Photographers in Wales producing smaller sizes of portraits
In the information below we have tried to identify those photographers who traded in smaller sizes of portrait photographs, mainly from information gleaned from local newspapers. But many of these photographers would not have used newspapers to advertise, preferring instead to advertise extensively at their premises. Others will not have advertised at all and may only become known through surviving examples of their work. Survivals of smaller sized portrait photos are not that common due mainly to their small size and confusion with later photo booth images. This is a work in progress and much more awaits discovery - we would welcome any additional information on these photographers and their works which you may come across.
Aberdare, 1 Canon Street, See 7 High Street Birmingham, entry for Crown Studios
Below are five midget pseudo cartes, measuring 50 x 80mm. These have the name Gyde Aberystwyth on the face. The whole of the face of the carte is a matt finished photographic print rather than a print pasted onto a card mount. These were probably printed from two negatives - there are two different versions of the text, both handwritten. The reverse sides of these are blank, but two have been dated by owners in manuscript as 1907 and 1908. These are clearly cheap work, but the images are pin sharp and full of detail. The following two illustrations are reproduced with the kind permission of Ron Cosens (www.cartedevisite.co.uk). The first is a 50 x 81mm print, on card, depicting a very smartly dressed couple perched on a rock (probably a studio prop?) and posed holding ornamental parasols. The face of the card has beneath the image the text "Gyde Aberystwyth" printed as part of the photographic image from a two part negative. This is cheaper work, probably produced quickly for visitors and designed to have the appearance of a midget carte de visite, but is a photographic print on sensitised card, of a similar weight to a postcard and is not a pasted down image on a printed mount. The second image is a little later, from after 1916, and in fact has been dated 13 January 1918 in manuscript on the reverse. The photograph is 54 x 87 mm and is literally half a postcard size. The print on the face shows a young man in WW1 army uniform flanked by two coated and hatted ladies (possibly sisters). The reverse shows that the image has been printed onto photographic card pre-printed on the reverse as a postcard. Also stamped on the reverse is a circular backstamp "Gyde and Pickford Aberystwyth." Given the date of the print, this may simply be an example of a photographer using up existing stocks in whatever way is possible during wartime shortages. By this time the firm was producing prints on postcards, and printing them two-up on a postcard would have halved the cost and made the image a bit more affordable.
Address: 28 Pier Street, Aberystwyth 1881-1900; 26 Pier Street Aberystwyth 1891-1925
Address: 28 Pier Street, Aberystwyth
Address: Bangor - address not currently known
Address: Not currently known - the possible presence of a stickyback photographer in Bethesda is speculation based upon the press report below concerning the stickyback photographer Harry L Lloyd setting up a cinema there.
Address: Polytechnic Studio address not currently known
Address: 22 High Street, Carnarvon
Newport, 2 Commercial Street, See 7 High Street Birmingham, entry for Crown Studios
Newport, address not known. One of the addresses for Polytechnic Studios for Jack Lewis, listed on postcards along with Swansea, Bristol, and Cardiff. See main entry for Jack Lewis under Swansea below.
Address: Pentre, Rhondda, 210 Ystrad Road See 7 High Street Birmingham, entry for Crown Studios
Address: High Street, Pontypridd
Address: 17 High Street, Rhyl, 19 High Street Rhyl, Kinmel Camp Rhyl
The first example below is an American Galleries postcard of a young man in a bowler hat carrying an umbrella. This can be dated from post 1915 as it has the Kinmel Camp address on the reverse, along with 17 High St Rhyl and addresses in Glasgow and Liverpool. Next is another postcard of a young man in uniform. The reverse of the postcard is out of register with the image, and bears addresses in Liverpool, Glasgow and Rhyl. Kinmel camp does not feature on this postcard. The third image below is a midget pseudo carte of an unknown woman 40mm x 85mm with the text "American Galleries 19 High Street Rhyl" printed as part of the photographic image. The edges of the carte have been trimmed unevenly, reflecting the operator's skill or to separate a strip of images or fit this carte into a frame or album. We are most grateful to Mike Davies for permission to use this image. Next is an example pseudo carte, 88 x 42 mm, of an unknown lady holding her dog. This has the legend, as part of the photograph, "The American Studios 19 High Street Rhyl" and has a numbering device in shot high above the subject. Local Directories show the American Studios at this address 1925-28. Next is a photograph which may or may not be from the same studios. It is a midget carte with a green mount, the image behind an oval aperture surrounded by an impressed floral decorative band. The mount appears to have been crudely cut from a strip of mounts and bears the legend "The American Midget, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Glasgow, Rhyl, Doudglas IOM, Birkenhead". The similarity of addresses suggests that this is a later product of the same studios. Alternatively this could be the product of a larger, as yet unidentified, competitor.
