Whitby's very first photographic studio in 1847

Whitby's very first photographic studio in 1847

Frank Sutcliffe photo taken in Whitby


If you asked people who visit Whitby in North Yorkshire, who is the most famous photographer from the past the vast majority of them would say Frank Sutcliffe because he is probably the most prominent photographer in Whitby’s past, with a gallery dedicated to his private photographers of local Whitby folk still very prominent today. But there were many other photographers in Whitby and indeed the very first one was a gentleman called William Storehouse, who was actually the first to have a professional studio in Whitby in 1847.


It hadn't been much earlier when the very first photographic image has been produced by Joseph Niepce in 1820, using a camera obscure.

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Whitby was not a tourist town until the opening of the Whitby to Pickering Railway in 1836 which made it far more accessible and it was now possible to reach Whitby from Scarborough, Leeds, Bradford and other towns in West Yorkshire. Many of the people arrived in Whitby would arrive on a day trip by train and it gradually became more popular to stay in lodgings.
This is when tourism started in the town with the richer Victorian people being able to now access the once working fishing community town in the pursuit of a holiday.


Before photography there was nowhere for people to actually capture the image exactly the only alternative was to have drawings and paintings, so it was quite a big novelty and probably very exciting for people to be able to have their photograph image taken.


Frank Sutcliffe was bowling 6 October 1853 in Headingly which is on the outskirts of Leeds, but in 1870 the family moved to Whitby where they had already spent time previously on various holidays. The Sutcliffe found premises in Waterloo year which was set up as their first studio at the top of Flower gate.
Frank Sutcliffe to make a living began by taking portraits, which probably weren't the most fulfilling artistically, but bringing the necessary wages. The Whitby Gazette would run advertising which would help to bring in customers, along with various other publications of the time.


The ironic thing is that the gallery today sells the more interesting photos of the local working people of the town which Sutcliffe took during his spare time which now leave a very fine body of work showing what life was like in old Whitby. I was told by the present owner of the gallery that Frank Sutcliffe didn't keep any of his actual working glass plate negatives because they were owned by its customers.
Frank would take the post photographs of the Victorian wealthy holidaymakers and then hand over the glass negatives to them as the rightful owners.


I think most people would agree that the working shots of the local people that Frank took in his spare time, have a more historic and important interest value, in comparison to the richer Victorian people posing for their holiday photographs.

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