Bassano's studio reborn

Viscount Allenby Image copyright Luke Archer

Anyone who was anyone in Victorian times would probably have paid a visit to the London studio of photographer Alexander Bassano. His clients included royalty, politicians and the leading figures of the day. It was Bassano who took the picture of Lord Kitchener that was used as the basis for the Your Country Needs You poster campaign during World War One.

He began in 1850, and continued working through to 1901, moving from Regent Street to 25 Old Bond Street in 1877.

Following Bassano's death, his studio continued under different owners until the 1980s, with most of the negatives now held by the National Portrait Gallery.

One of those owners was Jim Archer, a Fleet Street photographer. His grandson Luke is now the proud owner of a 100-year-old Thornton Pickard Royal Ruby camera from the studio of Alexander Bassano.

Image copyright Luke Archer

The camera was one of many items stored in an old building that Archer says was at one time full of camera equipment. He adds that sadly much was sold off many years ago. Yet this camera remained, kept by his mother as she thought the brass and wood looked too good to part with.

The photography bug must be in the genes as Luke Archer took up the camera, and for his final degree piece at university decided to stand in the footsteps of his grandfather and Bassano and put the camera to use once more.

The camera itself had been modified over the years to meet the demands of the moment, including changes to allow it to take a modern tripod, and dark slides as opposed to glass plates.

Of course a suitable subject was required, and to maintain that link to the past, Archer photographed hereditary peers whose ancestors were photographed at the Bassano studio. "Like me they have inherited something that has impacted on their lives," says Archer.

"The project aims through portraiture to document the hereditary peers as a class within society. It may well document the last generation who sit in the House of Lords."

Some of the pictures were taken at Parliament, others in the homes of the lords themselves.

To complete the circle, some of Luke Archer's pictures taken on the Bassano Studio camera are also now held at the National Portrait Gallery.

Image copyright Luke Archer

The seventh Marquess of Bath is pictured at home. A photograph of Henry Frederick Thynne, sixth Marquess of Bath, by Bassano Ltd can be seen on the National Portrait Gallery website.

Image copyright Luke Archer

James Bethell is the fifth Baron Bethell, and pictures of both the first and second barons were taken at the Bassano Studio.

Image copyright Luke Archer

Alastair John Lyndhurst Bruce, fifth Baron Aberdare. The third Baron, Clarence Napier Bruce, was photographed at the Bassano Studio in 1932.

Image copyright Luke archer

The fifth Baron Brougham and Vaux whose ancestor, Hon. Julian Henry Peter Brougham, was pictured at Bassano Studio as a child in 1934.

Image copyright luke archer

The third Baron Rea is pictured at home. His uncle, the second Baron, Philip Russell Rea, was pictured at Bassano in 1937.

You can see more of Luke Archer's pictures on his Inheritance website.

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