Topical Pictures


Topical Pictures is another walking picture firm which seems to have operated in a few towns. Their cards usually just have the firm’s name on the back, but some have been identified as being taken in Llandudno. Les Waters has found two Topical walkies taken in Cambridge and, both dated 1936. The one above was taken on Trumpington Street and is dated by the former owner, October 5th. It shows two spirited woman in tough leather jackets (motorbikers?) mouthing at the cameraman!
The building in the background (which is a college) looked familiar and sure enough I had two more Topical Picture walkies in my ‘unknown’ folder, taken on exactly the same spot. One of these is from 1937, and both are strips of two and three identical frames (rather than consecutive ones).
Les has also found a Topical Pictures walkie from Bridge Street, Peterborough, taken around the same time (plus other uncredited walkies from same city). It seems as if Auguste Dumont set the firm up in Peterborough (where he was living in 1939). He had taken walkies in Llandudno but was charged there with assault in July 1937 on another walking picture photographer, Frank Bowser, who had previously worked for Topical. The case illustrates the bad blood which could build up as rival photographers tried to pinch customers.
Bowser had returned to his Topical pitch at 2.30pm half an hour late, and was sacked on the spot by his boss Dumont. He offered three days wages which Bowser declined, leaving with a camera, which led to the assault. Dumont said he’d tried to grab the camera as Bowser had threatened to smash it, but the case went against him. He was fined £1.00.
Bowser then went to work for a rival walkie firm three days later, and alleged Dumont and others kept spoiling his portraits on purpose to get revenge.
One lawyer told the court “They are up to all sorts of tricks to try and ruin each other’s business.”
We can’t be certain of the timeline but Topical may have quit Llandudno after the case and set up in Peterborough and Cambridge more or less right away.

The assault case was written up in the Liverpool Echo and the sub-editor managed to sneak in the headline “Replies In The Negative – Photographers’ Rivalry at Llandudno”! Bad newspaper puns are nothing new. (Thanks also to Paul Godfrey)