Before the Snapshot & the Postcard
Before the Snapshot and the Postcard : Victorian Photography & Photographers in Matlock & Matlock Bath - by John Bradley of Ashover, Derbyshire

Early Photography
The Victorian Commercial Photographer
Portrait Photographer
Matlock Commercial Photographers
Apprentices and Assistants
Visiting Commercial Photographers
Retail and Wholesale Trade in Photographs
Caring for Early Photographs

Early Photography

Today photography is simple, and photographs are everywhere. Most families have a collection of photographs which document their lives. Holiday snaps, school photos, and some shots with the disposable camera at Christmas give us an easy record. Every newspaper and magazine is crammed with photographs. Every item we look at in a shop has packaging illustrated with photographs . It is difficult then, for us to appreciate the public excitement that accompanied the emergence of photography in the mid nineteenth century. This public interest soon led  to commercial interest, and the profession (or perhaps trade) of photographer was born.  B.W. Bentley, a Buxton photographer laid claim in his advertising to “having been the first to introduce photography into Derbyshire”, but this would be a difficult boast to prove. Certainly he seems to be the first to have established a permanent studio, when he set up in business in the early 1850’s.

Early photographic equipment was expensive and required specialist skills and experience to use successfully. The “point and shoot” camera of today, with its drop in film cartridge is within everyone’s capability, but the early photographer faced a daunting and complex process to take a single picture.

Two principal systems for taking a photograph emerged at the end of the 1830’s. One technique pioneered by Frenchman Louis Daguerre produced a positive image on a metal plate. The image was made permanent, and mounted in a small, often ornate frame. While the process produced a very high quality picture, it had one insurmountable disadvantage- the image could not be copied or re-printed. During the 1840’s Daguerre’s system was the dominant portrait medium, but although use of Daguerre’s technique continued beyond the 1850’s-, he was in a photographic  cul-de sac.
The system that was to lay the foundations for modern photography was that developed around 1839 by Englishman William Fox Talbot. He used his camera to produce a paper negative, from which it was possible to print several copies of a picture.  Chatsworth House Library has correspondence  which appears to have taken place between Fox Talbot and the then Duke of Devonshire’s mother - giving Derbyshire an early link with the development of photography.

With Frederick Scott Archer’s introduction of the wet collodion process using a glass plate negative in 1851 a fairly simple technology was available to make multiple copies, and this had obvious attractions for the commercial photographer.

The Victorian Commercial Photographer

Until the 1890’s most local photographers would  have used the “wet plate” process. This required that each glass plate be dipped and coated in light sensitive chemicals and then dipped again in distilled water immediately before being exposed in the camera, so that the plate was moist when exposed. It then needed to be developed as soon as  the picture had been taken- before the plate had time to dry. For this reason the early photographer found it challenging to work away from the studio as a mobile darkroom was required. One solution was  a small portable black tent, while for the more ambitious a horse drawn cart or wagon could be converted for the purpose. The developed glass plate gave a “negative” image (black appearing as white, and white as black), which was then used to print the positive image on paper.

Modern photographic printing employs an “enlarger”, with a system of lenses and bright light to project an enlarged version of the image on to the printing paper. With this we can obtain photographs of any size from our current standard 35mm film. Early photographers had no such capability, and most  early photographs are so called “contact prints”.  The glass negative plate would have been laid directly on light sensitive printing out paper, usually held in place in a printing frame, and then the frame with negative and paper  exposed in the daylight. The areas of the negative which were light or white would transmit light to the printing paper, which would consequently darken. Those areas of the negative which were black  would protect the paper from exposure, and the paper would remain white. The end product would be a positive copy on paper of the glass negative.

