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The Gossiping Photographer At Hastings

The Gossiping Photographer At Hastings

Photographer: Frith, Francis (1822-1898)

Medium: Photographic print

Date: 1864

Shelfmark: Cup.410.g.108

Item number: 0

Length: 11

Width: 16.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Photograph

“Passing Wellington Square, and never minding the old castle today, here we are at my title-page – the Pelham Arcade, Bazaar, Baths, Crescent, right under the Castle Cliff – snug winter quarters for invalids. Those atmospheric dragons, Boreas and Euroclydon, who feed upon young persons’ lungs, tumbling over these hills...eager for their prey, pitch miles beyond their mark, and fall far out to sea, roaring in impotent fury. I have seen the young ladies, their intended victims, sitting at their open windows in October, smiling at the dragons (but I believe they spell that word with two o’s).”

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

This is the title page of ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’, written and illustrated with photographs by Francis Frith (1822-1898) and 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. The resulting photographs of monuments were exhibited to great acclaim and issued in albums by the firm which he founded in 1859 in Reigate, Surrey. Frith & Co. also published prints, 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. ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’ was one of its publications.

Divided into sections rather like an altarpiece, the title page consists of a montage of photographs set within black borders and overlaid with the book’s title and the Frith imprint. The main image is a view of crinoline-clad ladies sitting on the beach at Hastings, with boats and bathing machines behind. It is one of sixteen photographic views of Hastings, St Leonards, Rye and Winchelsea which illustrate the book. The two smaller photographs below are portraits of Frith himself, in which he is shown taking a photograph and writing at a desk. In his first album, ‘Egypt and Palestine Photographed and Described’, Frith also wrote the letterpress commentaries accompanying his photographs and this form of dual authorship is continued in ‘The Gossiping Photographer at Hastings’. His text, “Gossip About Hastings”, is notable for the gently satirical tone which Frith adopts in his travelogue of the 19th-century English seaside resort and its sister towns.

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