stickyback photographs



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Size Portraits

and Description

Smaller Sizes of
Portrait -
in the UK

Smaller Sizes of
Portrait -
Rest of the World

Smaller Sizes of
Portrait -
Mystery Photos

Smaller Sizes of
Portrait -
by name

Spiridione Grossi
and origin of
the stickyback

Smaller Sizes of
Portrait -
and artefacts



Related later genres

Stamp Photographs

Photo Booths


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November 2021

Winston Churchill Stickybacks

Contemporary press articles, covering the NW Manchester bye-election in April 1908 contested by Winston Churchill, reported: "sticky-back photographs of Mr. Churchill have been posted throughout the constituency. "Stick to Winston" are the words just above the photograph". The use of this as an advertising medium and the choice of caption both demonstrate the popularity of the Stickyback by this point. On this occasion Churchill lost at the polls and to date our research has failed to discover any surviving copies of this particular stickyback.

August 2021

There have been two great additions to the site this month.

First Hand Accounts from Stickyback Clients

This link will take you to an article by Don Chapman, published in 1975, drawing on the memories of some of the customers of an Oxford stickybacks firm. This will give you an idea of the popularity of this new photographic phenomenon as well as a first hand account of the operation of a stickyback shop.

The Spread of Stickybacks across Europe

This link will take you to an article by János Mátyás Balogh, a Historian and Archivist from Budapest, Hungary posted on the National Archives of Hungary. János traces the transfer of knowledge of the operation of a stickyback shop from Spiridione Grossi to Abraham Dudkin, who took over Grossi's studio at 54 North Street Brighton, and then, via Dudkin's visiting family members, to Budapest. After Dudkin's relatives opened the first Budapest stickyback shop, the novel phenomenon spread rapidly through Hungary and from there elsewhere across Europe. János also found that Anatol Josepho, the inventor of the Photomaton automatic photo booth, worked briefly in the stickybacks shop at 40 Rákóczi Street operated by Dudkin's family. János points out similarities between a strip of stickybacks and the strips of photos produced later by the Photomaton, drawing the conclusion that the stickyback was almost certainly one of the influences shaping the iconic photomaton machine. We have some examples of Hungarian Stickybacks on our site from the collection of János Mátyás Balogh.

February 2021

Can anyone help please with any information about these mounts?

We have come across a number of examples of mounts used with stamp photographs in the early 20th Century. These appear to be of an unusual construction and good quality. We would like to find out more about them, how they were made and by whom. As a quality product it would be expected that these were advertised somewhere. The mounts are around 2.3 x 3.5 inches and have the look and feel of a modern plastic material; similar to that used in the 1970s for 35mm slide mounts by some film makers. However, closer examination shows they are made of some sort of fibrous material covered in a thick white lacquer. The mounts appear to be pressed and moulded, decorated with a sort of art nouveau floral border. Some have the studio's details either a part of the moulding or incised into the material. Examples are shown below. These mounts have the stamp photos pasted onto a central panel, so are not aperture mounts. The first two examples below have had the shadows enhanced a little to show the moulding - but this gives an overall appearance of a grubby finish, whereas the originals are clean glossy white. Any suggestions will be gratefully received.

moulded mount and stamp photo, Wild of Halifax

moulded mount and stamp photograph, Seaman and Sons

detail of corner of a well worn mount showing fibre inside glossy white finish

6 October 2019

What are these small framed portraits?

Three portraits in brass frames

These small framed photos were purchased recently at a collectors market. Does anyone recognise them as a particular type of photographic product? The circular image is 2.5 inches diameter. Pressed into the brass frame is a coloured photograph backed by a circular handbag mirror in a plastic mount. The ovals are 2.75 x 2 inches. They have a thick card back, coloured red, and behind the coloured photo is a thin piece of metal. There is no writing on any of these. The photographs are gloss finished - (so not behind glass) and depict individuals apparently from the 1920/30s.

18 September 2019

Major Site Update

The site has been given a major re-write. It was previously thought that, when surviving early 20th Century smaller portrait photographs were studied, after setting to one side those photographs with a recognised named format, the bulk of the remainder were "Stickybacks" and it followed that the generic term "Stickyback" could be applied not just to the surviving photos but also to the smaller sized portrait genre as a whole and the cadre of photographers of the period producing these tiny images. However, a detailed study of contemporary advertisements for photographic apparatus and vacancies has revealed that, after recognised named formats have been discounted, there were in fact three names of photographs of a broad generic nature - these were "stamps", "midgets" and "stickybacks". The text has been revised to reflect this.

A miscellaneous selection of midgets stamps and stickybacks

A miscellaneous selection of midgets stamps and stickybacks

20 June 2019

Have just spent some time working out the best way to get an impression of the embossing on some of the early 20th Century card mounts used by stickyback photographers. Hopefully at some future point we will be able to start to identify which mounts came from which mount producer. The example below is a portrait of an unknown young man, by an unknown photographer. Does the image on the right show more detail of the mount than the scan on the left?



4 June 2019

The site now lists some 178 "stickyback and postcard" studios in the UK, with more being added every week. As the number of entries on the site has grown, the site structure has now changed slightly. Instead of two huge pages listing the Stickybacks studios in England, the material has now been divided into nine English Regional pages, as well as the pages for Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Rest of the World.

The photo below raises an interesting question. Did some of the Stickyback studios offer their clients props to be included in their portraits? The photograph below, 2.9 x 2 inches, appears to have been cut from a strip. No details of the photographer have survived, but it has the date 1918 written on the reverse in manuscript. So which is the most likely explanation - would an apparently well off, well dressed young person with fur hat, muff and stole, have used such a photographer, or is it more likely that the fur accessories were loaned to the subject as props for the photograph? One Stickyback photographer, Abraham Dudkin, was also a furrier!

1918 portrait of a teenage girl with fur accessories


15 May 2019

The site continues to grow, while individual photographers are proving difficult to research, and many remain only partially identified. Already the pages on Stickyback photographers in England are getting too large and some further sub division is called for. Perhaps this is also the time to divide the UK into regions. Also, Google Analytics have been added to the site today. So far there has been a tiny trickle of visitor feedback about the site, which fortunately is positive in its nature.

Below is a recent unusual find of a pair of Stickybacks, reverses blank, each 2.3 x 1.5 inches, photographer unknown, portraits of an unknown mother and child c.1910?

Pair of Stickybacks - photographer and subjects unknown


13 April 2019

The author of this site runs, a site for local and family historians about photographers in Cambridgeshire 1840-2000. Research on photographers in Peterborough stalled when trying to identify two different early 20th Century photographers who were producing "Stickyback" photographs. Little has been written about the early 20th century photographers who adapted commercial photography to cater for a new mass market in the first quarter of the 20th Century. New inexpensive products, sometimes of dubious quality, provided many with their first experience of being photographed.

Research into the field was starting to skew from its original purpose and so material on Stickybacks and related topics, covering the whole of the UK, has been moved across to this new site.

This site probably barely scratches the surface of this branch of photography. Please get in touch if you can add in any way to the information and the examples on this site.

Top of page is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, exploring smaller sized portrait photographs and those who worked in this trade.
This page was last modified: 24 November 2021, 18:01

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