Most early commercial photographers would have prepared their own light sensitive printing paper. First good quality paper would be “floated” on a tray of whisked egg-white. The paper, now nicely sized (sealed) on one surface, would be dried and sometimes burnished with rollers to give an even smoother finish. Nearer the time it was needed the paper would be treated again with a coating of light sensitive silver salts. These “albumen prints” (the name referring to the use of egg-white) are the basis of nearly all 19th century stereocards, and most commercial portraits.  By the end of the century developments in both the glass plate negative and the printing paper made life a little easier. The development of the “dry-plate” process provided a glass photographic plate which could be purchased from the suppliers ready prepared, and which could be exposed dry, and developed later. Similar developments made it possible to purchase commercially produced photographic printing paper, which by now used a collodion or gelatin (rather than albumen) coating. Freed of the need to produce ones own materials, and with the availability of affordable commercial cameras,  the end of the century would see the emergence of the amateur photographer. Until then however, the process of photography remained a relatively complicated and technical domain, which most people were happy to leave to the professional.

The successful studio could provide work  for several  people in addition to the photographer. The preparation of photographic paper and plates ; careful overseeing of the printing ; washing and drying the finished pictures, and then the mounting of the image on card - all would make work for the family and perhaps an apprentice or assistant.  Retouching the negative to remove imperfections in the image (referred to as “spotting”), and tinting the finished product were two of the more skilled areas of work for the assistant.

Two lines of work  were the staple of the local commercial photographer between 1860 and 1895 - the portrait and the scenic stereocard.

Portrait Photography

In 1841 a local journal described for the benefit of its readers the delights of a visit to one of the first  studios in the region - Mr. Barber’s photographic portrait studio in Nottingham.

“The portraits  need only to be seen to be admired, and it is the privilege of any individual to visit the waiting room containing the specimens, which is open daily to the public. The proprietor informs us that the morning is the preferable time for sitting, though good portraits can be taken at any hour of the day, even under the influence of a cloudy sky, excepting during the existence of a dense fog. The importance of maintaining a cheerful and animated expression of the countenance, while sitting, greatly enhances the value of the portrait”.
The photographer described here was using the Daguerreotype process, but unfortunately without the benefit of  permission from the holder of the English patent Richard Beard. Beard guarded his patent fiercely, and had the Nottingham studio closed down in a few months. By the 1860’s when commercial photography proliferated in the provinces Beard’s patent was irrelevant, as most professional photographers were using the glass plate negative system, from which prints were made on light sensitised paper. No patent permission was required for this process .

The 19th century studio portrait will be familiar to most people, and indeed many families will be lucky enough to possess some surviving examples of family members. Mounted on thick card - a characteristic which has contributed to their survival - they are usually found in two standard sizes. The small “carte de visite” about 2“ x 4” derived its name from the similarity in size to a printed visiting card (not as some people imagine because they were used as visiting cards). The larger 6" x 4" prints are referred to as “cabinet” size prints. The better provincial photographers would charge half a guinea for a dozen cartes, with a selection of poses. Where competition was fierce, as at the end of the century in Matlock, price cutting would have taken place. One photographic studio famously advertised “Your likeness and a cigar for sixpence” ! This would have been a “loss leader “, with the photographer hoping to persuade customers to buy more than the single copy they would have been given for sixpence.


The stereocard was in many ways the predecessor of the picture postcard - sold as a simple inexpensive photographic souvenir of places visited, or of which one might wish to have a view. The process of stereoscopic photography, sometimes referred to as 3-D (three dimensional) photography was developed as soon as the camera became available, and built on the work of the English scientist Wheatstone, who had developed the technique originally with stereoscopic drawings. Two photographs are taken from slightly different positions, the spacing between  the two viewpoints being equivalent to the spacing between the human eyes. This is achieved either with a special stereoscopic camera with two lenses which takes two photographs at the same time, or with a single lens camera which is moved slightly between exposures. Because of their two points of view these  images are slightly different-  as are the two images we usually see with our two eyes. These two photos are then mounted on a single card, and viewed in a stereoscope. The left eye sees the left picture, and the right the right picture. The brain fuses these two pictures together to form a single image, which has all the sense of depth and distance which we see in the real world, but which is absent in  “flat” photography. The stereoscopic technique reappears though the twentieth century, with 1950’s 3D movies, the ViewMaster 3D viewer, and modern high tech 3D movies at Epcot centre and Disneyland all making use of the same basic principles. Most middle and upper class Victorian families would have owned a stereoscope, and the stereoscopic photographs to be viewed in them were sold in their millions between 1860 and the end of the century when the postcard gradually replaced them as the most popular photographic souvenir.

