Bygone Photographic Shops


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Bygone Photographic Shops

7 Sep 2020 5:11PM   Views : 474 Unique : 318

Photographic shops come and go. Many are memorable for various reasons. Here are some from my earlier years.

Dixons was where I obtained my first proper camera, a Praktica Super TL3 which was a Christmas present in 1979. The model was unique to that chain, and a little cheaper than other Praktica models. My first camera was a Kodak 126 Instamatic four years previously. That was inexpensive and perhaps rightly so as :I my not have taken photography seriously. Forty odd years later on and I'm still on that journey.

I wanted to move on and looking through copies of Amateur Photographer magazine trying to learn as much as I could. Dixons was a large chain and advertised extensively, plus there was a local branch 5 miles away in town.

A couple of years later I wanted to upgrade again. Such is the fault of youth. I'd decided on a Pentax ME Super based on price, quality and features. Tecno was becoming a well known discount store and the nearest branch was over 20 miles away in central Birmingham, at 1 Suffolk Street Queensway. Funny how those little details are remembered. My parents were happy enough to take me there and we parked in a side street near Gas Street Basin. I remember a brick wall with the words 'Gas Street' painted in large white lettering. I don't know if that's still there as the area has changed so much. The camera store premises are now the entrance to a Radisson hotel.

Another Tecno store in Holborn in central London was badly placed because it was just round the corner from where I worked for many years, but when my EOS 5 developed a shutter problem it was very handy as they just happened to have a second hand EOS 600 for sale. That served me well as a second camera for a number of years.

I was watching a re-run of the 1960s series The Prisoner. In one episode, Patrick McGoohan walked into a camera shop on Southampton Row in central London. Although the TV series was shot nearly 30 years previously I recognised it instantly. Another camera shop just round the corner from worked. I bought a Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 from there as I'd decided to go for high performance wide aperture lenses when I changed to the EOS system. I'm sure that was 1992.The shop is no longer there.

There have been smaller independent shops too. Photomecca was in an alleyway between shops in Wolverhampton and where I bought a Sigma zoom in M42 fit for something like 110 around 1981. Sherwoods in the Great Western arcade in Birmingham for many years, and had knowledgeable and polite staff.


Jessops Leicester store in 1982

Jessops grew on mail order and run from one warehouse in Leicester. If the internet had been around 40 years ago it would have taken to it like a duck to water. Instead, the rapid expansion of the 1990s came in and while there were many branches where you could get film in bulk and price matches on equipment it was a contracting business model. I do remember visiting their flagship store on a few occasions and in the early 2000s attended workshops there.

I never photographed many of those shops, as I don't think it was something that I though was that interesting. Looking back it's a slice of history that should have been recorded.

All text and images Keith Rowley 2020

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altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 23.9k United Kingdom
8 Sep 2020 8:56AM
When I was in my early teens one of my local camera shops was the Camera Exchange in Tunsgate Guildford, it was a case of look in the window only because I couldn't afford anything on display. The shop is still in the same location now part of the London Camera Exchange group. Later on, when I was employed and I had a decent camera I used to go into Polysales at Godalming, more of a warehouse than a shop, just a bare counter and lots of boxes. They used to have a glossy catalogue and were more geared to mail order than calling customers. I remember buying a Makinon 500 mm mirror lens there and various items for the darkroom.
Another shop (or shops) that, later on, I used, was the Jessops in Shrewsbury, there were two Jessops in Shrewsbury then, when I discussed this apparent extravagance with the manager of the one in Mardol , a long time ago, he told me that it was something to do with the lease. I see now that the 'top' one is gone. Things change.............
pablophotographer Avatar
pablophotographer 12 2.2k 450
11 Sep 2020 12:33AM
Does anyone remember Jacobs? They have closed now. Harrison cameras is still working, they used to print film in-house too.

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