Vintage Pictures

These vintage photographs are by William Henry Hoather (1872-1943), the celebrated Bushey Heath photographer, where he settled in 1903. After studying engineering and photography at Regent Street Polytechnic, from about 1891 to 1895 he was apprenticed to various London photographers, including Elliot & Fry, fine art photographers of Baker Street. He established his own business in Kentish Town about 1897 and obtained the City & Guilds Certificate in Photography (1st class) in 1900. Thus, by the time he moved to Bushey Heath his career was well established. He set up his photographer’s shop at ‘The Photo Nest’ in the High Road from 1903 to 1926, at which time he moved into the emerging field of  Radio and Gramophone retailing, in which sphere he also excelled. He died at Bushey Heath on 25th August 1943, aged 71 years. A very large collection of his glass plates and platinotype prints were donated to Bushey Museum by his son, Mr Max Hoather and the following examples are included by kind permission of the Museum.

Hoather’s Photographic Equipment & Techniques

In establishing his business in Bushey Heath, Hoather adapted and equipped some old farm buildings as daylight studios and a darkroom. Most of his photographs were taken on ‘whole glass plates’ (8 1/2″ x 6 1/2″), but a larger camera for 12″ x 10″ glass plate negatives was used for many groups and larger subjects. Both these cameras were made by Watsons of Barnet. A half plate (6 1/2″ x 4 3/4″) reflex camera was used for childrens’ portraits. The cameras were heavy and, from about 1908 onwards, Hoather used a 3 wheeled Riley car to transport them. In the early days he had no electric supply and portraits were printed by daylight on ‘Platinotype’ paper. Other subjects were printed on Kodak ‘Gaslight ‘ paper which did not need such a long exposure and were printed by the light of a gas burner in a separate compartment in the dark room.

Hoather also designed and made a number of photographic accessories with the assistance of Mr J Langley, a local carpenter. These included a ‘Studio Camera Stand’, a printing machine and an enlarger with a large easel on rails. ‘Limelight’ was used to illuminate the enlarger until electricity became available. He also used ‘Limelight’ for his lantern slide shows. One of his printing machines was able to make several prints from a single halfplate negative on a strip of Kodak Velox and had automatic exposure timing. It was lit by electric lamps supplied by a small gas engine with a dynamo. It was this machine which provided the photographs for the Caldecote Towers School Calendars of which about 250 were made annually for a period of several years – each containing up to twelve prints. Some direct colour photographs – ‘transparencies’ – usually of whole plate size, were taken by Hoather prior to 1914 and some were used in the Caldecote Towers School brochure and also in the 1912 School Calendar.

George Bernard Shaw took a considerable interest in Hoather’s colour photography from about 1907 and sent much of his work to Bushey Heath for developing and printing. A few of Shaw’s glass plates of photographs taken in the Isle of Wight are in the Hoather collection at Bushey Museum. Today, a selection of Hoather’s photographs, mainly portraits on Platinotype paper, are also in the collections of the Royal Photographic Society in Bath, the Kodak Museum in Bradford and the Victoria and Albert Museum.