Matlock Commercial Photographers

Victorian Matlock Bath was a popular tourist centre, and the needs of its visitors were well catered for.  A glance at a commercial directory of the 1860’s gives some clues to how many local tradespeople were devoted to the tourist industry. In addition to the obvious  spa related trades and professions listed :-

Hydropathic establishment proprietor
Proprietor of hot and cold baths
we find others who earned their living, as now, from the visitor :-
Spar museum proprietor
Cavern proprietor
Beer retailer
Petrifying well proprietor
Cavern guide
Spar turner
Alongside these we find over the years a number of photographers. From the 1860’s to the 1890’s commercial photography enjoyed an incredible popularity. Not only did people of all classes go to have their portrait taken, but the middle classes collected commercially produced “cartes-de-visite” photographs of popular personalities and royalty. Some affluent families might even have a “portrait” taken of their house, perhaps with the family standing informally outside. Cartes were sold in huge numbers - the records of one provincial photographer showing that he sold 60,000 cartes in the year 1860.  Stereocards too were produced in vast numbers, with some of the leading publishers producing tens of thousands of cards each year.  The growth of commercial photography in the second half of the nineteenth century is illustrated by the summary data from the census. In 1841 no one listed “photographer” as a profession ; by 1851 there were 51 across the country; and by 1861 2,879;  204 of them women.

Business would have been fairly brisk in Matlock, keeping local photographers busy  supplying the spa’s numerous visitors, in addition to meeting the demands of the resident population. Census data suggests that Matlock’s photographers made a reasonably good living, since most lived at “better” addresses in the town, and  enjoyed the help of one or two  domestic servants, as well as photographic assistants.

The first professional photographers to work in  Matlock were in fact brief visitors. James McMunn had been operating in Chesterfield with his brother Andrew  in 1856, and the following year they went their separate ways - James briefly to Matlock, and Andrew to Scarborough.  In the Autumn of the same year - 1857, B.W. Botham, a Derby based photographer, spent some days taking portraits in Matlock.  A report in the Matlock Bath Advertiser for July 18th 1859  announces the arrival of another such visitor:-

“Mr and Mrs Scales have erected their Branch Gallery in Mr Walker’s Paddock, leading to the Ferry Boats, for the purpose of taking first class photographic portraits”.
The “Branch Gallery” would probably have been a simple tent, which the Nottingham based Scales family toured around the region stopping a week at a time in towns without their own resident photographer.
John Latham

The earliest resident commercial photographer recorded in Matlock is John Latham, whose address is given as Taghill Cottage in 1862.  Establishing  himself in Matlock was probably a sound commercial move. The population of residents and numerous visitors were dependent on visiting photographers, and he appears to have been without competition for his first two years.

Latham is a photographer of some stature, whose work was widely praised by his contemporaries, and whose stereoscopic views are today regarded as  fine examples from the classic period of the stereoview. He was compared by a reviewer in the British Journal of Photography in 1866 to  celebrated G.W.Wilson.

“It is we hope a compliment rather than otherwise to Mr Latham to say that, had we not known these photographs to be his productions, we should at once  have credited them to Mr. Wilson, so much do they resemble the works of the latter artist, in their soft gradations of tone, their finely contrasted lighting, their composition, their delicate manipulation, and careful printing.”
Certainly Latham seems to have been happy enough with the comparison, since he later quoted it in his advertising.

David C. Latham who worked as a photographer in Buxton some years later may possibly have been a relative.

Latham produced an extensive series of stereoviews (known numbers run up to 1088) depicting Dovedale, Matlock  and Matlock Bath, Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall. He also travelled further afield, and photographed a series of views of Scarborough, Whitby, Lincoln, Lichfield, and Alton Towers (in the days before it became a Theme Park).

