History of Photography in Brighton

History of Photography in Brighton

Outdoor Photography


When Joseph Nicephore Niepce created the earliest survivingphotograph in 1826, the materials he used were so insensitiveit took 8 hours of sunlight for the image to be fixed on the pewterplate he had prepared. Niepce's heliograph ('sun drawing') wasa view of his courtyard, taken from a top floor window. In 1839,when photography was first introduced to the world, camera exposuretimes ranged from five to fifteen minutes and so the only suitablesubjects were buildings, landscapes and arrangements of stilllife. The majority of the pictures made by L.J.M.Daguerre himselfare of buildings and views in Paris.

Artists and amateurs may have been content to use the new inventionto produce a pleasing landscape or record an interesting building,but astute businessmen knew that financial reward and commercialsuccess would lie in portrait photography. Every effort had beenmade to reduce camera exposure times so that the daguerreotypeprocess could be used to make portraits. By the early 1840s technicaladvances in photography meant that a sitter would only have tohold a pose for a number of seconds rather than a number of minutes.When Richard Beard, the patentee of the daguerreotype processin England and Wales, sold licences authorising the setting upof 'Photographic Institutions' in provincial towns, the purchaserswere mainly interested in using the invention to "take likenesses."

Outdoor Photography in Brighton Before1854

The journalist who in November 1841 welcomed the opening of WilliamConstable's 'Photographic Institution' on Marine Parade in thepages of the Brighton Guardian, recognised that the main purposeof photography was to secure "a correct likeness withoutthe tedium of sitting for hours to an artist."

William Constable made his living from taking "likenesses",charging his customers one guinea for "a portrait in a plainmorocco case", but it is known that he occasionally tookhis camera on to the streets of Brighton. In the 1840s, Constabletook views of fashionable houses in Kemp Town, and two daguerreotypesof houses in Lewes Crescent ended up in the photograph collectionof Richard Dykes Alexander.

In the early 1850s, local artists Edward Fox junior andGeorge Ruff senior were taking photographs of buildingsin Brighton. Ruff made a daguerreotype of St Nicholas Church around1850 and Edward Fox, who declared in later advertisements thathe had "given his whole attention to Out-Door Photographysince 1851", produced pictures of shop fronts, churches andother public buildings in Brighton and the surrounding area. In1853, Robert Farmer, proprietor of the 'Daguerreotype Rooms'in North Street, Brighton was exhibiting his calotype views ofthe Royal Pavilion and the Railway Terminus and daguerreotypeviews of Brighton's oldest church.


TheWest Battery, Kings Road (c1850)

Outdoor Photography in Brighton 1855-1862

With the advent of the collodion process, more and more photographersin Brighton were taking their cameras out on the street to recordlife in the town.


Old buildings and structures scheduled for demolition were a favouritesubject for photographers, who were anxious to record them forposterity. For example, a battery of eight guns was establishedin Brighton's West Cliff in the 1790s to protect the town fromFrench attacks by sea. In 1857, it was decided to remove the WestBattery so that Brighton's main thoroughfare, the King's Road,could be widened. Work commenced in January 1858 and from thisdate a series of photographs recorded the progress of the dismantlingof the battery and the breaking up of the artillery ground.

In 1862, a row of old houses and shops that ran from 41 to 43North Street, was scheduled for demolition. A set of oval shapedphotographs recorded the shop fronts and the rear ends of thebuildings that were to be demolished. It is not clear exactlywhy these photographs were commissioned, but they allow us toglimpse not only a vanished parade of Victorian shops, but alsoa few bystanders, some of whom would not have been able to affordthe services of a photographer. Another gorup of workers whosewages probably would not stretch to pay for a sitting at the professionalportrait studio, are captured on a photograph showing the entranceot the premises of Palmer and Company, Engineers and Iron Founders.

Workersemployed by Palmer & Co.Engineers stand
outside the company's premises in North Road. (c1865)

CLICK HERE TO CONTINUEStereoscopic Photographs


Watch the video: LEICA STREET PHOTOGRAPHY in Brighton. Watch Sarah use different approaches to get her shots. POV