106 : Two Smiling Theatricals


Two more smilers, but this time I suspect there are differences. First of all we have, I think, two women here. Secondly, I suspect that this photograph is later than the previous one - probably dating from the 1920s rather than the Victorian era. And thirdly, I suspect that the backdrop is not a photographic studio backdrop but a theatrical backdrop - and therefore we can realistically conclude that we have two smiling theatricals

105 : Why Victorians Rarely Smiled


This Victorian couple are both smiling, which is rare for photographs of this age. It wasn't just that Victorians weren't all that into smiling, it was also that photographers discouraged facial expressions that could not easily be maintained for the lengthy shutter times that were needed back then.

104 : Round Old Woman


She has a round face and round glasses. One is tempted to believe that if we could see the rest of her the round theme would be continued. And she is still around after more than one hundred years thanks to an old, found photograph.

103 : Rendezvous In Dunure


I seem to have met two of these three before - in another found photograph, in another place, in another time.

102 : Style And Some Pen Strokes

This is a late nineteenth century Carte de Visite (CdV) from the studio of Rudolph Tiffee of Cleve , a German town a few miles from the German-Dutch border.In many ways it is fairly typical of the studio portraits of the time, although the subject has a more stylish sense of dress than many of his British equivalents of the time. And if you look really carefully - around the moustache and whiskers - you can see where the studio have added a few extra pen strokes in order to emphasise the hair growth!

101 : A Deckchair Suspended High Above A Pine Forest

This scanned negative comes from the same set as the Jersey series, but this time our holidaymakers have left domestic shores and, it would appear, gone to the Alps. Looking at the scene through twenty-first century eyes, one cannot help noticing the flimsiness of the chairlift - it has the look of a deckchair suspended from wires high above a pine forest. After the comparative safety of a Jersey beach and tearoom our 1950 tourists are living life dangerously.

100 : You Never Quite Know

And then we went to Newquay. It was the year after the holiday in Jersey (or perhaps it was the year before) And we didn't go with the big crowd this time, it was just Jeff and me (or was it Colin or Frank). That's the trouble with lost and found negatives - you never quite know. But that certainly is the famous footbridge in Newquay - just behind our Betty (or was it Joan)?

99 : Teatime In Jersey

A further scan from the photographs of a group of friends who, by now, are becoming rather familiar to us - it's the Jersey Boys (and Jersey Girls). We can tell they are still on the island from the lifebuoy hanging conveniently just in shot. I can make out Jersey and the other word might well be "harbour" - and the wall at the back certainly has the strength and solidity of a typical harbour wall.

​Once again, a rough guess at the date would come up with the mid 1950s - that half smoked cigarette tucked behind the ear is as accurate a marker as any date stamp.

98 : We've Been To Corbiere Light

There is always an element of pleasing mystery when you buy a job lot of old photographs or negatives from one of the on-line auction sites. There are the usual "what", "where", and "who" questions - most of which will inevitably go unanswered - but there is also the question of what connects the various images. Are they the same family, the same holiday, the same photography - or are they a desperate lot thrown together from the contents of several old shoeboxes? 

When I started scanning the current batch< i came across a beach scene which could be accurately identified as St Brelade's Bay in Jersey. The second scan moves us a few miles along the coast, to the unforgettable landmark of La Corbiere Lighthouse. A good percentage of visitors to the island of Jersey have had a similar photograph taken (I certainly have). Who exactly this is, I still have no idea - but I know where she's been.

97 : Group On The Beach : Midbay

"Midbay" has a slightly un-British ring to it, more fitted, perhaps, to an Australian surf-pounded beach or a location in a Raymond Chandler novel. But the people featured in this scan of a long-lost negative of unknown origins, have a half-familiar feel to them - they are faces from my youth, stances from my memories. Midbay was relatively easy to pin down - there is a Midbay in St Brelade's Bay on the island of Jersey. A comparison with an on-line archive shot of the Midbay stores confirms the location. Who the group are, I have absolutely no idea at all, but it is the kind of photograph you can take a stroll around - look at a face here, a connection there. Even the smallest, most grain-infested corner can be turned into an impressionist's picnic.

96 : A Confident Confectioner

There is such an air of confidence about this young chap - legs crossed, hands firmly pocketed and a smile that radiates satisfaction. The small, faded photograph came to me as a lost and unloved - but how could anyone not love this epitome of a 1920s delivery boy. A little research reveals that the firm must be that of W G Pannett who were confectioners in Horsham, West Sussex. Now that we have a name and location, perhaps somebody will step forward and claim him.

94 : A Grander Hat

A second photograph was in the same batch of unwanted and unloved photographs that arrived through my letterbox. The hat may not be bigger than the first, but it is definitely grander. The outfit appears to have enough fur and feathers to kit out a turkey. The costumes alone would demand all the resources of a modern credit card.