 In an 1868 advertisement Latham “begs to inform the Nobility, Clergy, Gentry, and the Public” of the opening of his new portrait studio at Derwent Terrace overlooking the river, from where he provided a wide range of photographic services. Like many of the better provincial photographers Latham supplied his stereoviews  to A. Marion and Son  of  23, Soho Square London, from where they were sold on across England. His work also appears with the imprint of local wholesalers W. Bemrose (of Matlock and Derby), L.B. Twells (of Ashbourne), and W. Robins (of Buxton).

John Clark

Two years later in 1864 we find the first reference to John Clark  who was to be active in the area for the next 25 years. Clark was born in South Witham in Lincolnshire in 1814, and worked during 1863 as a photographer in Bakewell, before moving to Matlock Bath.

Stereoviews of local sights were a staple of his work, but he also produced  numerous individual and family portraits . He described himself in his advertising as “photographic artist and publisher of Derbyshire views” and claimed to be “under the patronage of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of Brazil etc.”. This last accolade, improbable as it seems, is true since Clark photographed the Emperor when he stayed at the New Bath Hotel in 1871.

Clark worked from South Parade Matlock Bath at premises where his wife Ann also ran a lodging house. The exact location of the studio has not been established with certainty, but  it now seems very likely to have been where the present day Museum Restaurant is located, not far from Hodgkinsons Restaurant. We must judge him to be the more successful of local photographers, on the basis of his long established business, but perhaps his wife’s  bed and breakfast trade kept them going through difficult times. Indeed the role of women in all aspects of commerce at this time is probably considerably underestimated. In the 1881 census 256 women gave “photographer” as their profession, but we can be sure that most of these small studios were in fact family enterprises, with husband, wife and children all contributing to the work. Work is only now being done to reveal the contribution of women in early photography, and indeed fine early photographs now known to be taken by women sell  at a premium in the international auction houses.

Charles Davis

From 1876 until 1881 Charles Davis is listed as operating as a photographer on Matlock Bank, where he appears only to have produced portraits. Born in Stonehouse in Gloucestershire in 1822, he and his London born wife Lucretia were another couple attracted to the area by the opportunity to profit from the thriving tourist industry. At the turn of the century A.E. Davis operated as a chemist on Dale Road, from where he sold Kodak cameras. We can only speculate at any connection.

David Sherwood Jones

In the 1880’s we find David Sherwood Jones advertising his studio. Like many other photographers of the period Jones was a young man (b.1857, so in his early twenties) who had moved to the area to follow his profession (he was from Rugby). As a relatively “new technology” photography seems to have appealed to the younger generation as a potentially lucrative and “modern” occupation.

George Washington Unwin

The splendidly named George Washington Unwin, active in the 1870’s and  early 1880’s was another photographer who like Latham supplemented the photographic business by taking guests in his lodging house in Matlock Bath.

Joseph & William Potter

In 1881 Joseph Potter appears as a photographer at  “Avondale” in Matlock Dale . Unlike  many of his competitors Potter was a local man, born in Matlock Bath in 1849. His wife Louise, who was a Londoner, ran a fancy goods shop, probably at the same premises. Their son  Cecil  is listed as working as an assistant to his father, but  it is  William Potter, who may  have been another of their sons, who seems to have taken over the photographic business and run it until 1908.

John William Hilder

From the late 1890’s until 1907 John William Hilder advertises his photographic studio and fancy goods repository on South Parade. There is every possibility that Hilder had in fact taken over the studio of John Clark. Both describe themselves as based in South Parade, and  Clarke’s advertisements cease at the time that Hilder’s first appear, in the late 1890’s.  Hilder produced stereocards, despite the fact that by the 1890’s they were starting to wane in popularity. Quite probably he sold these and simple stereoscopes to view them in his fancy goods shop.  John was leader of the so called "Military Band", a group of uniformed civilian musicians who played at the nearby bandstand. Living in the same house with Hilder and his wife Annie was F.C. Graffson (sic), a young man from Aberdeen who also described himself as a “Photo Artist”, and was probably Hilder’s assistant.

