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
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.