The development and growth of British photographic manufacturing and retailing, 1839-1914

Date
2010
Authors
Pritchard, Michael
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De Montfort University
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Abstract
This study presents a new perspective on British photography through an examination of the manufacturing and retailing of photographic equipment and sensitised materials between 1839 and 1914. This is contextualised around the demand for photography from studio photographers, amateurs and the snapshotter. It notes that an understanding of the photographic image cannot be achieved without this as it directly affected how, why and by whom photographs were made. Individual chapters examine how the manufacturing and retailing of photographic goods was initiated by philosophical instrument makers, opticians and chemists from 1839 to the early 1850s; the growth of specialised photographic manufacturers and retailers; and the dramatic expansion in their number in response to the demands of a mass market for photography from the late1870s. The research discusses the role of technological change within photography and the size of the market. It identifies the late 1880s to early 1900s as the key period when new methods of marketing and retailing photographic goods were introduced to target growing numbers of snapshotters. Particular attention is paid to the role of Kodak in Britain from 1885 as a manufacturer and retailer. A substantial body of newly discovered data is presented in a chronological narrative. In the absence of any substantive prior work this thesis adopts an empirical approach firmly rooted in the photographic periodicals and primary sources of the period. Wider literature from the history of retailing, manufacturing and Victorian studies supports it. The study concludes that three key periods, the early 1850s, the 1870s and the 1890s, were when substantive changes to photographic technology each released a latent demand for photography initially from the commercial portrait photographer and then, respectively, from the amateur and the snapshotter. This was met and enhanced by new manufacturing, retailing and marketing methods within photography underpinned by wider economic, social and economic changes.
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