As a parting gift from my cousin following our holiday, I was given the book Britain’s First Photo Album (Sergeant; 2012).
Sergeant visits some of the many places that Frith and his team made photos of Britain, explores the history, and then emulates the photo that Frith took in that place. Some of the emulation is taken from where Frith took the photo, and others are Sergeants own ideas of the current location, based upon Friths work and how it relates to the modern day.
Francis Frith, (1822 – 1898) became a photographer after making his money from a grocery business that he established. When he sold the business he travelled and then decided that he wanted to photograph the towns, villages and cities of Britain. Although he began this journey alone, he soon developed a company of other photographers who helped him in his project. He was documenting the face of Britain, and he had a knack of making photos in places where change was happening such as the end of an industry i.e. the end of the canals and water mills with the growth of the railways.
However he also made a lot of tourist photography. Steam locomotion and the introduction of a reduction in Saturday working hours and also bank holidays, meant that workers and the middle class became tourists, and tourists want souvenirs.
I have read half of the book already, and am amazed by the changes when comparing Friths photos with those of Sergeant. The photo can be a document that highlights current change, but can also be representative of change over the years.
Stone Cairns and Banburgh Castle, Lindisfarne, Richard Keys, 2018
Sergeant, J; 2012; Britain’s First Photo Album; Dinton; The Francis Frith Collection