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I was asked to try and locate a Snaps photo of a Pekingese dog recently, which the firm had taken stood on the sea wall seats at Bridlington in the 1920s. I had seen the postcard for sale myself and been tempted; it’s just nice to think the photographer approached the owner to take a walking photo, after which she then asked if he could snap her pet as well! Anyhow Pippa bought the card and explained she collects postcards which feature Pekingese dogs, which often feature in studio photographs. “Pekingese were introduced to the country in 1860, but reached their heyday in the early part of the 20th century. They are now something of a rarity. My grandmother always had them, so I remember them from the fifties, and have always kept them myself. My collection of postcards featuring them is enormous, and in quite a few cases i have managed to find interesting facts about the pictures, and have identified the owners.” So if anyone out there has anything which Pippa can add to her collection let me know. In the meantime she sent me this postcard above which is a Charles Howell studio portrait. Howell operated a studio in Blackpool for decades, and often featured distinctive painted backdrops and a series of recognisable props. I like this as it features one of those pieces of rustic wooden furniture so many photographers had in their studio from the late 1800s onwards. Together with the woodland or countryside backdrops, these added to the rural idyll they were trying to conjure up in deepest Fulham or wherever, with women (mostly) stood behind them. But this is the first table I’ve seen, and so I thought we’d show it here. Needless to say the Pekingese is sat in pride of place in the centre!

Auto Memento

Auto portraits copy.jpg This excellent exhibition Auto-Memento runs at Swindon Museum & Art Gallery from October 20th 2019 to January 4th 2020.  It centres on a set of 72 found Edwardian head and shoulder passport sized photos taken in a studio in Swindon. Put together by Nigel Martin Shephard and Rachael Moloney, co-founders of The Family Museum. They have also put together the first issue of a PDF magazine called Famzine to celebrate the lost family photo. I have put more details about the Auto-Memento exhibition on the site, where you can download the Famzine, watch a video tour round the galleries, sign up for their projects and see more of the portraits. It looks like a really great display and well worth trying to get to.

Bucket and spade

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Another by the busy walking picture firm of Wrates in Skegness, taken I think on Scarborough Road, which leads down to the these days very truncated pier where Wrates had their main kiosk back in the 1940s. The three children have been treated to seaside buckets, spades and a couple of fishing nets, so we can guess where they are heading. There were quite a few shops at the end of the street on Roman Bank, the main road into Skegness. Mum is in the picture, but hiding behind father (trying to get his cigarette lit by the looks of things).  It’s a great informal portrait, and the kids seem a bit unsure of the cameraman so are probably new to the experience; Dad is just resigned to forking out for a print later in the day!

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That’s the natty Piersnaps logo Wrates used for a while in the post-WW2 years.

Margate in Autumn

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Well, I’m guessing, but the weather does seem that way in this walking picture. Four women out taking a stroll. I was going to go with a date of the late 1940s judging by their smart outdoor coats and wonderful hats but I have another walkie dated 1939 which matches these hats so closely I feel it is just pre-War. The composition by the unknown photographer is accidental but excellent nevertheless. The postcard walkie is by Sunbeam, the South East’s most prolific street photographers, and was taken on a reflex camera using paper negatives. I do not know where it was taken, the back has Sunbeam’s Margate address on but the “V” code on the front matches other walkies taken in nearby Ramsgate which the firm also covered, so I think this is a more likely spot although it’s hard to match the buildings. The postcard has gone more sepia with age than many of theirs, and there is some discolouring in places which may be due to chemical splashes at the processing stage. One of the women has scrawled the christian names of everyone on the back but those are the only details we have.

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Lumley Road

This location in Skegness, the corner of Lumley Road and Lumley Avenue was a happy hunting ground for walkie cameramen for over thirty years.  The lovely old bank behind the couple was a real landmark, and appears in many of the photographs.  The reason is that the firm who took it, Wrates, had an office nearby.  It dates from the 1940s but I don’t know who the couple are. Or what that car is!

