Market Lavington Museum

Photographer’s bills

For many decades, Market Lavington was the home to photography businesses, first run by the Burgesses on the High Street and later by Peter and Bessie Francis on Church Street.

For more information, see Peter Francis – his home and shop and Peter Francis’s Letter Scales.

Amongst our collection of bills at Market Lavington Museum, we have several from Peter Francis.

They do not feature pictorial billheads, but do give us an indication of the range of services provided.

This bill shows that cameras were brought to his shop for repair. On this occasion, the camera required replacementt bellows. The parts were less than half of the cost, the rest being made up of labour charges, postage and purchase tax.

For readers unfamiliar with the concept of a bellows camera, this concertina like device enabled a compact camera, such as this Zeiss Ikon to have its lens moved forward to allow focussing.

Open with lens moved forward by bellows

Our next bill is from 1959, a time when colour photography was becoming popular with the general public. Many people took colour slide pictures, which needed a projector and screen to display them.

A projector costing almost £20 was a considerable financial outlay in 1959.

Peter Francis was not only a retailer of photographic supplies, but also a professional photographer, taking photographs of local and family events and developing and printing them for clients. He and Bessie took a lot of wedding photographs, for example. It would appear that, in 1962, our purchaser, Mr Carter, had employed Peter Francis to take photographs and produce proofs so that he could select those he wanted printing and mounting

Over the years, photographic equipment changed and people were able to buy equipment which was smaller and simpler to use. By 1972, Mr Carter had decided to invest in an instamatic camera.

So, our very basic artefacts have enabled us to witness photographic history over fourteen years, from a time when it was worth repairing an old bellows camera, through colour slides and their projectors to point and shoot cartridge film cameras. Neither Mr Carter nor Peter Francis would have realised at that time that many of us would now be using portable telephones to take photographs, which we could download ourselves onto personal computers.