This great portrait looks like it could have come from a family album it is so informal, but the reference number shows it to be a commercial walking picture. Two of the gents are in the new fangled Oxford Bags, and may be brothers. Their female friend is smartly dressed too. It was taken around 1936 by the firm of S R Keig, based in Douglas on the Isle of Man (and photographers since around 1860 through to 2010) but very hard to locate exactly until another by the same firm turned up which was taken in the smaller resort of Port Erin not far away, and this enabled us to identify the rest as from the same town. I have added them to our list on the site where you can find some more Isle Of Man walkie examples and a bit more detail.
The Butlins holiday camp souvenir photographs are a subject all to themselves, and I do turn them up from time to time, usually taken in the camp grounds or nearby beach (there is a nice example of the site). They always have the little Butlins overlays in the corner. But this example is new to me, sent by Paul Godfrey. At first glance I assumed the young lad was montaged into the negative at the printing stage, but the canny photographers at the Clacton Butlins camp had gone one better. They built a giant wooden postcard format stand, and cut an oval in the centre for people to pose in. They rightly reasoned that nobody would really notice the joins when it was printed out at postcard size. Paul notes that the camp did open for a couple of years prior to WW2 but at that time the souvenir photo franchise was run by Empire Films. When it reopened later it was taken back in-house. The little bits of detail you can pick out in the montage suggest an early 1950s date for this print.
These two found prints make slightly uneasy viewing, the children seem to be looking right through the photographer to a different dimension. But they did appeal to me in a pile of discarded prints. Most people who snap their children go for something a little more natural looking, especially outdoors. Instead these kids look frozen in time, something you normally associate with indoor studio portraits. I think the two girls in the two photos must be sisters, the light flaring and print edge on both is the same, even the grass, which suggests they were taken not far apart time wise (or maybe it’s the same person?). It’s quite hard to date them but the buttoned up shoes suggests late 1890s or turn of the century (and they are printed on thin photographic paper typical of that era). The girl’s dark dress looks a bit home made under the magnifying glass.
Both prints are around 3″ by 4″, or quarter plate as it was known, and suggest they were contacted from glass negatives of that size.
Photo booth portraits are always fascinating, and this one has been lovingly hand tinted at some time. It is also larger than the passport size, measuring around 2″ by 4″. You can still specify one large print rather than four small ones in booths today. The photo came from America, which suggests it was taken there, and dates from the 1940s. It’s impossible to know if the operator did the colouring or the owner, but it is very well done and quite subtle for the most part.
Search for Tinted by hand to see previous examples.
Many families used to take their holidays in the same seaside town year after year, often dictated by transport links or the nearness of a particular resort. This happy looking couple are no exception, and seem to have stuck to Skegness for all their breaks; as far as I can work out all these walkies were taken in the town in the years after WW2, from the late Forties into the late Fifties. This dating is reinforced by the serviceman at the right hand side in one of the views.
The two postcard sized photos were taken by Skegness’ main walkie firms, Wrates and Walfreds (both firms are detailed on the site), the smaller ones are not identified. All were taken in the usual spots on Lumley Road and the Grand Parade. I only really wanted a couple of these for the archive, but it seemed a shame to break them up. Taken together they do demonstrate that while walkies might have been a novelty to begin with, people must have become to expect them being taken on subsequent holidays. And in two of the photos the gent is carrying what looks to be a box camera, so while they could take their own photos they still enjoyed having the walkies.
Fashion wise while the lady has either the same jacket top or (hand knitted?) cardigan in most of the shots, the floral dresses are different in every photo. But only in the most recent walkie, which is dated 1953 on the back, has hubbie relaxed enough to actually be seen in the street without his tie!
“I’m just nipping to the corner shop” was an often heard phrase in our house. Mid-way between us and the main shops, themselves only five minutes away, the corner shop was a ramshackle place but handy for all types of groceries and more. They kept going into the early Seventies before being converted back into a domestic property.
