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Directory of Early Photographers in Cambridgeshire, Studio Notes, Arthur Nicholls and family

[Information for these notes has been drawn from The Golden Summer: the Edwardian photographs of Horace W Nicholls by Gail Buckland (Pavilion Books, 1989).]

Arthur Nicholls (the son of John, an architect and restorer of historic buildings) was born in Norfolk, but grew up in Grantchester, Cambridge. His older brother, Charles, was said to have dissipated the family fortune. His younger brother, Henry, also became a photographer and was listed as such in the 1871 census.

Arthur was a painter as well as a photographer. He married Charlotte Johnson, who also originated from Norfolk. After running his studio in Cambridge he moved on to practice in Sandown, on the Isle of Wight, and Reading.

He enjoyed particular success with his ‘binographic’ and ‘triptographic’ photographs, in which the same subject would appear in two or three different poses within the same image. The effect of these was described in a Reading newspaper: “The ‘bino’ has been a more or less ordinary photographic jest in a simple form for some time past. That is to say you could be seen in a photograph talking to yourself with a different hat on, or looking at your alter ego across a table. Mr Nicholls’ secret process goes far beyond this. One of his subjects is measuring his doppelganger for a suit. Another is leaning out of a window emptying a jug of water on herself as she lies asleep in the garden below. Another is looking at herself as she appears when she has been ‘split’ from her bicycle. The weirdest is looking aghast at his head as it floats bodiless in the air. Altogether it is a queer collection, well worth seeing.”

Two of Arthur’s sons became photographers.

Horace (born in 1867, and the oldest of nine children) was working in his father’s Sandown studio by the age of 14. He left home in the mid-1880s to become apprenticed to a chemist in Huddersfield, but went from there to work with a photographer in Chile. He later worked in studios in Windsor and South Africa, before building a career as a freelance press photographer. He died in Worthing in 1941.

Stanley joined his older brother in South Africa in 1893, at the age of 17. He worked with Horace at the Goch Studio in Johannesburg and went on to pursue a successful photographic career in the country. He died in Pietermaritzburg in 1970.

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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: 02 September 2022, 16:24

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