Walking Pictures on film
Most people will remember the name of Pathe, who provided newsreels for UK cinemas for many years. They also did topical stories, and even had a go at short films. It was to this area of their output that Colin Harding at Bradford Media Museum directed my attention.
Pathe produced a whole series of short films under the Dave and Dusty name; Dave being a small boy and Dusty his pet dog. The theme was simple – Dave sees a grown-up doing something interesting, and then has a go himself, with the dog roped in to help.
Two films in the series feature Walking Pictures. In both, Dave spots a Walking Picture photographer at work, then has a go at earning some pocket money doing the same with his Box Brownie. Needless to say it’s a rare glimpse into the Walking Picture photographer’s art. Although both feature static photography, the basic set-up in both is very similar to that used by Walking Picture guys. Both films are obviously very much staged and the banter is a bit wooden but perhaps not far off the patter they might have used.
Brighton Holiday Snaps
This film has a photographer snapping people on a felt donkey, using a large plate camera. This is the sort of equipment many pre-war walkie cameramen used. You can also see the dockets ready to be handed out to customers. In the background we can clearly see the kiosk for the firm Brighton Holiday Snaps, with the display board on the left. I don’t know if this was an actual firm, though it seems unlikely Pathe would have mocked it all up just for a five minute short. The film was released in June 1948.
DAVE AND DUSTY (PHOTOGRAPHER, BRIGHTON) – British Pathe.
The second short again features a street cameraman trying to persuade people to pose for a portrait, rather than just snapping them walking. I don’t recognise the camera being used. It was issued in January 1947, so probably filmed the year before. There seems to be equipment under the camera for developing and fixing prints too, rather than people having to collect the print later.
UPDATE • Paul Godfrey has emailed to say that the camera is an Aptus. It was launched in 1913, and still on sale in the 1950s. What’s interesting is that the camera took Ferrotypes or Tin Types as they are sometimes called (especially in America). These were small portraits on a thin sheet of tin, usually supplied in a card mount. Once taken the plate was developed in a small tank under the camera, washed and dried and sold to the customer. By the time of this film such technology was indeed very old fashioned, and I’ve never seen any tin-types this late.
DAVE AND DUSTY (PHOTOGRAPHER) – British Pathe.
Lastly I trawled through all Pathe’s seaside newsreels in the hopes of finding some documentary footage of Walking Picture photographers but only found two brief glimpses in one. This was a topical newsreel documenting a day at Margate in 1954, so probably features guys from Sunbeam, a company documented on this site. Anyhow, worth going through for a bit of nostalgia!
The links here are provided by Pathe and will take you through to the films on their site, which you can watch for free.