Images of old retail environments often bring the past to life (I find myself watching the unremarkable Still Open All Hours sometimes to see what vintage goodies the prop people have used to decorate the set!). Usually you just see the shop staff posed in the doorway but this photograph takes us inside and gives a glimpse of the goods on the shelves of a small grocery shop circa 1910. Interestingly all the foods here are already pre-packed except for the eggs, and there are packets of tea and coffee, quite a few tinned goods – apricots, peaches, pears, salmon – and also jars with meat paste, what looks to be Camp coffee essence, and quite a lot of home made bottled jam. There are also a few boxes of Chivers’ Table Jellys which would have been a bit of a luxury item. The wooden shelves themselves are also very typical of the time, with the turned support alternating with a plain one.
Then tucked away in the corner is the shop assistant, smartly dressed underneath his shop overalls. And with a cigarette on the go as well.
Nothing tells us where this was, though as it was found locally it’s tempting to think it may be from the Sheffield / Chesterfield area. Back then there were small corner shops every few streets.
The print has rounded corners which look like someone has done this themselves. As the person with the camera was clearly proud enough of their shop to take the photo, I could see them making this bit of extra effort.
I do like finding walkies of people I know, and this first one (WP879) came to light only a few weeks ago when I was visiting relatives and remembered to ask. It shows my late Uncle with his two youngest children (the family lived in Hull), and was taken in the East Yorkshire coastal town of Filey around 1957. They’re clearly just heading onto the beach and I like the casual gear my Uncle is wearing, very wide trousers, jumper and open necked shirt.
I cannot quite work out where on the Filey seafront it was taken as there have been a lot of changes, but will have a look next time I’m over that way. But it does really show how the walkie could capture so well a very ordinary moment that would otherwise have been forgotten.
It is also another tiny piece of the walkie story as it’s the first example taken in Filey I have seen. It is a seaside resort but quite peaceful, and perhaps didn’t generate the trade to attract many walking picture operators. It is unmarked and looks like it might have originally been one of a pair judging by the way it is roughly cut at the bottom edge.
The second walkie is another which turned up in my Aunt’s photo albums. It shows my Great Uncle William striding down Marlborough Terrace, and the young girl is my Aunt, who was then attending Bridlington High School for Girls, so it would be around 1937 (the family were living on Cardigan Road in the town). The walkie is also unmarked and would be one of a strip of three originally. The same firm took lots on this stretch of road, and given it is so busy you can see why. Coaches also used to stop off here to drop day trippers.
I have another walkie of them on almost exactly the same spot taken on a different day. As residents of the town they must have come across walkie cameramen before, but seem to be either ignoring him, too busy chatting (or “here’s another ruddy cameraman, pay no attention,” knowing my Uncle). But they still bought the strip. The woman to their immediate right dressed like a nurse or perhaps a maid is certainly looking straight into the lens.
Both walkies have an everyday feel about them which really crosses the years. I can even connect the two walkies, as the young girl in the Bridlington print married the gentleman in the Filey print in 1964… There are some more formal family photographs of the pair on the site.
I am fascinated by another category of seaside portrait, one in which people were plonked onto the backs of long suffering donkeys to have their photograph taken (there is an example on the site). As well as real donkeys, some photographers used a stuffed donkey, and sometimes a toy one made of felt. But this donkey seems to be something very different. I picked it up for £2 without looking too closely, thinking it fitted the usual ‘boy on holiday at Blackpool’ image, but now having had chance to look more closely, it seems to be something different altogether. I may be wrong, but having taken second and third opinions, it looks as if that’s a bloke in a donkey costume. Not the usual two people in a pantomime costume, but just the one. He’s bent over, and his hands seem to work the front legs. The back legs are much thicker and seem to accommodate his shoes. The little lad is also dressed in quite an elaborate embroidered jacket, and pearly buttons on his shorts which match those of the gentleman on the left.
The only thing I can suggest is that it’s perhaps a three person music hall or fairground act of some sort, who have decided to have their photograph taken. There is no clue as to where or indeed when it was taken. The painted backdrop is quite theatrical, most seaside backdrops are idyllic countryside scenes. Quite what the act consisted of we can only imagine! If anyone has any more information, please get in touch.
I’m giving an illustrated talk on Walking Pictures in Boston Spa (Village Hall, Main Street) on March 4th 2018. The afternoon talk follows a Camera Fair at the same venue from 10am to 1.30pm (the fair is open to all, admission charge). The talk is to a camera club, and is not open to non-members.
UPDATE : This had to be cancelled due to bad weather, and will be rescheduled for May.