Quest for ‘lost pho­tog­ra­pher’ who pic­tured Ed­war­dian Kent

John Thom­son’s quest for ‘un­known pho­tog­ra­pher’ who took rare pho­tos of Tanker­ton Es­tate and Whit­stable 100 years ago

Kentish Gazette Canterbury & District - - Snapshots Of A Bygone Era - By Ly­dia Chantler-hicks lchantler­[email protected] thek­m­group.co.uk

Aman is on a quest to iden­tify an Ed­war­dian pho­tog­ra­pher who took rare im­ages of life in Whit­stable 100 years ago.

Seven boxes of pho­to­graphic neg­a­tives destined for the skip were res­cued by John Thom­son and have lay for­got­ten in his at­tic for the past decade.

Now, the 40-year-old hopes to dis­cover more about the per­son who cap­tured the im­ages in the early 1900s.

“About 11 or so years ago, I was work­ing at a char­ity shop in Som­er­set and they were clear­ing it out to make space,” said John, who lives in Bath. “These boxes were among things be­ing thrown out. I could see they con­tained im­ages of peo­ple and I felt sorry for them re­ally, so I asked if I could take them.

“They’ve been hid­ing in my loft for 10 years.”

But now, John has re­dis­cov­ered the boxes, which con­tain more than 300 neg­a­tives.

Along with im­ages of In­dia, Egypt and West Sus­sex, there are about 10 pho­tos that de­pict Tanker­ton at the turn of the 20th cen­tury.

“I’ve never been, but I know the pho­tos were taken in Tanker­ton be­cause there’s a road sign for Pier Av­enue and Wynn Road, and a photo of the old Tanker­ton Pier,” said John.

Many of the im­ages show a tod­dler and two women - pre­sumed to be the pho­tog­ra­pher’s fam­ily. But the iden­tity of the pho­tog­ra­pher re­mains a com­plete mys­tery.

“I think it might be some­one in the Navy, or who has trav­elled a lot,” said John, a civil ser­vant and for­mer semi-pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher. “There’s a bit of a mar­itime theme, and lots of pic­tures of ships.

“Some are of fam­i­lies, sports days and trav­els to France, In­dia and Egypt. The col­lec­tion ap­pears to in­clude one of the old­est pho­to­graphs of the Taj Ma­hal.

“The pho­tos sug­gest they lived in the Whit­stable or Tanker­ton Es­tate area, and moved over to West Sus­sex.

“They ob­vi­ously had quite a lot of money. The Tanker­ton Es­tate was quite grand.”

In the early 20th cen­tury, the Tanker­ton Es­tate Com­pany be­gan build­ing Tank

er­ton-on-sea - a new com­mer­cial de­vel­op­meentt which is to­day man­aged by County Es­tate Agents in Whit­stable. Ac­cord­ing to the firm, “Tanker­ton-on-sea was de­scribed as a healthy place with clean air, lit­tle com­mer­cial­ism, ex­cel­lent sea bathing, am­ple boats and a good place to set­tle.”

John is care­fully work­ing g through the boxes of slides , con­vert­ing them into pho­to­graphs by hold­ing them up to a light and cap­tur­ing them m with a smart­phone cam­era.

“The col­lec­tion is quite unu usual for the time,” he said d. “You think the Ed­war­dian ns were al­ways si it­ting on chairs look king stern, but thes se are can­did - jus st some­one takin ng pic­tures of thei ir fam­ily. They obvi iously had quite a lot of skill.

“Now I’m try­ing g to try to find ou ut more about who he or she was We know where they lived and d what their fam­ily y looked like. “We’re hop­ing to piece to­gether this puz­zle e about their lifel story. I would love to get some help from lo­cal his­to­ri­ans.”

John has set up a Twit­ter page called The Un­known Pho­tog­ra­pher, where he shares the im­ages. Visit twit­ter.com/ Facesinthe­light.

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