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TheHistory of Photography in Brighton
TheChain Pier and Marine Parade, Brighton (c. 1830).Drawn and engravedby John Bruce.
TheChain Pier, Britain'sfirst seaside pleasure pier, was opened on 25th November 1823.
At top left can be seen the houses that lined Marine Parade. WilliamConstable's
Photographic Institutionwas situated at No 57, to the left of the first pier tower.
PART1: THE EARLY YEARS OF PHOTOGRAPHY IN BRIGHTON (1841-1854)
Section A :The Beginning of Photography in Brighton ;
WilliamConstable and The Photographic Institution of Brighton
Brighton'sFirst Photographic Studio
Brighton’s first photographic studio opened on Monday 8th November1841 at 57 Marine Parade, a large house situated on Brighton’seastern seafront. Two days later, the ‘Brighton Guardian’carried a notice dated 9 November 1841, in which “The Proprietorof The Photographic Institution” at 57 Marine Parade announcedthat his Establishment was now open to the public. [SOURCE1] On the same page of the ‘Brighton Guardian’,a correspondent of the newspaper welcomed the opening of the PhotographicInstitution, which he believed would supply “what has beenlong felt to be a great desideratum*in society, - the means of securing a correct likeness without thetedium of sitting for hours to an artist”
*desideratum = “a thing wantedor desired"
Neither the article or the advertisement in the Brighton Guardianof 10 November 1841 mentions the name of “The Proprietor”of the Photographic Institution. The anonymous proprietorwas William Constable, a multi-talentedman, who at the age of 58 was entering a new field of enterprise,which would draw upon those inventive skills which he had previouslydemonstrated in the world of science, art and business.
Advertisementfor William Constable's Photographic Institution ( Brighton Guardian10 November 1841)
In the 1851 Census, William Constable gave his occupation as ‘FlourManufacturer and Heliographic Artist’, but this descriptionfails to reflect what had up to then been an extraordinary and colourfulcareer. A man without the benefit of an extended formal education,William Constable had worked at various times as a successful highstreet draper, an inventor of scientific devices, a watercolourartist, cartographer, land surveyor, architect , bridge builder,engineer, and the surveyor of a thirty mile stretch of the Londonto Brighton Turnpike Road.[SOURCE2] At an age when most men would be entering the last stageof their working life, William Constable decided to embrace a newtechnology and embark on a new career as a Photographic Artist.
Duringhis lifetime, William Constable made a total of three visits toAmerica and it is possible that on his last trip to the Statesin 1840, he had the opportunity to study the commercial possibilitiesof the recently invented art of photography. Louis JacquesMande Daguerre, a French theatrical designer and showman hadperfected the technique of fixing an image on a silver-coatedcopper plate in the late 1830s and the process had been announcedto the world in Paris in August 1839. This early form of photographwas given the name daguerreotype by its inventor. The firstsuccessful American daguerreotype was made in New York in September1839 . Alexander Wolcott and his business partner John Johnsonopened the world’s first daguerrian portrait studio in NewYork at the beginning of March 1840. Given Constable’s intellectualcuriosity and his fascination with scientific processes, it islikely that he took an early interest in the new art of photographyand while in America he had the opportunity to observe the workof early American daguerreotypists and see the commercial potentialof producing and selling photographic portraits.
Miss Dorothy Draper,an American daguerreotypeportrait taken by John W Draper in June 1840
Itis therefore possible that when William Constable returned toBrighton from America in 1841, he already had some knowledge ofthe daguerreotype process. However, in the England of 1841 hewas not free to open his own independent photographic portraitstudio. In England, unlike other parts of the world, any personwho wished to establish a daguerreotype portrait studio firsthad to acquire patent rights or purchase a licence from RichardBeard, a prosperous businessman who since 1840 had taken stepsto take control of this new commercial enterprise.
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUE RichardBeard and the Daguerreotype Patent in England