Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Street photographer in Wolverton?

Years ago when film was expensive and cameras were a luxury item there was  phenomenon known as Street Photographers. They were enterprising chancers who would snap passers by and give them a ticket. If they wished, they could pick up their photo a couple of hours later from a booth somewhere. Usually you found these types at seaside resorts or in London's tourist areas.

I was reminded of this by Lee Proudfoot who has kindly shared some photos with me. They were probably taken in the 1930s. The first one here of my grandmother walking past Sigwarts and the North Western, probably on her way to the London Central Meat butchers, next to Muscutt and Tompkins. You can see the number written on the negative as the photographer's reference. The size of each image is 2 3/4 x 3 1/4, so probably taken on a 120 roll film.

Now I can't imagine my grandmother bothering with any of this. They had a camera which was used for holiday photos etc and there are a number of studio portraits in the box of old photographs. This one is a bit of an anomaly. I would therefore suspect that the photos were snapped on the offchance of a sale, sample images, such as this were done as contact prints in the hope of the sale of an enlargement. I don't know if there was a cost to the customer of picking up the sample, but there is no evidence that my grandmother ordered a photograph.
Annie Moore walking past North Western

The same may be true of these photographs from Lee Proudfoot's collection, as you can see the number marking on the right hand corner of one of them.  These photos were obviously taken on different days, so whoever was taking the photos was there for more than one day. Possibly he (I asuume "he") was a local photographer trying to drum up some business, although the photo in my possession has no name or address markings on the back. It strikes me that as a business enterprise this activity was doomed. The London and Seaside street photographers had some advantages in that they were picking out tourists who might want a memento of the occasion. Photographing residents of Wolverton in their familiar surroundings doesn't appear to me to have a lot of business potential.
Gertrude Old and Renee Moore beside North Western

Renee Moore walking along the Front
The photographs are valuable as a record of "The Front" in the 1930s. You can note the wicker shopping baskets, the old-style push chairs and the fact that people dressed up to go shopping.
You can also get a glimpse of the "Little Streets" in the distance and the frontage of the North Western is different from its present appearance. Cars were scarce.

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