Saturday, January 05, 2019

Transcending Silver Salts in Hebden Bridge

A good vintage photograph is one in which the personality of the subject being photographed somehow transcends the chemical process of silver salts and hypo fixer, and flows straight off the pasteboard card. This photograph of an unknown woman from the Hebden Bridge studio of Crossley Westerman is one such photograph. Westerman established his "Electric and Daylight Studio" in Hebden Bridge in 1892, and quickly acquired a reputation for high quality portrait work. His daughter Ada eventually ran the studio and shop and in 1921 she employed a young apprentice photographer, a local girl, Alice Longstaff. Alice became a very accomplished photographer, and during a long career (she took over the studio in 1936 and ran it until her death in 1992) she produced a extensive collection of work. The story of Alice Longstaff is told in a book, "Alice's Album" by Issy Shannon and Frank Woolrych, and there are many examples of the work of both Crossley Westerman and Alice Longstaff on-line. This particular photograph is probably too early to be the work of Alice Longstaff, but whoever took it, it is a piece of work to be proud of.


  1. She's a real beauty and the clarity of her photo almost let's us hear her voice. Such delicate lacework and gauze is hard to capture with even a modern digital camera.

  2. There's certainly a good deal of detail from the lace to her whisps of hair...but also the portrait gives her totally relaxed face and her eyes with some focus on a mid-range...a serious and studied look.

  3. The next time you passing through Sowerby Bridge, take a look at the distinctive glass roof on the top storey of a building just beyond the Post Office. This I understand was also a photographer's "daylight" studio.


Letters Patent For Artistic Improvements

According to the scrawled date on the reverse of this Victorian Cabinet Card, it was taken somewhere around the 11th November 1889. T...