barkers got the Leica 250s they took three in a strip walking photos using preWW1 wooden cine cameras. The film processor was originally made for the cine camera method and was then used for the Leica 250s. I did not see the film processor but the man that made it told me a lot about it in 1975. Barkers were still taking walking photos using cine cameras on Regent Road in Great Yarmouth in 1958 but I believe this was the last season they did this and from there on all their output was from standard format hand held 35mm cameras printed to postcard size and presented in a cut corner folder.

    Once the film was processed, washed and dried it would then have the ticket numbers written by hand on to each frame with a mapping pen and black ink. The prints were made using an automatic printer called a Kenprinter that used three and half inch wide photographic roll paper. The paper was processed on a home made roll paper processor and dried using a special glazer for roll paper manufactured by Kennington and Bourlet a subsidiary of Ilford Ltd. The rolls of prints would be cut into individual postcard size prints and then despatched to the kiosks so that the happy holidaymakers could purchase their seaside souvenir later in the day.

    Walking photographs are somewhat synonymous with the British seaside but the activity was not confined to the UK as I have seen examples of walking photographs from the USA and Australia however these are outside my research.

  • Paul,

    It strikes me that a fair proportion of the total production of Reporter 250 cameras (246 of FF 750 of GG but maybe a few more post war, assembled by Leitz from unused parts) must have ended up in the hands of British seaside walking photographers. I think the only other manufacturer to target this market was Zeiss Contax, who sold a large roll attachment for their Contarex and later Japanese made (Kyocera) Contax SLR cameras but as they are like gold dust, I suspect not many were sold. I don't know if the walking seaside photographer was a particularly British institution or if their equivalents were to be found on the Baltic beaches and Côte d'Azur. You would have assumed so. I don't think my FF is one of the ex-Barkers cameras, as mechanically and cosmetically it is in fair condition and the engraving on the cassettes would point towards Brigham. I have bought two more cassettes and it will be interesting to see if they are engraved. I will not know until October as they were sent to my UK house. The Barker cameras may have been owned at one point by the late Robert White. There was certainly more than one 250 in the charity auction of his collection a year or so ago. 


  • Wilson, I was very interested to read that you own a Leica 250 Reporter FF that was once owned by William Foster Brigham’s “Snaps” business at Bridlington. I have undertaken a little bit of research into the use of Leica 250s FF and GG by promenade photographers at British seaside resorts. 

    Barker’s of Great Yarmouth bought six secondhand Leica 250s in the 1950s.One was chrome and the other five were black. I believe they were using them to take walking photos on the streets of  Great Yarmouth up until the late 1960s when they went over to taking colour en-print size walking photographs using low cost Japanese cameras. All six of Barker’s Leica 250s were in the end very tired and worn and were all sold to a Leica collector/dealer around 1970.

    I was told that Sunbeam Photos of Margate had one Leica 250 in their arsenal but it was not used for walking photos but had been used to cover political conferences.

    Remington’s Photo Service of Paignton used Leica 250s to take walking photographs at Torquay and Paignton after WW2. I do not know how many they owned but I do know that had at least two.

    I was told by Terence Baggett that Chambers of Weymouth were using Leica 250s in the 1950s and 60s to take walking photographs on the streets and promenades of Weymouth. Their wooden sales kiosk had a large replica of a Leica 250 mounted on its roof.

    John Bowman told me about his life working for a firm called Wilson’s who took walking photographs at the holiday camps in Towyn and Abergele North Wales. Wilson’s used Leica 250s for the task. The films were processed and printed over night using Leitz Focomat enlargers. The prints were half postcard size printed twice on a single postcard size sheet of paper.

    There must have been other firms using Leica 250s to take walking photographs in seaside towns and I would be pleased to hear from anyone who can add more names to my list.

  • I have one of the Leica 250FF Reporter cameras used by William Brigham, when he or his staff were working as walking photographers in Bridlington. The very large (KOOBF) cassettes it uses, hold 33 feet of 35mm film allowing 250 images to be taken without reloading. These are professionally engraved: "Brigham Bridlington". You can remove a partially exposed roll, by using a special knife (ABCOO) to cut off the film at the take up cassette and then re-trim the film from the feed cassette to insert it into a fresh empty take up cassette. The only thing I don't have, is the correct trimming template (ANZOO) but only the one for a regular Leica 36 exposure camera (ABLON). When the very rare ANZOO templates come up for sale, they usually fetch over £2000 compared with the 32 shillings they cost new in 1935. I have some good photographs of them and think I can get one 3D printed. The camera came to me with a matching period (1933) Leica 5cm/f2 Summar nickel plated lens but I suspect it is not the original lens, as it is graduated in metres. The British market lenses of the period, were always graduated in feet. The camera was not cheap in 1935 at  £47/16/6d for the body only plus another £17/10/0d for the Summar lens, equivalent to over £4,000 today. Only 246 of these cameras were made by Leitz. 


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