Frederick Barber and Son

At the same period we find Frederick Barber and Son working from Albion House on Bank Road Matlock. Barber advertised as “Artist and photographer”, and like many early photographers had originally been a portrait artist. The camera - called by Fox Talbot “the pencil of nature” was a natural medium for the artist, who brought to photography a knowledge of light and composition. The famous phrase uttered by one early witnesses of photography, “from today painting is dead”, may have proved a slight exaggeration, but it certainly had an impact on the provincial artists who made their living by making simple portraits, or recording local beauty spots in water-colour.  An 1893 guide to the area gives an interesting description of Mr. Barber’s studio :

Photography has now arrived at a high degree of perfection, and ranks among the special callings which demand natural adaptation and long training. In Matlock Mr. Barber has rapidly made a reputation, and his productions in every branch are acknowledged to be equal in taste, execution and finish to any similar work turned out by the best London Houses. If the reader will turn over the leaves of this work he will find that most of the illustrations are made from photographs taken in the first instance by Mr Barber. In Mr Barber’s well appointed studios and show rooms, however will be found a much more varied selection of photos and views, some coloured, some in opaline, porcelain &c, and some in miniature and others in enlargements; and not only in portraits, but landscapes, houses, equestrian pictures, groups, interiors &c. all done in the perfection of genuine artwork. All branches of photographic work are executed in high-class style on the premises, and the enlargements can be carried even to life size, without loss of artistic merit or exact verisimilitude to the original. Oil and water colour paintings are carefully executed on the premises, but these are not merely coloured photos, but genuine original paintings of high artistic merit, Mr Barber is ably assisted by his son, who is specially noted for his exceptional skill in taking children’s portraits, groups, tableaux vivants, bridal parties, clubs &c. Both father and son are talented artists, and that of course, accounts for  the reputation gained by their productions. Though Mr Barber has only been established for three years in Matlock he is a photographer of many yeas standing, and therefore his success here is easily understood. He has been specially appointed photographer to Smedley’s Hydropathic Institute, and in fact his studious are in the grounds of that establishment, so that they are convenient and accessible from all parts of the district. These premises are handsomely appointed, with well arranged reception and dressing rooms, studio, workrooms &c. and the most improved cameras and other appliances are on hand for all descriptions  of work. A special process is in use here for taking cartes-de-visites and cabinets which gives exceptionally rich and delicate effects. A choice selection of local and other views forms a very attractive feature, and the finishing and mounting are characterised by great taste, skill and executive ability. Mr Barbers connection is a large and influential one, his studios being patronised by large numbers of visitors, as well as leading residential families. Special arrangements are made for developing negatives by amateurs, and a feature of the business is the production of transparencies and magic lantern slides from negatives of all kinds.
The “opaline and porcelain” processes referred to involved  photographic printing on opal glass or a piece of porcelain, making a  delicate, but attractive photo-souvenir. Mr. Barber also catered for the needs of amateur photographers who by the mid 1890’s were becoming more numerous. Cameras for amateur use were by then widely available, although expensive, and ready prepared dry plate negatives could now be obtained, making the whole process more easily within the scope of the enthusiast.
W.N. Statham

Another such local artist -cum-photographer was William Nathan Statham who described himself as a “Certificated Art Master”, and proclaimed his studio on Dale Road as “one of the best lighted in the kingdom - well adapted for all instantaneous Photography and large Group Work”. The lighting would have been provided by large windows and skylights, and the “group work” referred to would have included family portraits,  and local organisations wishing to have a formal group portrait of its members. Many early artist/photographers would have combined their skills by  hand tinting their photographs. William Nathan Statham also had his roots in the other profession often associated with early photography- that of chemist. Many pharmacists, no doubt because of their knowledge of  chemical processes that were necessary for photography, were among the earliest photographers. It seems likely that William was a relative of Nathan Statham who operated as a “Chemist and druggist” in Matlock Green in the late 1850’s.

The young William Statham supported his widowed mother Sarah with his business, which was one of the most widely advertised in the area. A few doors away from Statham’s home at “East View” Church Street the 1891 census shows another “Photographic Artist”, the 25 year-old Joseph Drake. There is no record of Drake working under his own name in this area, and it seems likely he was employed as an assistant to Statham.