93 : Big Frame, Big Hat, Little Photograph

What do you do if you can only afford a little photograph? Well you can make sure you are wearing a big hat for starters. And then you can get a big frame. But even with the big hat and big frame, the final product is only about the size of a modern credit card.

92 : Six Hats And A Roadster

I am not quite sure what a "roadster" was, but surely this must have been one. Mud guards that have the curves of an Impressionist's model, a steering wheel that looks as if it was designed for serious steering, and a running board every young buck would want to jump upon. And within it there is a party going on, and everyone has put their best hat on for the occasion. I suspect that the photograph dates from the mid 1920s, and the rest of the photographs in this eBay purchase were definitely British. Usually you can pin cars down by the position of the steering wheel, but this one seems to be covering all options by having a central wheel.

91 : Midget Gems

This small Victorian portrait card measures just 2.5 by 1.5 inches and was of a size known, appropriately enough, as a midget. Such cards never achieved the popularity of their larger cousins - the carte-de-visite and the cabinet card - but they were popular for a time in the 1890s because they were significantly cheaper than the larger cards. In the early 1890s, Henry Spinks would sell you a dozen midget cards for just four shillings and sixpence. Who this particular midget is, I have no idea: but she is a midget gem.

90 : Before The End

This is the kind of photograph you could write a book about. It tells of days at the estuary in the early 1920s. The children were young and mother was visiting. We were happy then. Before it happened. Before the end came.

89 : The Slimline Progeny Of A Carte-de-Visite

This is a strange little thing - a Victorian pasteboard portrait, about a third of the size of a normal carte de visite. It measures 7.5 cm by 3.5 cm and I have found some mention of this size in the literature and such miniature portraits are sometimes known as minettes. They are not too dissimilar in size to a modern day visiting card and such things are, I guess, the great-grandchildren of carte-de-visites.

88 : Not Exactly Hollywood

This photograph comes with best love to Mary and Willie - but from whom? We will never know - but we do know the photograph was taken in January 1936 at the splendidly named Los Angeles Portrait Studios in Edinburgh. Despite the fine sounding name, there is something a little slap-dash about the portrait: those distracting gloves, the lighting stand that has crept into the lower right corner, and the shadow of something to the left. It's not exactly Hollywood.

87 : From A Different Epoch

I suspect that this studio photograph was taken in the 1920s - hardly twenty years after the Victorian and Edwardian portraits I have often featured here before. But what a change - the face, the clothes, the pose, the look. It is a photograph from a different epoch.

86 : From The Studios Of Walter Morice

This Edwardian Cabinet Card of an unknown couple comes from the studios of Walter Morice (1862-1942). He was born in the King Cross area of London and by the time he was twenty he had established a photographic studio in Lewisham High Road. In 1899 he moved his studios, and his residence, to Rushey Green, Catford, in South East London and he remained there until his retirement in 1926.

I would guess that this particular portrait dates from just after the move to Catford. The fact that the woman is wearing what appears to be mourning clothes might suggest that it was taken in the immediate aftermath of the death of Queen Victoria in January 1901.

The lack of any type of studio background and the lack of the studio props that were popular in earlier decades also suggests a portrait towards the end of the studio card era.

85 : The Trip Outside

If there is a clear visual marker of the boundary between professional and amateur photography in the  late nineteenth and early twentieth century, it is the trip outside. Professional photographers were studio based and their portraits tended to be formal affairs with drapes, chairs and prop vases. When photography became an amateur hobby, photographers had to go outside in order to achieve the necessary light levels for the technical requirements of the time. This unknown family is a perfect example of that trip outside.

84 : Bridge Over The River

These are scans of two medium format negatives that appeared in my collection from somewhere. They certainly are not mine, no do they belong to anyone in the family. The two negatives were joined and therefore we can assume they are of the same city. There is quite obviously a major river crossing and a military presence - and a certain middle eastern look to the dress of the locals. Could this possibly be Egypt in the 1950s?

83 : Emerging Towers And Cannons

This is a scan of a tiny print - not much bigger than an oversize postage stamp - which cannot be blamed for getting lost, falling down the back of a drawer, or whatever. It was so faded, the subject was completely indistinguishable from the background sepia blur.  But scanned and repaired, fixed and tweaked - London in the 1920s emerges like it is emerging from a thick London fog. You can just make out Tower Bridge in the distance and that is the bulk of Cannon Street Station in the foreground. The photograph must have been taken from the top of St Paul's Cathedral.

82 : Teasing Out A Story

This is not a picture from nowhere - it is a picture from the photographic studios of Jac Uebach in Krefeld, Germany. Known as the "city of silk and velvet", Krefeld is the centre of Germany's textile industry. The production of such fine textiles depends on the careful teasing out of fine threads : just the kind of skill that was needed to produce a splendid moustache like the one in the photograph.

