Category Archives: Pictures From Nowhere

Three Women On The Beach

There is something particularly engaging about this photograph of three women on a beach, which must date from the 1940s or early 1950s. The beach may be stoney rather than sandy, but the three women are wonderful pictures of their time. Their hairstyles could have been created by the make-up department of some twenty-first century period social drama; their smiles are absolutely genuine.

Eminent Victorians

I am not sure if I was attracted to this little Victorian portrait by the look in the eye of the sitter or because in was taken in the studios of Sydney Barton in New Brighton. I remember New Brighton well from childhood seaside trips (the name “New Brighton” was a triumph for positively-spun nomenclature second only to the island of “Greenland”). Barton was listed in the 1901 census as living at 95 Victoria Road, New Brighton along with his wife, three children and a live-in maid. His occupation was that most trendy of late-Victorian occupations – “photographer”. It always amazes me how a bit of pasteboard, just four inch by two and a half, can have so much history stuck to it.

The Look

There is something very appealing about this old photograph which must date from the first couple of decades of the twentieth century. It is the look, which is pitched somewhere between haughty and flirtatious. There is a dedication in the bottom corner, but all that remains legible is the word “love”. The photograph comes from the Bingley studio of the photographer George Tillett.

Stories To Tell From India

This old picture is not exactly from nowhere, but from an album of photographs taken in India in the 1930s. What stories could be told by these nine men?

The album belonged to my wife’s Uncle Jim, who served in the British Army in India in the 1930s. As far as I can make out, however, Jim was not one of the nine men featured in the photograph. I am not sure when the photograph was taken, nor can I explain why at least two of the company look decidedly worse for wear. At their best, photographs can be objects in themselves, without the need for a backstory or a list of dramatic personae. This, I like to think, is one such photograph.

John Shaw And The Photographic Bandwagon

This rather stern looking lady was captured by the Heckmondwike studio of John S Shaw. John Shaw was born near Halifax in 1815, and for most of his working life was a farmer in Staffordshire. Only when he was in his sixties to he return to his native West Yorkshire to climb aboard the commercial band-wagon which was studio photography. The last two decades of the nineteenth century was the great age of the popular studio portrait. Production techniques meant that studio portraits were no longer the preserve of the wealthy, and the new age of home photography had not yet arrived. Every town and village needed its photographic studio, and a wide range of men – and a few notable women – were attracted into the profession. They were the computer repair shops, mobile phone case sellers, and Turkish barbers of their day. Unlike all such recent trends, however, they left a lasting legacy which still can be appreciated over one hundred years later.

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