The 1893 guide gives an account of Mr. Statham’s business:

Every year produces some improvements in the methods employed by photographers in their art, rendering the productions more highly finished and of a decidedly more artistic character. To fully comprehend this it is necessary to compare the so-called portraits of fifty years ago, with the highly finished photographs with which we fill our albums today. The business under notice, established five years ago by Mr W.N.Statham, has been carried on with commendable success. His proficiency may be gauged from the fact of his having obtained the Art Master’s certificate granted by the Science and Art Department, South Kensington, which can only be held by people who are efficient in the art of drawing, a good requisite for perfecting the work of the real photographer. The light and shade, the pose of the figure, and the general lineaments of the dress and its arrangement, are all points to be more or less observed. The studio has every benefit of a strong natural light, and other advantages calculated to induce confidence during the “operation”. Works of art- Mr Statham’s own productions- are scattered about containing a fine collection of views of the county as well as the immediate neighbourhood. Mr. Statham has for some time used the popular instantaneous system of photography, which is one of the greatest triumphs of the art, and Carte midgets, carte-de visites, cabinets, imperial and panel portraits are taken, and enlargements to any size are beautifully finished in crayons or colours.

Mr S. is particularly successful with children’s photos. The proprietor’s services are frequently requisitioned for taking views of churches, mansions, out door groups etc. in various parts of the country, and he personally superintends the work, and the result is a success in every case. The above mentioned enlargements are in permanent black, red, warm brown, purple brown,olive black, blue black &c., the platinotype process being used to perfection. a large collection of scrap photography and opalines are kept for selection. A speciality- an album of Matlock, permanent and printed from original negatives- these are supplied to all stationers in the district. Negatives are developed; printing toning, mounting &c., for amateurs is undertaken. All kinds of picture frames kept in stock, and pictures are cleaned, renovated, mounted and framed upon the shortest notice, old frames being regilded and made equal to new. A large collection of pictures are kept for sale, and can be mounted in accordance with the wishes of the buyers. A large stock of artists’ materials of every description can be bought, including Windsor and Newton’s colours, &c., terra-cotta, opal, canvas, &c., &c.  Mr Statham’s prices are most reasonable.

The reference to Mr. Statham’s use of the “platinotype process” is interesting. Platinum prints were a highly regarded technique at this time. The use of platinum salts instead of silver salts as the light sensitive medium on the printing paper produced very attractive prints. Their surface was matte, with fine delicate tones, which could be manipulated in a variety of colours. They were particularly popular for “artistic” photography, and had the added virtue of being very resistant to fading. By the mid 1890’s however the price of platinum was so high that it became too expensive for commercial use. It is more likely that Mr. Statham was using one of a number of  patented systems of printing which mimicked the platinum print, while actually using traditional silver based printing .
Statham’s proved to be a long and successful career as both artist and photographer. Arkle noted in his 1983 memoir that “he was well known as a talented artist, and many of his portraits still hang in local homes. He taught art at night school, and is remembered as being a man well ahead of his time. W.N. served as churchwarden at St. Giles and wrote its history in 1925.” As  late as 1940 “W.N. Statham and Sons” appear in the Matlock trade directory as artists and photographers.
Alfred Seaman

The prolific Alfred Seaman of Chesterfield was active in the region  between 1881 and 1910 and  for part of this time had  studios in Matlock – one on Bank Road, and one on Temple Road, near the entrance to the Pavilion. Alfred was married three times, and as each of his sons came of age he set them up in their own studio in a neighbouring town. By this process his empire of photographic studios eventually spread across the Midlands and North of England. As well as his flourishing trade in cabinet portraits, many thousands of which survive, Seaman was a skilled stereographic photographer, who was reportedly commissioned by “Smedley’s Hydropathic Establishment” in Matlock to provide stereoviews of the famous Hydro.   Seaman’s advertising proudly  announced :

