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Hastings, From The Beach, Low Water

Hastings, From The Beach, Low Water

Photographer: Frith, Francis (1822-1898)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1864

Shelfmark: Cup.410.g.108

Item number: 5

Length: 11

Width: 16.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

“…[W]e know that all men are driven, yearly, each by his own peculiar destiny, to a ‘watering-place.’ You, my domestic friend and best of fathers, have children, for whose welfare it is absolutely needful that they should dig in sea-sand during one-twelfth part of their little annual existences, with three-penny spades. You, sir, have had your nerves shaken by dreadful suspense in a land speculation. It was a terrible struggle to ‘raise the wind’ in London: nothing but a breeze from the water will revive you. Whilst he (third person singular, and no acquaintance of ours) has somehow unaccountably lost his appetite at home – poor fellow! Why yes; that is to say, he got through his soup, and joint, and first bottle of port well enough, but flagged sadly over the game. Lastly, I – and mine is the cruelest fate of all – am doomed to photograph miles of monotonous water, and prim lodging-houses.”

Descriptive letterpress by Francis Frith from his book 'The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings'

This beautiful and atmospheric view by Francis Frith (1822-1898) of women dressed in cloaks and crinolines and boys seated on a rocky ledge on the beach at Hastings, East Sussex, is one of sixteen photographs illustrating his book ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’, published in 1864. Frith was a pioneer in the field of travel photography, beginning his career with three trips to Egypt and the Holy Land between 1856 and 1860. In 1859 he founded his own publishing firm in Reigate, Surrey, which issued albums and postcards of views throughout Britain. These sold to an eager tourist market and the firm became the largest of its kind in the 19th century, continuing to be run as a family business until 1971. In his first album, ‘Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described’, Frith also wrote the letterpress commentaries that accompanied his photographs. ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’ continues this dual authorship and its text is notable for the gently satirical attitude which he adopts towards the 19th-century English seaside resort and its visitors.

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