Because I've always felt a wonder at old photographs not easy to explain. Maybe I don't need to explain; maybe you'll recognize what I mean. I mean the sense of wonder, staring at the strange clothes and vanished backgrounds, at knowing that what you're seeing was once real. That light really did reflect into a lens from these lost faces and objects. That these people were really there once, smiling into a camera. You could have walked into the scene then, touched those people, and spoken to them. You could actually have gone into that strange outmoded old building and seen what now you never can - what was just inside the door.

The wonder is even stronger with old stereoscopic views - the almost, but not quite, identical pair of photographs mounted side by side on stiff cardboard, that, looked at through the viewer, give a miraculous effect of depth. It's never been a mystery to me why the whole country was once crazy about them. Because the good ones, the really clear sharp photographs, are so real: Insert a view, slide it into focus, and the old scene leaps out at you, astonishingly three-dimensional. And then, for me, the awe becomes intense. Because now you really see the arrested moment, so actual it seems that if you watch intently, the life caught here must continue. That the raised horse's hoof so startlingly distinct in the foreground must move down to the solidness of pavement below it again; those carriage wheels revolve, the girl walk closer, the man move on out of the scene. The feeling that the tantalizing reality of the vanished moment might somehow be seized - that if you watch long enough you might detect that first nearly imperceptible movement - is the answer to the question Kate has asked me more than once: "How can you sit there so long--you hardly move! - staring endlessly at the very same picture?"

04 November, 2014

Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner

Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner (Published by Spitalfields Life Books)

Around 1900, photographer Horace Warner took a series of portraits of some of the poorest people in London - creating relaxed, intimate images that gave dignity to his subjects and producing great photography that is without comparison in his era.

Only seen by members of Warner’s family for more than a century, almost all of these breathtaking photographs are published here for the first time.

This unique collection of pictures revolutionises our view of Londoners at the end of the nineteenth century, by bringing them startlingly close and permitting us to look them in the eye.

Link: Spitalfields Nippers by Horace Warner.
Link: Spitalfields Life (blog)

02 October, 2014

Brighton Photographer "B" - Albert Adolphe Boucher

Albert Adolphe BOUCHER

23 Ship Street & 15 Kings Road, Brighton

Another favourite photograph from my collection, which I am guessing shows a young bride in her wedding dress. Her expression seems to change the longer I look at the photograph. Sometimes she appears to be trying not to grin, then she looks rather serious, and sometimes sad.

Albert Boucher was also a talented artist; a self portraited painted around 1870 may be seen HERE together with a photograph of the Ship Street studio, c.1872.

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Another photo from the Boucher studio. Another Brighton photographer, who will feature later on this blog, Thomas Donovan, was employed as a studio manager by Albert Boucher from 1873, and was kept on following Albert's death by his widow Elizabeth to help run the business.

*The Boucher studio was run by Albert's wife Elizabeth following his death in 1875, and continued at 15 Kings Road, Brighton, until 1875.

20 September, 2014

Unusual photograph from a Brighton photo studio

This has to be one of my favourite early photographs. It sold on eBay this month - I was pipped at the post in the last minutes.

Apparently it is a postcard-sized studio photograph from the Brighton area, although I don't know who the photographer was.

It is so nice to see people of this era having fun. I'm so used to seeing photographs where everyone puts on their best serious face and poses in a very stiff and starchy position. I would guess that there was also another, "proper" photograph, that went with this at one time.

29 August, 2014

Brighton Photographer "B" - Louis BERTIN



This CDV, photographed "from life" by Louis Bertin shows Mr (later Sir) Charles Wyndham, the famous actor, surgeon and later founder of London's Wyndham Theatre.

He has a fascinating biography which can be read on Wikipedia (click here), highlights of which include the fact that he volunteered to become a brigade surgeon during the American Civil War; he performed on stage in the UK with Ellen Terry, and once in New York shared the stage with the actor John Wilkes Booth who assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

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Here is another Bertin card from my collection, this time showing one of his non-celebrity clients (as far as I know!).

If you would like to read much more about Louis Bertin then I recommend the wonderful page on the Sussex PhotoHistory website dedicated to the Bertin family, with many illustrations. Follow this link.

25 August, 2014

Brighton Photographer "A" - William AVENELL & Co

William AVENELL & Co


The Sussex Photo History website reports that before William Avenell because a photographer, he was running a hairdressers at the same address. A team photograph of Brighton & Hove Albion Football Club, taken by William Avenell in 1905, appears on the Sussex Photo History site.

This nice little photograph is just 80mm by 42mm, smaller than a standard CDV,  and known as a 'Promenade Midget Portrait'.

24 August, 2014

Brighton Photographer "A" - William Thomas ALMOND

If, like me, you are a collector, then you know that it is like a kind of terminal illness for which there is not much hope of ever finding a cure. I am always collecting something. My fascination with old photographs was in danger of branching off in all directions, so as a way of limiting myself, I have decided to try to collect at least one photograph from each of the early Brighton photographers.

Fortunately there is a wonderful Directory available online (click here) showing all the known photographic studios in Brighton and Hove between 1841 and 1910. I am working from that list, but don't ever expect to be complete.

One photographer that I would really like to find an example of has the same surname as me, but I don't know if there is a family connection. G. K. Ransom was working at 19 New England Street in 1891.

William Thomas ALMOND


Unfortunately, as I have decided to work through my collection in alphabetical order, my first photograph has a problem. The address given in the Directory of Brighton Photographers matches my photograph, but the photographers name doesn't.

The Sussex Photo History website states that William Almond was at St James Street until 1930.  Perhaps the date range given for Mr Almond - 1910+ - indicates that my photographer was working as an assistant in 1912 (the date written on the photograph). The rubber stamped details on the back of the photograph are not clear, so it is difficult to read the photographer's name.

This photograph is also unusual because it is the only postcard size photograph in the Brighton collection. All the others are either "CDV" or "Cabinet" photographs. Perhaps this is due to the later date? It is one of my favourite photographs.

13 July, 2014

A family at home by Nicola Cassinello

Nicola Cassinello (1833-1890) was active as a photographers in Brighton and Sussex during the 1860s and 1870s. In 1862 Nicola was working in Cork, Ireland, but by 1865 he had moved to Brighton, joining his brother George who was already working in Brighton as a photographer. Nicola specialised in “outdoor photographs” such as the one shown here.
I would love to know where the house is, there are no details on the back, and the photograph is not numbered (as Nicola’s usually were). The 1871 census showed Nicola living and working in Hastings so it would seem that it is in the Brighton area and photographed around 1865.
Much more information can be found on the excellent Sussex Photo History website: Click here.
NCassinello house
Somewhere in the Brighton area around 1865
Close up portion, sadly not very sharp focus