“Stereoviews - 1500 titles - all natural subjects, no made up effects”.
Many of Seaman’s stereocards are not labelled with his name, but it is relatively easy to attribute the unlabelled work by comparison with the labelled work. His composition and style are quite distinctive ; a single gelatine print provides left and right views, often with a  jagged black line between the two from the process of transposition ; card stock is  usually grey  or cream curved mount ; they are numbered in the negative in the bottom right of the right hand print ; earlier views have a hand written title at the right, while some later ones are typewritten. There is sometimes confusion over his work because some of his cards are found with the blindstamp “Stereoscopic views by W. Pilkington, Buxton and Matlock“. William Pilkington  was a local chemist and photographic supplier at the turn of the century.  He advertised “Local Stereoscopic Views a Speciality”, but it seems certain that he purchased these from Seaman and other local photographers, and was principally a printer/publisher of stereoviews rather than a photographer.

Seaman is a splendid late Victorian and Edwardian stereographer whose work provides extensive coverage of much of Derbyshire. In addition to the views of Matlock in his series we find coverage of  other local areas - Chesterfield, Walton, Wingerworth, Ashover, Sheffield and Buxton. Stately homes are well represented - Chatsworth and Haddon of course, some views claiming to be Shipley Hall (at least one of which is a mis-labelled view of  the Chatsworth vinery) and less grand establishments such as Stubbing Court. Further afield we have a number showing the East Coast resorts (in particular Scarborough), and Liverpool, together with some fine views of London, Torquay (Maude Seaman ran a studio in Devon), and the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901. Many of his views are crammed full of activity, and he was fond of lively street scenes.

Alfred Seaman was a founder member of the prestigious Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom, which first met in Derby in 1886.

 “Its object to afford facilities to the photographers, professional or amateur for an annual gathering at some suitable town previously agreed on for the purpose of hearing and discussing papers of photographic interest; of holding exhibitions, excursions, a dinner, and other social gatherings. Conventions carried out on this model have for many years been popular in the US.”
The British Journal of Photography recorded Alfred’s passing in 1910 with a  notice which confirmed the high regard in which he was held.
“Mr. Seaman was a well known conventioner, and a great favourite among all members.  He had been a firm supporter of the convention since it’s foundation in 1886 and the news of his death which was received at the convention dinner this year was a shock to many of those present.“

Apprentices and Assistants

The 1891 census also tells us that Fred R. Howsley, the son of a Chesterfield pork butcher, was living in Wellington Street Matlock, and serving as a “Photographers apprentice”. Sadly we can not tell which of the local photographers had the benefit of his services.

Most commercial photographers would have  employed at least one assistant, and the pages of  “The British Journal of Photography” in the 1890’s give some interesting insights in to their lives.  Note the interesting advertisement from “E.B.  .... who wishes  to learn reception room duties”, and tells of her ability to “spot and tint”  and hopes to obtain a situation with a seaside studio. She  gives her address as The Art Studio, Matlock Bank, and must presumably have been one of  Frederick Barber's daughters looking to leave her parents’ business. Perhaps with the Barber studio determinedly labelled   “... and Son”, this was the only route she saw to establish herself in the profession.

Assistants would have been paid very modestly, and for most their greatest hope would have been for the day when they could open a studio of their own.

Visiting Commercial Photographers

In addition to its own resident  photographers, Victorian Matlock attracted a number of  eminent photographers from elsewhere in the country, keen to exploit  the market for scenic photographs. In the late 1850’s and early 1860’s Helmut Petschler visited the area from his Manchester base, and recorded most of the local tourist sights in a series of stereocards and scenic cartes de visite. His studio, later renamed “The Manchester  Photographic Company” was an important  and successful operation, which provided extensive early coverage of the North and Midlands.

William Woodward was a similarly successful photographer from Nottingham who  regularly made the trip to the district in the 1850’s to add to his extensive catalogue of  “Views of the Midland Counties”. Styling himself  “W. Woodward - Photographic Chymist”, he sold his  stereoscopic views at 15s per dozen by post to subscribers, who were promised “new views issued twice a month”.  No doubt this promise kept him and his assistants very busy.

