Two surviving frames from a movie camera walking picture strip, with Mum, Dad and what may be identical twin daughters, but where it was taken eludes me, although the distinctive Georgian houses behind them may be familiar to someone. As was often the case, the daughters are wearing their school blazers as “best”, and all four have taken off heavy coats suggesting the weather is taking turn for the better. It probably dates from around 1932.
This is a really interesting documentary image I spotted on the web which provides a rare look at early street photography studio set ups. The backdrop being used is of an early bi-plane. It is in two sections, the customer poses behind the front section and the rest of the plane is on the backdrop. When photographed square on, the illusion is complete!
The gent with the beret is taking the photograph, and you can see a couple more props in the space, including one of those head in a hold boards. Although open to the daylight, there are also three large lamps directing light at the subject.
It is obviously French, but I do not know when (probably 1920s) or where it was taken, or by who. The Rapid Photo sign at the top suggests the stand is bigger, so perhaps the darkroom facilities are next to the studio. The sign inside says “instances” which suggests the print was processed while customers waited, although there looks to be a little brasserie behind the stand for a drink while doing so! There are a few comic seaside images on the site.
If only more firms had thought to add the town and date on their walkies… Snaps were Bridlington’s longest operating walking picture firm, and moved to smaller half size prints in the 1940s when supplies were still short and the cameramen had moved on to 35mm cameras. I have seen prints like this from 1950 to 1952, probably machine printed, and this is a very typical example. It is possible Snaps photographers were numbering the prints consecutively through the year. This one is 93,602 but others from 1950 go back to 6,234. If so, this suggests they took nearly 100,000 prints in 1950. It is an enormous figure but roughly equals about 2,000 rolls of self loaded 35mm film, or 40 rolls a week. Some cameramen shot 10 rolls in a morning on a good day, so this could easily be done during the holiday season. The photograph was taken at the corner of Regent Terrace which is where the amusements now dominate, a favourite spot for Snaps to operate (see today’s view below). The woman, who is certainly giving the camera a look, would have paid 2/6d for the print. Snaps sold them in sets of three by this time, and this one has survived almost 70 years until ending up in a house clearance.
This shows the same spot today, many of those older buildings survive but are clad in nasty boxy facades. How nice would it be for the council to encourage a rethink here?
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).
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.