In his time, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (Hon Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society) was one of the most talented photographers, period. He won medals at exhibitions world wide, including Paris, Berlin, Calcutta, Tokyo, New York and so on, and yet too few have heard of him, I suspect because of where he lived!
FMS was born in Leeds (UK) in 1853. The birth date of “Photography” is less precise, but it wasn’t much before. His family moved to Whitby in Yorkshire in in 1870, and it was here that FMS was to make most of his popular work, between 1875 and 1910.
Like many I’d never heard of him either, until I was in a second hand book shop in Dorset, of course looking in the photography section. There was a green book, I pulled it out, thumbed through it’s pages, and there was no question – I was buying it. One of those rare occasions where I didn’t care what the price was! I had been transported back 150 years to a working fishing town, and all that goes with it. The photography stunning.
Whitby’s main claim to fame is of course, Dracula and Bram Stoker. It is believed the title of the novel came from Stokers’ visit to Whitby’s public library as he believed it was Romanian for Devil! Dracula was published in 1897, right in the middle of FMS working life. One can see from his images of the ruined abbey, the sailing ships draped in rigging, and the narrow streets how inspiration might have come to Stoker.
I passed through Yorkshire once in the 80’s on my way to a brief visit to Scotland. We stopped in Wensleydale for a quick car stop, and I made one single Kodachrome slide to record the event – a view across the dale. It wasn’t until 2017, that I actually went to Yorkshire for an extended visit. That visit included Whitby. I sought out the Sutcliffe Gallery.
I have since found copies of the other two volumes produced by the gallery, and read up more on this remarkable photographer. He used a full plate camera, and a photo of his actual camera can be found on the galleries, website along with many of his images. If you have some spare time, I can happily recommend a visit…
PS Does anyone know why a “Full Plate” is 6.5 x 8.5 inches??