Birmingham calling

Birmingham writing.jpg

Just a regular small walking picture, from a strip taken before WW2. But one of the two gents has written in pen on the back “Corporation Street, Birmingham” and the date, 1936. So this is the first confirmed walkie I have from this large city, which would have been almost impossible to identify otherwise. Urban walkies are much less common than seaside ones, so it’s good to be able to add another to the growing list, although we will probably never know much about the photographer or indeed the people walking along a very busy street on that Friday lunchtime 80 years ago.

Birmingham 1936.jpg

More in hope than expectation I had a look to see if I could discover what the site looks like today, but needless to say being Birmingham NOTHING remains from this entire view. There are just a few old photos to show us how fabulous it once looked like. And it’s no good blaming the War, the city still attacks its architectural heritage ignoring wiser advice, witness the great modernist library they ripped down recently. Philistines. Probably best mates of the same idiots in charge of destroying Sheffield.

corporation street old view.jpg



Skeg Cards (from Skegness if you hadn’t guessed!) have been documented on the site before but this particularly nice example came my way recently. Sometimes a walkie just catches your attention, and this is one such. The young girl just looks so excited to be both on holiday and having her photo taken. I cannot make my mind up whether the couple are her parents or perhaps Grandparents. They look a little austere at first glance but once you get past the gent’s now deeply unfashionable moustache, he is on the verge of a smile and his partner appears to have just realised what is going on.


Technically it also stands out, with the trio highlighted against a misty faded background. I suppose it’s possible someone in the darkroom spent a few seconds “dodging” to increase the contrast, but it is likely to be a happy accident.
The image was marked “unknown” when I bought it, but the view looked familiar. Sure enough the large building behind them is the old Pier Hotel at Skegness. If that wasn’t enough, the girl is holding a holiday regulation wooden spade but also an unusual metal seaside bucket, more like a small milk pail, and this has the words “Present From Skegness” printed on the side.
Skeg cards were in business from around 1920 and took walkies near and on the town’s first pier. They did not mark their cards, but the neatly hand written reference number jotted down is typical of their output. I imagine this must be circa 1924 or so. More potential customers can be seen behind them, in what looks to be the early morning.
He is dressed down, no tie and white shoes, but the older woman, smothered in a huge fur stole of some sort, is not exactly beach ready so I assume the next port of call was to hire a deckchair before sandcastle building could ensue.

hand tinted!

tinted walkie

This would have been a great walkie originally, but then someone young has been let loose with the hand tinting set and this garish image is the result! At first I assumed the little girl was the woman’s child (and perhaps the guilty party!) but having looked more carefully I think there is actually another adult hidden behind her, holding the dog lead and a pink basket. The image is post-WW2 but looks older, and I cannot make out where it was taken although the level ground around the cliffs near Margate might be a possibility.
I played with the mono levels and you can begin to see the original image below. Most walking picture firms offered a professional hand tinting service but I have seen very few of these, perhaps the price put people off plus most people bought these on impulse, and would not have wanted (or been heading home) to wait for them to be coloured. There are some proper examples in the Go Home On A Postcard book!

mono version

Early walkie


Most walking pictures date from the early 1920s onwards, with just two in my archive from before WW1. This looks to be a third. The card is very faded and frustratingly has no location or indication of which firm took it. Not does it carry the usual reference number, just a regular postcard printed back. But it clearly is a commercial walking picture from the composition and the way the woman is looking with curiosity at the camera, he waving his stick in the general direction seems to be trying to ignore it. The dating comes from her fashions, and also his collar.
Being so early, it is before negative numbering had come into use on walking pictures, and the couple were probably just informed where they could see the print on display later in the day (maybe in the kiosk in the background), and did indeed go and buy it.
It’s not a brilliant image but that’s mostly because it probably wasn’t processed as well as it could be, so it is now a very pale sepia colour which I’ve had to work on in Photoshop to increase the contrast.
The view has a south coast feel to it, but the depth of field is quite shallow so everything behind the couple is very out of focus. If the area looks familiar to anyone do get in touch!  There is a hi-resolution version in the Go Home On A Postcard book.

Weymouth walkie


The back stamp on this walkie seemed to read Beech’s Photographers, with an address at Gloucester Row, in Weymouth. The clock tower confirms the location but another walkie turned up and showed the name to be Meech’s. The firm offers no results on a web-search but looks to be taken in the early Sixties. It is interesting to see Mum has a Kodak Box Brownie in hand, which shows that while people were camera owners they still liked buying a walkie photo.
It’s possible Meech’s were only going for a season or two, hopefully more of their prints – which have those shaped edges – will turn up. There is another example on the site.

Other firms known to taken walkies in Weymouth are Chambers in the 1930s, and Guy’s Snaps in the Fifties (also detailed on the site).


cut out polaroid 1

It’s always interesting to see variations on the walking picture and seaside snap business over the years. As walkies tailed off during the Sixties, seaside photographers were still trying to find other ways to part holiday makers from their cash.
These two images were part of a cache of cut-out Polaroids found by a collector in the Eighties, and posed a bit of a puzzle for a time.
The mystery was solved when it turned out an enterprising photographer had bought a badge making machine. He approached holiday makers, and if they liked the idea, took a Polaroid, cut the circle out and made it into a ‘while – u – wait’ pin badge. The rest of the print was discarded but not thrown away, and were later found.
They have been collected into a new book of found photos called In Almost Every Picture 14, part of a series of photo books curated by Erik Kessels.
I do have a couple of walkies where the heads of the people have been cut out perhaps to stick in an album or frame, and all I have is the abandoned print with holes in.
Polaroids were used in the walking picture trade but not widely, although were popular in Mexico. It’s likely that they were too expensive to use speculatively as people walked down the street, so were restricted to “take your photo Sir / Madame” type encounters.
Amazingly the Polaroid camera has returned. Abandoned by the company in the face of digital developments, enthusiasts first sourced new film for old cameras and then relaunched the camera under license in 2010.

cut out Polaroid 2

Sunfilms ladies

WP898 sunfilms for blog.jpg

Another nice complete Sunfilms walking picture strip from the late 1920s. Although the firm worked mostly around Clacton, they also had operators elsewhere (including the Isle of Wight). I cannot identify the location here. However that does seem to be a viewing area to the right, probably looking out to sea. If it rings a bell with anyone please get in touch. As with other strips like this I have also had a go at animating the strip, and also added a bit of colour. There is more information about Sunfilms on the site, and more examples in the book Go Home On A Postcard.

Brighton berets?


I am struggling to find any clues as to where this walking picture was taken. The camera is obviously very close on the pavement to the two young women, one of whom looks very puzzled as to what is going on. It looks like a parade of shops perhaps leading down to the beach, and some of the architectural features to me have the feel of a South Coast town like Brighton. Beret’s were obvious in fashion that summer at any rate. If anything rings a bell do let me know!

Margate promenade


I’m guessing this might be Mum, Dad and Daughter, on holiday in Margate, and set for a visit to the Marine Bathing complex in one, and just out for a stroll in the other (with Box Brownie in tow). These parasols crop up in a few walkies and seem to have been a popular mid-Twenties trend . The portraits were taken with a day or so of each other (the reference numbers are 113 apart) by a photographer working for Fotosnaps, run by Remington, and taken in the Westonville part of the promenade. That looks like their kiosk in the background of the card above. We know this must be pre-1928 as Remington moved to Paignton after that, while both cards have the firm’s older backprint on suggesting it is from the early twenties. The cards are a little over-exposed, but it may be because the darkroom worker has held the process back to retain the details in the face. There is more on the story of Remington’s on the site and in the book Go Home On A Postcard.