Jersey jaunt

This woman is on a stroll somewhere on sunny Jersey, caught (like the couple in the grass in the distance) by a walking pictures movie cameraman. She is gripping her handbag and also swinging a smart looking folding camera by the short strap. I like the determined look she is giving the cameraman; by this time the cine photographers were probably a familiar sight to holidaymakers but here it clearly looks as if the encounter is something to be endured! Nevertheless she took the ticket and purchased the strip of three prints later in the day. It was cut up but then the prints were mounted in a photo album, so have survived in fairly good condition (although the negatives show quite a lot of scratches from careless handling in the darkroom).
It was taken by the firm of Walkies based at 39 Broad Street in St Helier, where most of the walking picture firms had their main office over the years. The woman in the very brightly patterned dress behind is next in line.

I was wondering what camera the woman herself was using, so asked camera collector David Gardner. “There were many makers of folding cameras in the 1920s but you would be on pretty safe ground to bet it’s a Kodak as they sold far more than anyone else. There are a few of clues which support Kodak. (These) lead me to suggest the No.1a Pocket Kodak Junior, the UK model produced 1930 to 1936.” This picture of the back of the camera (below) certainly matches very closely. Interestingly the Kodak logo hinges outwards to help prop the camera up to enable the taking of portraits. Neat! It may be her own, but often you could hire a camera at the seaside for the week.

I did ask Dave Gardner if he might be able to spot the location, and he came back: “This is roughly where the picture was taken. It’s in the south west corner of Jersey, a path down to the La Corbiere Lighthouse.  It seems has been a popular path for holiday makers for many years because of the views and the sunsets.  The building is now a hotel apartment place called Corbiere Phare”. Even better, as he is a camera collector, he notes that is a Camera Obscura in the centre of the old view!

see more animated walking pictures on the site


in the street

More mystery photographs! I picked these up as I felt sure I recognised the spot, but couldn’t get a match with anything in the archive. So if you have any bright ideas let me know. It is a seaside town, and quite a sloping site. As I found the two frames together it does suggest a family relationship and both were clearly printed in the same darkroom, and come from movie camera strips. The two women may be sisters, they are very alike and have similar glasses too. But while the frame is a bit battered, most of the visible damage was done during the developing process, a result of rushed work in the darkroom and a small negative. This only serves to illustrate the fragility of these small prints, which have survived nearly 100 years.

I assume the frame below is father and his two small sons. Exactly the same spot, and the older lad is carrying two buckets and a small spade, so it looks like they are headed for the beach while Dad has his paper for a quiet read. His jacket is a little unusual, it reminds me of a transport uniform. Both frames have been removed from a family photo album at some time not too long ago so losing any context. There is what looks like a large Tea Rooms sign in the far distance…

Morning constitutional

I think these two ladies are Mother and Daughter but what we do know is that they are on their “morning constitutional” as the younger woman has written as much on the back. “Isn’t my face fat?” she also asks!

It was obviously a regular stroll as the same camera man caught her again (below), this time with “Mrs Godbar (in the middle) and a friend” and she is wearing the same outfit in both. There is something magical about these slightly hazy images which have a very atmospheric quality to them. The image below is very underexposed but with a bit of digital tweaking I have been able to increase the contrast. Frustratingly I cannot work out where they were taken. I thought at first it was a French resort due to the strong light and some of the architecture, but it might be somewhere on the south coast and two of the women have kept their big coats on.

For me though the extra bonus was on the back where the lady has felt it of sufficient interest to add “A man cine photos you as you walk…”. This is the first time I have seen such a reference! They will date from the mid-1920s.

Who is a pretty boy?

What a remarkable piece of street theatre. I saw this for sale and thought it might be a commercial street photographer, but there wasn’t enough detail on the sale image to be sure, so I took a bit of a gamble, though it wasn’t expensive. Happily the hunch paid off and it clearly catches a street portrait photographer on the look out for customers. He has what has been identified (by Timothy Campbell) as a 35mm Mamiya 4B camera with a battery powered flash, you can see the cable going to his ex-army knapsack. To entice the kids to pose for a portrait he has a large Macaw sat on his shoulder and also a small monkey in his hand. And a cigarette on the go. Talk about multi-tasking. I think the photograph was probably taken by an unknown amateur, just snapping interesting street scenes. My best guess would be in London, in the 1960s (the camera was launched in that decade). It is certainly a busy market street, with trestle tables piled high outside the shoe shop, and adverts for American Jeans, and Bolenium workwear above the shops (cropped on this scan).
I have a few examples of portraits of children holding birds and monkeys so it’s nice to see one of the operators on his shift. After this he had to get back to base, develop and print the photographs and get them posted out to the people who had paid up.

Who was Squeak?

This nickname turned up on the back of a sheet of Polyfoto portraits, with a date of 1946. Dressed in a nice jacket with a shirt and tie, but no military marking visible, it looks like the woman could have been working for a public service occupation where smart dress was required. After the visit to the studio, Squeak looked over the Polyfoto sheet of 48 poses and marked up in pen half a dozen to have prints made from (as seen in the section above). I assumed this was Squeak’s own sheet, except that an individual frame cut from the same Polyfoto sheet turned up from the same dealer which means she must have ordered two sets of the proofs.
Then another one of the little Polyfoto mini card frames turned up but featured a different woman, Jeanne Marguerite, and signed in pen “To Squeak”, dated 1944. The way she had written “Squeak” is very unique and matched that on the back of the Polyfoto sheet.
So Squeak had two sheets done, and sent one uncut to her friend Jeanne who wrote Squeak’s name and date on the back and kept it. Jeanne herself does not show up on the 1939 UK register, nor does Squeak (!) so the trail ends there, unless any more images turn up on the second hand market. Or you know someone in your family who was called Squeak…

War bridesmaid

Another excellent example of the hand tinting art. This happy looking young girl is dressed as a bridesmaid, stood in a photographers studio, holding large posy of flowers. The image takes on extra significance when we turn it over and see it is dated January 2nd 1940. A bit of a strange time for a wedding but given the circumstances people had to adapt, though we can only speculate as to why.

The postcard size print has been professionally hand coloured by the studio, Jerome, who operated a chain of budget high-street photographic studios across Britain. I like the subtle way it has been done too, just a pale pink wash brings it all to life. Though the composition is a little strange, ideally you would want the drape on the left pulled across to hide the skirting board.

More on the subject of tinting on the site.