One of English Heritage's major collections of historic architectural photos will be on display at the V & A this summer and also published in a new book.
Capturing monumentality and minute detail
Bedford Lemere & Co was the leading architectural photographers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
A prolific father and son team they worked on commissions on a wide variety of buildings including country houses, hospitals, shops, banks, railway stations, cruise liners and, during the First World War, armaments manufacture. Its work centred on London, but it received commissions throughout Great Britain and occasionally from abroad.
Using large format negatives, they produced images of exceptional quality, depth and sharpness, capturing the monumentality of a building as well as the minute detail of its decorative scheme. The size and clarity of the photographs render them as fresh and legible today as when they were first composed.
Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "The historic sites and photographic archives that make up our national collection illuminate England's history in a unique way. The Bedford Lemere collection demonstrates the superb craftsmanship and boldness in Victorian and Edwardian architecture and offers a fascinating glimpse of a society marked by extraordinary change and unparalleled optimism."
On display at the V & A
On at the V & A/RIBA Architecture Gallery Room from 4 June to 30 October, the display will explore Bedford Lemere & Co's extraordinary client list, the evolving role of commercial photography and the lasting social significance of the images.
The exceptionally high quality photographs offer a rare look at late Victorian interiors such as the Moorish Room at Rolleston Hall in 1892, the bar at the North Eastern Station Hotel in 1893 and a host of other 'new' interiors and exteriors.
A new book 'The Photography of Bedford Lemere & Co.' by Nicholas Cooper showcases the firm's work. The hardback book features over 250 striking photographs printed from the original negatives. Especially evocative are the firm's photographs of those - mostly women, old men and children - involved in war work between 1914 and 1918.
The majority of Bedford Lemere & Co's surviving photographs are cared for by English Heritage in its public archive. The collection comprises over 21,800 glass negatives and around 3,000 unique prints, principally dating from the 1880s to the 1930s.
English Heritage is undertaking a major project to conserve, catalogue and scan the negatives, with the aim of making the images accessible on the internet. Over 7,000 photos can already be seen, free of charge, on the EH Archives website.