Frank Meadow Sutcliffe

(1853—1941) photographer

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(1853–1941), English photographer based in Whitby, North Yorkshire. The son of a watercolour painter, he took up photography in the late 1860s. In 1876, after failing to establish himself in fashionable Tunbridge Wells, he opened a studio in Whitby, a fishing and seafaring town gradually developing into a resort. For decades he scraped a living from commercial portraiture, earning little from the work that eventually made him famous: subtly observed, atmospheric views of Whitby and the surrounding countryside, and studies of fisherfolk and rustics. Particularly celebrated was Water Rats (1886), of naked urchins disporting themselves in the harbour. In 1888 Sutcliffe had a large one-man show at the London Camera Club, and by 1905 he had won 62 British and foreign awards. Despite Whitby's remoteness, he kept abreast of technical developments and aesthetic debates, especially about photographic realism. His lack of interest in pictorial anecdote, willingness to flout convention, and eye for pattern and form now seem proto-modern. Although he worked for years with cumbersome glass-plate equipment, he enjoyed using portable cameras lent to him by Kodak c.1900. A shrewd, sometimes acerbic commentator on the photographic scene, he contributed to numerous journals and wrote a column for the Yorkshire Weekly Post for 22 years. After selling his business in 1922 he became curator of a Whitby museum.

From The Oxford Companion to the Photograph in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: Photography and Photographs.

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