Researching Photographic History
Many people wish to research historical photographers. Perhaps you are tracing your family history, a distant relative was photographer or you are trying to date an old photograph you have. The following relate mostly to photographers and concentrate on photographic resources. A few selected more general historical resources that often include photographer information are given at the end of this document.
Resources and sources
RPS Historical Group photographer listings
Altrincham and Sale 1860-1939
Bradford 1843-1900 (Including Bingley, Shipley and Baildon)
Colchester and North Essex 1845-1931
Dyfed 1857-1920 (Including Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire & Pembrokeshire)
Halifax and Huddersfield 1843-1900 (Including Sowerby Bridge, Rastrick, Brighouse, Holmfirth, Heckmondwick, Liversedge, Elland, Mirfield, Cleckheaton, Hebdon Bridge, Honley)
Hastings and St Leonards 1852-1910
Kingston upon Hull 1845-1911 (Including Beverley)
Kingston upon Thames 1854-1911
London Boroughs of Lewisham and Greenwich 1854-1939
Newcastle, Gateshead & Sunderland 1873-1920
Sheffield and Rotherham 1843-1900
North Staffordshire 1850
South Staffordshire 1850-1940
Yorkshire Coast from Withernsea to Redcar 1842-1900
Michael Pritchard, A Directory of London Photographers 1841-1908 (PhotoResearch, 1996). Out of print but in many libraries, now largely superseded by PhotoLondon
Gillian Jones, Lancashire Professional Photographers 1840-1940, (PhotoResearch, 2004)
W. A. Maguire, A Century in Focus, Photography and Photographers in the North of Ireland 1839-1939, (The Blackstaff Press, 2000)
Raymond V. Turley, Isle of Wight Photographers 1840-1940, (University of Southampton Libraries, 2001)
Peter E Palmquist, Photographers. A sourcebook for historical research (Carl Mautz Publishing, 2000). Features Richard Rudisill’s directories of photographers arranged by country – including the UK (England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales) – bibliographic information of other publications not listed here.
The European Society for the History of Photography published Photohistorica which abstracted books and articles across a wide range of publications of photo-historical interest between 1978 and 1995. A cumulative index covering issues 1-53 (1994) was published in September 1994 and can be a good checklist and starting point for names or topics.
John Hannavy (ed), Encyclopedia of Nineteenth Century Photography, two volumes, (Routledge, 2008). Although some entries are not as rigorous as others it can be good starting point and entries includes references and further reading.
The best source on London photographers 1841-1901, includes an extensive and detailed database of around 9000 London photographers (and allied trades) with plenty of biographical information. No longer updated but remains useful and plenty of references to more sources.
lists of photographers for various places, plus some useful dating aids
Sussex photographers and studios active between 1841 and 1910
Isle of Man photographic studios, particularly strong on Douglas, IoM
a growing database of 33,000 UK photographers, 57,000 studio dates and 61,000 addresses based on trade directories, plus an image collection of over 200,000 Victorian photographs (6000 with sitter’s name). A commercial site - charges apply.
A resource of news and events and forums relating to British photographic history.
international mailing list dealing with photographic history
international mailing list dealing with the carte-de-visite. Limited activity recently.
Mailing list discussion and sharing of information regarding the dating of photographs produced by portrait and studio photographers in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland between 1850 and 1950
http://peib.dmu.ac.uk/index.php / and http://erps.dmu.ac.uk/
Photographs Exhibited in Britain 1839-1865 / RPS Exhibitions 1870-1915
A collection of Victorian and Edwardian photographs. Some photographer data and links
Dating photographs. Some photographer information
Edinburgh Photographic Society and photographers.
Unpublished obituary data of British photographers 1853-c1986 – Michael Pritchard (email: email@example.com)
National Media Museum, Bradford (www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk ) has limited photographer information but is a useful place to consult publications
For information about British photographic companies: www.earlyphotography.co.uk or Channing and Dunn, British Camera Makers, (Parkland Designs, 1995).
National Portrait Gallery, London, has some photographer biographical data. It holds the Camille Silvy studio daybooks (pre-1860-1866) and some Bassano material (http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/about/photographs-collection.php)
Selected general historical sources
Census of Great Britain, 1841-1911, available on-line through various providers. Ancestry.com is probably the best known. There is also free census information available.
The National Archives, Kew, hold some business and Stationer’s Hall copyright records as well as census and other records that include biographical data eg naturalisation, war records, wills, etc. www.nationalarchives,gov.uk The site also has a series of useful information sheets on a range of subjects explaining what records exist and where they can be found.
The London Gazette is the UK publication of record and includes details of partnerships, bankruptcy, etc. It is available and searchable free of charge at www.london-gazette.co.uk
Patents. The UK patents are largely not online from before the 1890s but can be consulted at the British Library or at larger regional libraries. Those that are online can be searched for here: http://gb.espacenet.com
Historical trade directories from nineteenth and twentieth centuries for UK: http://www.historicaldirectories.org
The British Library integrated catalogue is a good place to search for topics and names (as authors or as the subject of a book): www.bl.uk
The most frequently asked question is: ‘are there studio day books or records in existence that would help me date my family photos?’ Apart from the Silvy studio day books and the collection of J Palmer Clarke in Cambridge 1880s-1930s (http://www.cromwellcollection.org.uk/ cambscoll/about.html) I am not aware of any organisation holding any British photographic portrait studio day books from the nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.
Need further assistance?
If you would like this sheet emailed so that you can click on the links please email me. I am also happy to assist with answering questions where I can.
Dr Michael Pritchard