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Books by Robert Pols ‘In the Moon’ – and Other Studios. The Story of Victorian and Edwardian Photography in King’s Lynn

Introduction by Robert Pols 2021

It is curious how a community can lose its memory. In 1940, on the death of Jasper Wright, his obituarist noted that, ‘He was the son of the first photographer to set up in business in the town.’ Earlier, in 1907, Lynn historian Henry Hillen claimed that ‘Messrs Kerry introduced photography’ to the town. Both were wrong. Communal memory, like individual memory, is inclined to fade, and the past has constantly to be rescued from itself.

This history represents an attempt to perform that rescue operation whilst trying to commit as few blunders of its own as it can. Inevitably, it will have its errors and omissions, but I have to hope it will shed more light than it casts shadows. It is the story of a small-business sector in a country town, rather than the more customary studio-by-studio account. (Use of the index should, however, allow the reader to focus on the fortunes of individual photographers). It explores the growth of professional photography in King’s Lynn, tracing how the occupation became established, how it marketed itself, and how it responded to new processes and formats. The speculative visits and short-lived studio ventures of the early years are traced, and the narrative follows through times of sometimes turbulent competition to the emergence of the town’s own photographic dynasties, whose members became an established part of its life.

It’s a story of self-promotion and empire-building, burglary and bankruptcy, cutting prices and (metaphorically) cutting throats. It’s a chronicle of enthusiasts, opportunists and entrepreneurs, of custom-built glass-houses and huts on wheels; it tells of trials and takeovers, price wars and wars of words; it has shipwrecks, fires, fraud and a train crash.

There is no attempt to offer full biographies of individual photographers, but it would be a pity to miss out on some of the more curious or colourful features of their extra-professional lives. Perhaps self-indulgently, therefore, I have followed the fortunes of some practitioners beyond the confines of the studio and have, for example, found room to include a contralto with a coffin, as well as a spot of chicken-rustling.

I need, I think, to explain why I have made my investigations available in this form. This is not a commercially viable publication, and I haven’t the inclination, the patience or (I suspect) the expertise to go down the usual self-publishing routes, for either printed or electronic books. So this is not really a book. It may have the ingredients and structure of a book, but it’s simply shared research. It’s work-in-progress (and will probably continue to be so for as long as I, too, am work-in-progress), but it has reached a point where I need to share it. I am, therefore, offering it free to anyone who is interested, and I’m using the lowest-tech e-route I can think of. Look on it, if you will, not so much as being published as being privately circulated – rather like a rude verse that is passed furtively round the classroom, from desk to desk. (That is, of course, a limited analogy: a rude verse does not usually have footnotes.)

Each of the Chapters is available as a pdf to download from the following links.

Introduction and contents (download 181 kb .pdf)
Ch 1.‘Extraordinary likenesses’ (1844) (download 204 kb .pdf)
Ch 2. Competing processes (1851-1856) (download 290 kb .pdf)
Ch 3. Mr Sarony comes to town (1856-7)(download 241 kb .pdf)
Ch 4. Mixed fortunes (1857-1861)(download 254 kb .pdf)
Ch 5. Cartomania (1861- 1867)(download 299 kb .pdf)
Ch 6. Price wars and court cases (1866-1874)(download 284 kb .pdf)
Ch 7. New ventures, new lines (1872-1877)(download 160 kb .pdf)
Ch 8. ‘In the moon’ (1877-1881)(download 333 kb .pdf)
Ch 9. Raising the tone (1880-1885)(download 247 kb .pdf)
Ch 10. The hot potato (1877-1896)(download 216 kb .pdf)
Ch 11. Empire building (1884-1892)(download 262 kb .pdf)
Ch 12. Wider horizons (1890-1896)(download 283 kb .pdf)
Ch 13. ‘Burglary! Burglary! Burglary!’ (1895)(download 141 kb .pdf)
Ch 14. Pillars of the community (1896-1900)(download 236 kb .pdf)
Ch 15. Working for Wright (1898-1900)(download 258 kb .pdf)
Ch 16. Shapes of things to come (1889 -1906)(download 225 kb .pdf)
Ch 17. The postcard years (1901-1911)(download 324 kb .pdf)
Ch 18. The Victorian Edwardians (1901-1911)(download 277 kb .pdf)
Ch 19. Bankruptcy (1911-1912)(download 202 kb .pdf)
Ch 20. The survivor (1911-1940)(download 270 kb .pdf)
Bibliography (download 222 kb .pdf)
Index (download 266 kb .pdf)

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www.earlyphotostudios.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, listing photographers operating 1840-1916, in Cambridgeshire, Huntingdonshire, Leicestershire, Norfolk, Northamptonshire, Rutland and Suffolk. The original site was researched and written in 2011 by the late Robert Pols, photo historian and author, and this re-constructed site is dedicated to his memory.

This page was last modified: 05 September 2022, 11:35

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