The celebrated Derby photographer and publisher Richard Keene photographed the area in collaboration with his friend John Warwick, selling his views from his “Fine  Art Repository” from 1864 onwards. His son  Charles Barrow Keene also recorded many parts of Derbyshire, including the Matlocks, during the early part of the twentieth century.

From further afield, William Russell Sedgfield produced a fine early series of  stereoviews  titled “English Scenery”, between 1855 and 1866. This included a number of views of Matlock Bath and the Dales, which were sold both plain and tinted.

S. Poulton & Son, also from London, included several local views in their lists in the 1860’s, but their greatest claim to local recognition was a huge series of 600 stereoviews of the plants of Chatsworth.

Retail and Wholesale Trade in Photographs

The commercial photographer was one part of a complex network of trades supplying the  Victorian public’s demand for photographs. Scenic views, both stereoscopic and cartes, and cartes of famous personalities, would be marketed through a number of routes. The photographer themselves would normally sell copies directly from their studio, where there was often a permanent display of their works. Other local traders, particularly stationers, would be supplied, and opticians were frequent stockists of stereoviews (because they also made stereo viewers).  Wholesalers in the big cities traded in the more successful views, buying from good local photographers and then selling to stationers, “art repositories” and others around the country.

John Latham, as a well regarded photographer, supplied his stereoviews of Matlock to A. Marion and Son of Soho Square London, from where they were sold on across England.

Local traders who dealt in photographs included William Bemrose, who had stationery shops in Matlock Bath and Derby and W.E. Howe, a Matlock Bath bookseller who also specialised in photographs.

Beyond this there was a thriving trade in negatives, which would be sold by  the local photographer to national and international photographic publishers who would then include the views in their own list. Through this route views of Matlock appeared in several large series of views of England.  In addition to this legitimate trade, there was a  lively illicit trade in “pirated” copies, made without the benefit of the photographers permission. It was relatively easy to make a copy of a photograph, and then run off as many inferior prints as could be sold. Several Matlock views were sold this way by American photographers, who were immune to prosecution, even if caught.

Caring for Early Photographs

It is remarkable how many early photographs have survived, and with a little care they will outlast  modern colour prints, many of which will have faded to invisibility in 50 years.

The basic principles are simple.

If you have:
Old photos of Matlock,
Stereoviews of anywhere, or
Information on Matlock photographers
Please do call me
John Bradley of Ashover, Derbyshire. (01246) 590352

Adamson, Keith, “Professional Photographers in Derbyshire 1843-1914.” A list. Supplement No. 118 to “The Photo Historian” September 1997.

Arkle, M.J., “Tuppence Up, Penny Down - old Matlock remembered in words and pictures.” Published by the author, 1983.

Arkwright Society, Matlock, “Reprint of The Matlocks and Bakewell - famous Derbyshire Health Resorts, 1893.” reprinted 1984.

Buxton, David, “Derbyshire of 100 years ago.” Alan Sutton Publishing and Derbyshire County Council, 1992.

Craven, Maxwell, “Keene’s Derby.” Breedon Books, Derby, 1993.

Darrah, William C., “The World of Stereographs.” Published by the author. Gettysburg, Penn. USA 1977.

Hannavy, John,  “The Victorian Professional Photographer.” Shire Publications, Aylesbury. 1980.

Langham M. & Wells C., “Buxton : A pictorial history.” Phillimore, 1993.

Linkman, Audrey, “Caring for your Family Photographs at Home.” The Documentary Photographic Archive, Cavendish Building, Cavendish Street, Manchester, M15 6BG.

Linkman, Audrey, “Opaline processes.” Photographica World (the journal of the PCCGB), Autumn 1997.

Martin, Elizabeth, “Collecting and preserving old photographs.” Collins, 1988.

Norman, D.H., “Compiling Your own Family Tree - Part 20 Photographic Processes.” Family History Monthly, July 1997.

Waldsmith, John, “StereoViews.” Wallace Holmestead Book Co. Penn. USA, 1991.

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