Brighton Camera Exchange


Visit of the Duke & Duchess of York to Brighton, 1924

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Photographers, 26 Market Street, Brighton. The Brighton Camera Exchange occupied the ground floor of 26 Market Street, very near the Town Hall. A Mrs E. B. Butler lived above and let out rooms to boarders. The firm is first listed in Brighton Directories in 1924, but it opened for business during the previous year, in time to publish cards of the Brighton Carnival and a set showing each of the footballers selected for the 1923-4 Brighton & Hove Albion team. The firm's name suggests that it sold cameras, but this has not been confirmed; it certainly sold photographic materials and undertook portraiture at clients' homes. An important part of its trade was photographing business premises (for example, the Portslade bus depot), theatrical performances and entertainments, and doubtless also civic functions.

Early in 1924 the firm started issuing cards showing groups of spectators at Brighton and Hove Albion football matches. The photographs were taken before kick-off and included numbered signs marked "Brighton Camera Exchange, 26 Market Street" to enable the spectators to identify which card to buy as a souvenir after the match. In 1925 a well-designed card was issued showing the Albion's Cup-Tie team.

In 1924 the Brighton Camera Exchange issued some particularly interesting cards showing the visit of the Duke and Duchess of York to Brighton. Yet other cards record the celebrations in April 1926 held to mark the centennial of Holy Trinity Church in Ship Street, Brighton.

In addition to recording "special events", the Brighton Camera Exchange produced an attractive range of black and white as well as sepia tinted real photographic cards of Brighton and Hove and nearby villages such as Poynings and Henfield. A few streets in Worthing were also pictured. Judging from the numbers on the cards, at least 190 of these "view" cards were produced.

Brighton Camera Exchange continued to appear in Directories until the very end of the 1920s. Kelly's 1927 Sussex Directory lists the Camera Exchange at 26 Market Street, but gives 9 Regent Court as an alternative address, which was where Deane, Wiles and Millar were located. Evidently, by this date Deane, Wiles and Millar were the owners of the Camera Exchange. Pike's Directory for 1929 gives 26 Market Street as the address of the Camera Exchange and also Deane, Wiles and Millar, who are described as retailers of photographic materials.

Brighton Camera Exchange cards mostly have the firm's name and Market Street address printed on the back. The black and white photographs usually have white borders and handwritten captions. Often the cards are initialled BCE ("B.C." with "E" below) or B.C. Ex. (all one line) on the front, but others have no initials.

Towards the end of the 1920s, when the firm was about to cease trading, the design of the cards changed. The photographs were often printed without borders, for example a series showing the Band of Hope Pageant at the Dome in Brighton in 1929. The cards were labelled on the back "Brighton Camera Exchange             Brighton" with spaces replacing "Market Street", which could suggest that a move was being planned. Some cards have been found with 1927 and 1928 postmarks that are initialled DWM on the front, even though they are labelled on the back "Brighton Camera Exchange" in the usual manner. A card of the Indian Memorial Gateway at Brighton Pavilion has B.C. Ex. on the front but is labelled Deane, Wiles and Millar, 9 Regent Court, Brighton, on the back. Other cards exist with the "Brighton Camera Exchange" label on the back that are marked on the front "G.A. Wiles Brighton" or are initialled "D.M.W" (or a variant such as "W.D. & M" and "D.M & W."). Yet more cards have been found from about 1926 onwards labelled "Brighton Camera Exchange" on the back without any name or initials on the front, but with the captions written in a white strip at the base of the photographs in the manner of many later Deane, Wiles and Millar cards.

Who founded the Brighton Camera Exchange is unclear, but Deane, Wiles & Millar may have taken over the firm in about 1926, and in the process acquired a stock of photographic card pre-printed with the firm's name and address, which they decided not to waste. Alternatively, they may have founded the firm, but allowed it develop a separate identity under a separate manager until about 1926, when they began to take increasing control, drawing on its stock of photographic card and subsuming it into their other publishing activities.

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