81 : That Look

I have no idea who this woman is. There was, however, something rather familiar about the look, the set of her jaw, the angularity of her chin. I did a Google image search and it suggested the following matches:-

Clearly, technology has some way to go yet.

80 : Thoughts That Have Changed The world

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche with his sister Terese Elisabeth and the family dog. OK, if truth be told, it isn't them, it is some unknown elderly couple in their garden in Cleckheaton (or some such place). But they look as though they have had thoughts that have changed the world. Maybe they have.

79 : Tra-La-La

I can't help looking at this orphan photo without wanting to sing one of those 1930s hiking songs and tra-la-la about a knapsack on my back. I have no idea who they are - but they seem to be enjoying themselves. Tea-la-la-la-la-la-la-la.

78 : United In The League

Written on the back of this print is "League of Nations Building Geneva". The building still exists but is now known as the Palais des Nations and serves as the United Nations Headquarters in Geneva. For whatever reason, modern photographs make it look much grander than in this lost and unknown snap which must have been taken sometime in the 1930s.

77 : Forcing Raspberry Jam Through A Lino Cut

When I scanned this old and faded photograph of people I don't know in places I've not been, I seem to have got the settings mixed up. The result was a strange image which looks like something produced by forcing raspberry jam through a lino cut. There is something I quite like about the picture.

76 : You Can Call Him Al

"A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now
Why am I soft in the middle
The rest of my life is so hard
I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption"

Unknown Man In A Foreign Land - Scan of Found Print

75 : Tutankamun In A Black Car

The real delight of messing around with old photographs is that process of discovery which enables you to rediscover a fine image that has been lost for generations. This is a scan of a tiny old over-exposed print which was so dark it was almost impossible to recognise the subject as being a man in a car. Scanning and cleaning reveals a perfectly wonderful photograph of a man in a car. The look on the face of the man is a picture in itself. Silly as it sounds, I feel like Howard Carter reopening the tomb of Tutankamun.

74 : The Step Father

This is not my step father. The chances are that he is nobody's step father. Statistical probability would suggest, however, that he is someone's father. And he is standing on the steps. Other than that I know little as to the where and when, but a pencilled notation on the reverse of the print suggest that his name might have been Willie Adair. 

73 : Seek Women In Hyde

With a few notable exceptions, the world of Victorian photography was predominantly a male preserve; but here we have a photography studio in Hyde, Cheshire operating under the name of a woman. In fact it is a woman operating under the name of her husband (Mr Samuel Radcliffe) and I have a sneaking feeling that she might be the widow of Samuel. I can find very little about Mrs Radcliffe, but I did discover that another woman photographer - Mrs Wade - was operating out of the same studio at about the same time.

72 : When?

When does a road become a highway? When does a hill become a mountain? When does an old snap become a modern image? When does the present become the past?

71 : Photographers To The Queen

In order to understand the history of British studio photography in the latter half of the nineteenth century you need to understand the pace of technological, social and economic change that worked its way through the country during the long reign of Queen Victoria. During her years on the throne, photography changed from being an expensive scientific experiment and plaything of the rich to a mass market business available to all. 

But photography remained the province of the commercial studio specialist - cheap cameras available to ordinary citizens were a thing of the twentieth century. These then were the decades when the studios were the means by which, first the middle classes and later the working classes, could have their images fixed for posterity - a luxury that had previously only been available to the rich who could afford access to a portrait painter. The studio industry went through an intense period of growth, with studio springing up in every city and town - and later on, in every village - in the country. 

It was an industry ideally suited to the enterprising young, who would often move around the country establishing studios in town after town. And by the last couple of decades of the century a number of super studio chains were being put together; often characterised by clever marketing on the reverse of their Cabinet Cards and Carte de Visites. The firm founded by Andrew and George Taylor in London in the 1860s was but one of the several who claimed to be the "largest in the world" and "photographers to the queen"

There was obviously a pride to be obtained by having your portrait taken by the people who photographed Queen Victoria - not to mention the Prince and Princess of Wales. The fact that the picture was being taken in industrial Sheffield by an employee who had probably never met Andrew and George Taylor, never mind Her Imperial Majesty, was not important. It was a portrait you could proudly display on your parlour sideboard.

70 : A Bit Of Black And A Lot Of White

This is a Carte de Visite from the Edinburgh studio of J G Tunny. The subject of the portrait is a rather splendid gent with white hair and a matching white beard. One assumes that Victorians such as this were always welcome in the photographic studios of the 1880s - the sparing use of dark colours would have preserved the life of the developing solutions. The reverse of the card suggests that the photograph can be coloured in "oil, water colour or crayon", but there is so little to colour, once again  the task would be both easy and cheap.

106 : Two Smiling Theatricals

1707-133 : TWO THEATRICALS Two more smilers, but this time I suspect there are differences. First of all we have, I think, two women ...