Address: Chester Road, Shotton, near the Picture Palace
Address: 1903 at Polytechnic Studio 9a Castle Bailey St, Swansea, 1910 and 1914 at 9A Castle St Swansea (presumably the same address). 1920 and 1923 12 High Street Swansea. Also at Polytechnic Studios Bristol, Newport Monmouthshire and Cardiff.
"Our sticky backs are all the rage,
Jack Lewis was not only a stickyback shop owner, but appears to have been an inventive, and entrepreneurial all-round commercial photographer. The Cambria Daily Leader, Wednesday 27 June 1906 p4 carried a small advert in which Jack Lewis offered to buy a couple of first class donkeys. Presumably he intended to use these either to advertise his services or as props for holiday photos. It will be interesting to see whether any Jack Lewis photos featuring children on donkeys turn up. The Cambria Daily Leader, Tuesday 26 March 1907 p5 under the heading "The Irrepressible Stickyback", reported on "Mr Jack Lewis's latest advertising novelty". This was a dignified looking old gentleman, bewigged and gowned and looking as to the manner born a barrister at law, distributing advertising tickets on the Swansea streets with the message "The verdict is Jack Lewis's photos cannot be beaten". Numerous portraits and other photos credited to Jack Lewis appear in the Cambria Daily Leader between 1906 and 1911 (probably for longer - these dates reflect the span of these newspapers digitised in the BNA). In the Cambria Daily Leader, Tuesday 13 February 1906 p7, Jack offered prizes for the photographs of the "most contented" boy and girl in Swansea. Entries to be addressed to Jackograph, Leader Buildings, Swansea. Although the Cambrian Daily Leader referred to Lewis in 1906 as "Mr Jack Lewis of Sticky Back fame" in later papers he advertised cartes de visite, cabinets, circle photographs, carbon prints and post card prints. Unusually Jack advertised Stickybacks alongside his other products and services. In the Cambria Daily Leader on Friday 3 August 1906 p8 Jack Lewis advised visitors to Swansea that he would be operating three studios at his Castle Street Studios, one for post cards and cabinets, one for babies and one for sticky-backs. He was certainly not treated locally as just an insignificant producer of novelty photos. In the Cambria Daily Leader Monday 6 August 1906 p8 Jack Lewis gave evidence in a trial concerning photos he had taken of a murder scene for the police. In 1919 he was advertising for staff in the Western Mail - Thursday 7 March 1918 p1 advertising "Discharged soldier or lady required for printing department, Jack Lewis, Polytechnic Studio Swansea". In the Western Mail, Saturday 9 November 1918 p3 Mr Jack Lewis, the well known photographer of the Polytechnic Studio 12 High Street Swansea, who had been away from business the last three weeks through illness, announced that he had resumed duties (Spanish flu epidemic?).
The postcard shown below, of an unknown Edwardian lady in her wedding dress, shows that Jack Lewis's studios could produce top-end as well as stickyback portraiture. In the lower right corner is embossed "Jack Lewis Polytechnic Studios Bristol, Cardiff, Newport & Swansea".
Next are two full length portraits by Jack Lewis, Swansea, of young children standing on a wooden bench seat, ( from the collection of Peter Jones). These are printed on photographic paper and measure 100mm x 50mm. The size is just 10mm narrower than a carte de visite and would fit into the slots in most albums of the time. These may even have been sold by Jack Lewis as cartes de visite. On the bottom of each image are numerals, presumably a job or negative number, which had been written in black on the negatives. On the reverse of the two photos in manuscript is biographical information about the subjects, added by a subsequent owner. Also on the reverse is a rubber stamp from the studio with the text "JACK LEWIS POLYTECHNIC SWANSEA -date stamp- MORE COPIES CAN BE OBTAINED". It is most unusual to find a studio adding a date to this type of cheap work. The photo 2022-0258 has the date stamp AUG 26 1914. The photo 2022-0259 has the date stamp OCT 30 1915
No trace of Jack Lewis has been found in any of the UK census returns. It would appear that "Jack" was a contraction of "John" and that this photographer was John Thomas Powell-Lewis b 1864 Oldbury, Worcestershire, who, in 1921 was living with his wife, Alice Mary, and three children at Heathfield Villa, Swansea, with a studio at 12 Castle St Swansea. His daughter Amy and son John both worked for the business. In 1911 John was a photographer and an employer living at 71 Mansel Street Swansea. In 1901 John Lewis was a photographer and a worker employee, living in Swansea. We are most grateful to Peter Jones for the 1921 census record.
Kelly's Directories S Wales 1910, 1914, 1920, 1923
Postcard studio portrait of an unknown Edwardian bride, embossed detail links Jack Lewis Polytechnic Studios in Bristol, Cardiff, Newport and Swansea.
Two portraits by Jack Lewis, Swansea from 1914/15 (Peter Jones Collection)
Tonypandy, 120 Dunraven Street,See 7 High Street Birmingham, entry for Crown Studios
www.stickybacks.uk is a non-commercial web site for local and family historians, exploring smaller sized portrait photographs and those who worked in this trade.
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