Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Recording the New: The Architectural Photography of Bedford Lemere & Co. 1870-1930

The Victoria & Albert Museum Entrance Under Construction in 1908 (Sir Aston Webb)

Copyright RIBA Library Collection

If you find yourself in London between now and the end of the month I recommend a visit to the Victoria and Albert Museum for the last days of an exhibition co-curated by the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) and English Heritage, showing the work of the architectural photography firm Bedford Lemere & Co.

In my work I am always pleased if the photographs of Bedford Lemere come up on my search radar. The amount of information I can extract from one image is invaluable, whether it’s comparing changes in the external appearance of the building with the structure today or seeing how the house was decorated or furnished over 100 years ago.

43 Harrington Gardens circa 1897
Copyright NMR English Heritage

At the company’s height it only employed a maximum of four photographers but photographed the work of many leading architects of the Victorian and Edwardian period. Bedford Lemere‘s sharp definition greatly appealed to their clients – architects, contractors and building owners – who above all wished to obtain an almost documentary record of the work they had carried out or commissioned.

Photographer, Bedford Lemere established his commercial photography business in the 1860s and he, his son Harry and the company became famous for their architectural images. The firm continued into the 1940s and English Heritage and the RIBA now own a huge collection of their work numbering over 8,000 images originally photographed on 12” x 10” plates.

The external images stand out from contemporaries because apparently Bedford Lemere worked to a set formula that involved photographing buildings first thing in the morning with the crisp early light and with very few people around. The clarity and detail achieved was remarkable and sometimes it is possible to think that it was taken only yesterday. It is only the lack of cars or satellite dishes or the absence of modern furnishing that tells you otherwise.

Midland Grand Hotel 1890s

Copyright NMR English Heritage

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Amazing photos. I didn't know anything about this firm, but you've inspire me to dig deeper and learn more as I love architectural photography and wish my photos looked like that!