I love these little boys, sitting atop a ledge or fence, enjoying a moment of free time. Their smiles are genuine, eyes crinkled in mirth. Here, they can be children, relishing in a small moment in which they weren’t required to provide for their families, as most young children did as the Victorian age progressed, and the gap between upper, middle, and lower classes grew.
This image was captured by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe, a late Victorian and early 20th century photographer who focused on capturing his friends and others in addition to the surroundings of Whitby, a small English seaside town. A pioneer in portraiture, he started out as one of the many stall portrait photographers, photographing the upper class seaside holiday-goers. He felt this was ‘prostituting’ his work, but need to provide for his younger siblings, as his father died when he was young. In his free time, he focused on photographing his friends and his surroundings, capturing everyday Victorian life in the little town on the Yorkshire coast. His images capture the happiness of life as well as the beauty of the town. He gained several important commissions to photograph Whitby’s surrounding landscapes, and eventually worked with the Eastman Company, testing out new and innovative Kodak cameras, allowing for a greater ease in the world of photography.