These (more often than not) postcard sized photographs generally known as ‘walking pictures’ or ‘walkies’ were taken in towns and holiday resorts as far back as the 1920s and into the 1970s. The photographers took snaps of people ‘on spec’ who could go to a kiosk later to get a print, and order extra copies.
There is a lot of interest in ‘found’ photographs and snapshots, which often offer a more interesting and revealing look at our social history than professional images. But even people’s own snaps are posed to some degree; it is only with the walking pictures that we get beyond this and see people going about their everyday business.
What makes the images fascinating is that the majority are unposed, the photograph had already been taken by the time the person had time to react to what was going on (as shown in this example above, taken on a wintery day). So they really are a snapshot of the times, as well as a unique glimpse of the fashions and streetscapes of the day.
Walking pictures were popular across most countries, but we concentrate on those taken in Great Britain. The images and information are already proving a help to collectors, and family history researchers.
The site has grown out of research for a book on the subject, Go Home On A Postcard, is due out in 2020 and more details can be found on the site. We are always interested in seeing similar images, and can be contacted through the site (please do not send unsolicited scans).
There are several different types of Walking Picture, detailed below.
Most walking pictures were single postcard size prints (above), with a regular postcard layout on the back, often including the company name and address. The idea was that you could post the card off to relatives (with one company coining the slogan ‘Go Home On A Postcard’), though only a small proportion of the cards were ever sent.
Double images were produced by some companies, with two identical images side by side on a postcard, as on the example below (taken in Torquay in 1936).
Triple images also exist, three consecutive images on longer strips of photographic card. Naturally most people cut these up to give frames to friends. The backs often carry the printed words ‘Walking Pictures’, as the photographic paper was sold specially for this trade. Sometimes the film edges show on the side of the print (the example above was taken in Derby).
Most of these multiple images were taken using adapted movie cameras and a few strips with four images have also been seen.
Almost all walking pictures have a reference number on. On early walkie postcards, these were scratched into the glass negatives, later painting on using a fine pen, then a mechanical numberer. Sunny Snaps went to greater lengths and incorporated logos and small illustrations at the bottom of the postcard, as seen in the example from Bournemouth taken in 1934 below.
I am always interested in seeing more examples and getting scans, or buying cards, tickets and envelopes relating to the firms. Also hearing from people who worked in the trade. Reach me using the contact page.