There is no excuse for missing that magical moment whilst enjoying our day trip to the coast. Nearly everyone these days has a mobile phone with the capability of taking snaps of the happy occasion, you can even buy cheap throw away camera’s that will do the trick. Many have digital cameras with the ability to see the results of your photos instantly on a small screen.
During the height of the popularity of the British seaside holidays in the 1920s very few would have a camera with them, they were rather large and cumbersome and required the use of a tripod. This period saw the start up of what was later to be referred to as the “while you wait” portrait photographer. Look through any collection of old family snap shops and you will find many examples of this practice, I have a few treasured photographs in my own collection, like the one of my great grandfather and grandmother relaxing on Skegness pier, the number in the top left hand corner ‘5740’ is a clue the pictures origin. One of these early Portrait Photographers went by the name of Wrate who set up a studio tent on Skegness beach as a base for is business, we shall here more of the Wrate business later in our story.
Many of these early portrait photographers used props. I have a photograph of a Aunty and Uncle, she sitting on a deckchair and him standing next to her and behind them is a canvass screen showing a sea scene, by there clothes it was obviously taken during the 1920s. Sometimes the photographers use animals like tame monkeys perched on there shoulders to add interest to the shots.
My recollection of the “while you wait” photographers goes back to the 1950s. the photographers would be stationed on the promenade, they often wore brightly coloured striped blazers so they were easily recognizable and has you and your party strolled along the prom they would take you photograph and then hand you a ticket with a number on it and a time sometimes later that day or during the following day when the photo could be viewed. In some cases the photos would be displayed outside of the shop for people to view or you would enter the photographers shop hand in your ticket and the photo would produced for you view. It was then up to you to decide whether or not you wanted to purchase the item. If you decided you wanted it the photo would be put into a neat little Folder with the name of the Photographer printed on the front.
I recall the premises of Wrates Photographers on the end of a row of shops at the entrance to Skegness pier and recall the many times we entered the shop to purchase our yearly memories of that years holidays. Sadly none of these photos have survived to this day which means I have no knowledge of how much we paid for these kind of photograph’s though I suspect it was in the shillings.
With the introduction off affordable cameras these photographers started to disappear from our sea fronts. I believe Wrates still have a business in Skegness that now specializes in School photograph’s but my memory goes back to that shop on the pier and I wonder how many of those now reading this blog have in thier family photo albums photos that were produced by Wrates of Skegness.
You may wish to view the link below which show fine examples of these photographs taken during this period