Before photography?

The little framed silhouette below, found at a boot sale last weekend, possibly pre-dates photography. It is in a box wood frame 6 in x 4 in, mounted on what looks like a piece of silk with fine lace crinkled up to look like a garland of flowers. Presumably the silhouette was made as a likeless of a young woman. Superb skill went into crafting this little item. Then along came photography. There is no artist’s name on this little piece. I wonder if the artist then became a photographer or what other area of employment he or she took up from this point.


Interesting Cambridge Finds

Below are three photos 7.75 x 6.25 inches, recently purchased, which appear to relate to Cambridge. They depict a group of people in the 1950s relaxing on a roof terrace. But something odd is happening – two of their number are climbing up the gap bnetween two buildings onto an upper roof. A careful look at the footware shows there are two different climbers, one wearing shoes, the other sandals. So what was going on? Were these a couple of the notorious Cambridge night climbers trying a new climb, or simply a couple of young men showing off ? There are no photographer’s details shown, but the quality of the prints suggest at least a good amateur status. The fourth image shows the reverse of all three – with an Air Ministry Crown Copyright Reserved printed thereon . This probably means that they were printed on government surplus air ministry photographic paper which was used by some photographers and developing and printing works after WW2. Has anyone any idea of the exact location of these interesting shots?

StickyBacks, Post Office Terrace, March etc

The search for the identity of the StickyBacks photographer who operated in Midgate Peterborough is starting to take up a disproportionate amount of time. A visit to the Perborough Library on Tuesday produced little more than back and shoulder ache from the antiquated microfilm reader used to pore over old copies of the Peterborough Advertiser. Hannah and Elisabeth, the staff there, are incredibly helpful, which more than made up for the discomfort. Since the visit I’ve discovered that the building used by Mr StickyBacks was probably owned by the Peterborough Corporation, so hopefully there will be some record of their lessee.

Talking of incredibly helpful staff – help given during a visit to the Cambridgeshire Collection is leading to some great material in the index of the Palmer Clarke negatives from Post Office Terrace.

News of two additional photographers from March, some brilliant material about Ralph Lord from his family and a few more buys of Cambridgeshire photos on Ebay  are all keeping us very busy updating the site.

Getting a little better known?

The site seems to be getting a little better known of late. We are delighted to have had a link accepted by Cyndis list – a major site for family historians. Also valuable information has been received this week from Nick Smith about various photographers in March which has enabled us to improve a number of entries. Another great step forward has been making contact with the family of RH Lord, one of Cambridge’s finest photographers. Meanwhile research continues into StickyBacks and photo stamps and the enigma of who was Mr StickyBacks of Peterborough?

Photobooths, stickybacks and another local mystery photo

Christmas and flu have slowed down input to the site since the last post here. The lull has provided a little time for some research into photobooths. The logic behind this is that you might well find a little portrait in the family photos not much bigger than a postage stamp and wonder how on earth to date it. Well it could have come from a photobooth – if so when did these start to appear in Cambridgeshire. Actually you could contribute greatly to this by giving us your memories of photobooths in Cambridgeshire.

A related topic is the stickyback photo – and here we have added new material which seems to date these firmly from 1901, several years earlier than had previously been thought.

Finally – a new mystery photo shot beside the road to Cambridge 1951 – but can you tell us which road?

Photobooth and stickyback pages are linked from here

Notices from The Times

Wharton and Co of Peterborough had a nice little business producing cartes de visite photographs of newspaper announcements of births, deaths and marriages. These were neat lasting mementos to add to the family album. The examples I had found were from 1907 to 1910. But it transpires that the idea wasn’t unique to Samuel John Wharton. A recent buy on Ebay included two similar products from  1901 and 1903 from Wharton’s older brother Herbert C.Wharton, a photographer in Kilburn and, more surprising, a couple of much earlier examples, one anonymous from 1876 and one by Edgar Gael of Bromley Kent from 1877. (both shown below) From some additional research it appears that there were other photographers who specialised in this product, namely Marc Hughes of Hammersmith and the Centaur Photo Co. of Bromley.

So far I have not been able to find any newspaper advertising for this service – has anyone else come across any such advertisements? Newspaper announcements of births and marriages usually included the address of one or more of the parties and Robin and Carol Wichard in their book “Victorian Cartes de Visite” suggest that these firms would have photographed the announcements speculatively and mailed the cartes with the offer of a purchase or return. (although this probably wouldn’t work for death announcements!) It would be great to pin this down with any accompanying materials. Does anyone have an example speculative sales letter tucked away in the back of a family album? This type of speculative marketing would explain why these cartes mainly carry a number of announcements, rather than an enlarged version of a single notice – that way one photograph could be sold to a number of customers.


Two example cartes de visite with Times notices from the 1870s. No photographer’s details on the right hand example.