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The print has been very hastily printed, light has leaked in to cause flaring either side, and the postcard has been cut at all sorts of angles! It’s a guess but as the walkie was taken quite late on it the day (shown by the shadows), they may have been processing this quite late on, hence the sloppiness.  Plus if that counter showing 90451 is an indication of how many photos the cameraman had being doing that season…

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Remarkably the bank is still a bank at time of writing this (see above), but as it’s HSBC we can expect them to close it any minute now (“The world’s local bank” sounds increasingly hollow, they closed our local branch several years back, despite there regularly being long queues for counter service).

More Jackson’s Faces

Seven adults and three children to be exact. I do like these family walking picture groups, and everyone here seems to he out for an enjoyable morning stroll.  Obviously a walkie like this had to be arranged to some degree, but it still has a degree of spontaneity. The people are unknown, but it was supplied by the firm of Jackson’s Faces who had quite a history as takers of walking pictures.  They give three towns on the back, Great Yarmouth, Gorleston and Felixstowe. I suspect this is from Great Yarmouth, and was taken in the 1920s.

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Jackson’s Faces are covered on the site and there are more examples in the book Go Home On A Postcard.


Smartly dressed

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Just not perhaps what you would expect to wear for a walk on the promenade! Even for the 1920s it’s a little more formal than we usually see in a seaside walking picture, especially the bowler hat, brolly and fur stole. It’s possible they were on their way to attend a function or high-class entertainment (not the Punch and Judy that’s for sure), but we’ll never know for certain.  Still, they seem quite amused by the camera experience.

Nor can I tell where it was taken as there are no clues in the background, indeed there is nothing there at all except for some three rather Lowry like figures in the distance.  In style and quality, it might be an early Margate walkie by Sunbeam, it remains to be seen if it can be matched to any examples by them.

Sunny Snaps in London


Here’s another really atmospheric walking picture taken by the firm of Sunny Snaps in our capital city. The firm continues to throw questions up about how it operated, particularly in London. It was scanned for us by Gary Wade, who was especially interested to see if we knew where it was taken. The answer was no, however like him we spotted the familiar London Underground logo (designed in 1913 by Edward Johnston) in the background, on a fairly distinctive post-WW2 building. So I sent it over to District Dave’s London Transport forum, and sure enough Richard there quickly identified it as Leicester Square tube station, at the end of Charing Cross Road.


The Sunny Snaps photographer was stood on the now pedestrianised part of Cranbourne Street outside the Hippodrome (then a music hall and variety theatre, now a casino complex), you can just see the awning above their doorway in the top left. Although it’s an overcast day, what little shadow there is gives it as around mid-day, so the gentleman may have been on a trip to the newspaper stand in his lunch-hour (he doesn’t look like a tourist or visitor), and is striding towards Leicester Square itself. I suspect by the wry look on his face he has noticed the camera, but is looking away, which suggests they were not an uncommon sight. Having said that he took his ticket and ordered a print. The date is very hard to read, but looks to be 1939.

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I have been doing a bit of digging around and have now identified a few more Sunny Snaps locations in London; one of their cameramen worked on Park Parade in Harlesden between 1934 and 1937. A Sunny Snaps postcard taken near Shepherd’s Bush tube station is documented and Ladbroke Grove has been identified as another site where they worked in 1935. They also snapped away on Lewisham High Street just after WW2. Hopefully more will come to light or be identified. As always I’d welcome any information on the company itself.
It’s hard to get the exact view on street map, but the screen shot below is not too far off, the building on the right is a replacement.
More updated details on Sunny Snaps history can be found on the site.

Coney Island

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This interesting photograph shows a vintage ‘while u wait’ photo studio in America, at the New York beach resort of Coney Island. “Photo Laff” suggests they had some of those comedy painted boards to put your head through as well.  And as a sideline they did cold beer!
The photo was taken by Marvin Newman in 1953, and comes from a recent book of his images published by Taschen.  The studio is closed as it was taken out of season but the people in the photograph had picked it as a spot to get a bit of boost from the winter sunshine. A remarkable image in catching what must have been a very ordinary scene at the time but which seems quite strange to us now.