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PREVIEWS • There are preview page spreads on the site to look at and give a great idea of how the final book will look. The book was scheduled for Summer 2020 but the lockdown may delay this. The cover design has also been updated, see below.
BOOK DETAILS • From around the start of the twentieth century, right up until the 1970s, street photographers were busy in holiday resorts all around Britain. It was a speculative trade; of the many hundreds of thousands of images they must have taken, it’s impossible to say what percentage were ever collected, but those that survive form a unique record of society. What makes these photographs so special is that the subjects didn’t expect to have their photograph taken, so they dressed as society at the time dictated. Thus the images capture a moment in time, reflecting the fashions, social status and habits of the era.
This book is the first to collect a selection of these walking picture images, taken by companies with such names as Walkie Snaps (from Blackpool), Skeg-cards (from Skegness you’ll not be surprised to learn), The Krazy Komic Studios (a name which seems to come straight out of the pages of the novel Brighton Rock, fittingly they had their booth in the arches on that town’s Esplanade), Sunbeam and Sunny Snaps (who both worked the resorts on the Kent coast).
Walking Pictures reached a peak during the 1930s but the trade resumed after the second World War and was still popular through the Fifties and into the Sixties. The prints were very popular, and appealed to a wide spectrum of people and classes, despite the advent of cheap cameras which a lot of families would own at the time.
Walking Picture cameramen often had their own ‘beat’, busy spots where they could guarantee a steady flow of people passing by. It’s clear that a lot of the people simply didn’t realise they’d been photographed, while others are looking right at the camera and smiling. Sometimes the same family would be photographed over different days on the same holiday, mother and father, grandparents, in-laws and children. Other families would be captured in walking pictures for several generations
Once your photograph had been taken, you were given a slip showing you where to view the print. The reel of film would be developed and printed (usually on postcards) in just a couple of hours and then posted up in a shop window or cabinet. If you liked the result you just popped in and bought it.
This photographic journey around the vanished townscapes of Britain includes a detailed history of the Walking Picture from the early 1900s, several hundred annotated examples, as well as pages devoted to some of the major firms involved in the trade, examples of the cameras used and more. The images have come from several collectors, as well as museums and archives. There is a growing interest in this area of ‘found’ photography today, and this is an important contribution to the history of the genre.
Sewerby Hall near Bridlington had a display of local Walking Pictures from the book during the summer season in 2011 (learn more here). There is a web site devoted to Walking Pictures where you can learn more (and maybe contribute scans from your own albums). A couple more examples can be found here on the site, along with more information and details of how to send in any examples they may have.
AUTHOR • The book has been written and researched by Simon Robinson: “This subject has fascinated me since art college days, and I had originally intended it to be a book just of photographs. However as I began discovering more about this trade, it became clear that it was worth documenting properly, so this book is part visual exploration, and part history!” Simon works as a designer for Easy On The Eye, and has given talks on Walking Pictures.