07-28_thumbPosting pictures of sailing ships reminded me of the work of Frank Meadow Sutcliffe who used the medium of photography as art.  He was born in  Headingly, Leeds in October 1853 and started work as a portrait photographer in Tunbridge wells before moving to Whitby where he set up a photographic business.  When in Whitby he extensively photographed the town, the people and local villages which ultimately led to a photographic documentary of the social history of Victorian Whitby.

One of his most famous works Water Rats was controversial and led to him being excommunicated by the local clergy.

Water Rats caused a little comment at the time as it featured naked children, but the image is not erotic. Sutcliffe was using the conventions of the academic nude to show how photography can approach art. He was, however, excommunicated by his local clergy for displaying it, as they thought it would ‘corrupt’ the opposite sex.

Copies of his work can be purchased from the Sutcliffe Gallery in Whitby which cites the following about his work:

All the sepia photographs you see on this website were taken in and around Whitby by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (Hon. F.R.P.S.) between 1875 and 1910. His large camera was made of mahogany with brass fittings and took ‘whole plate’ glass negatives (6.5″x8.5″).
Photography in Victorian times was not an easy craft to master and people were often content to produce an acceptable image which was sharp and well exposed – but there were a handful of photographers who wanted to lift their pictures into the heady realms of ‘Art’.
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was one of these artists! He became World famous as one of the greatest exponents of pictorial photography, winning over 60 gold, silver and bronze medals from exhibitions in Tokyo, Vienna, France and the U.S.A. as well as Great Britain.
He was made an honorary member of The Royal Photographic Society in 1935, the highest award attainable.

I am very fond of his work, probably because one of my ancestoral lines lived in the Whitby area.  The photographs give me the chance to see where my ancestors lived and worked bringing their world alive for me.  I have four Sutcliffe  photographs on my wall at home:





30 Comments CherryPie on Sep 2nd 2009

30 Responses to “Frank Meadow Sutcliffe”

  1. The quality of this man’s work is outstanding. He had an uncanny talent for composition. The sepia tones lend such a nostalgic feel to the photos. The slide show on the Sutcliffe site was excellent – so much so I almost preferred the sepia photos to the real thing.
    No wonder you have his work in your home.

    • CherryPie says:

      There is something about his work isn’t there? I struggled to choose which ones for my wall. I also have a couple of books of his work and I never tire of looking at them.

  2. mutley says:

    I think everything was brown then – later it all turned black and white before reality went full colour in the sixties.

  3. Sean Jeating says:

    (Almost) Any kind of art is easy to describe: Like it. Don’t like it.
    These photos have something …

  4. wow, I really like these!

  5. angus says:

    Really interesting post, love the views, and looking at the slideshow on the gallery site; it’s nice to see things haven’t changed that much

  6. ubermouth says:


    I love erotic art especially on in sepia. Black and white is nice too,but never colour[for erotic art/photography].

  7. Phidelm says:

    Beautiful – and thank you for the reminder about this extraordinarily talented man’s work.

  8. I agree with Angus, this is a really interesting post. I am familiar with both Headingly and Whitby. Talking about water rats, I remember young children diving and swimming naked between the lock gates in the River Aire at Horsforth which is only a few miles away from Headingly.

  9. trubes says:

    Wow Cherie, the photo’s are fantastic, particularly, considering, the time when they were taken.
    Next time we are out in N.Yorkshire, we will certainly pay a visit to the gallery.
    Thankyou for sharing that with us,


  10. jameshigham says:

    Fabulous post and I have a [near] complete set of his prints [those issued]. The work he put in cajoling the locals to pose and the sense of light were superb. As you know, that’s my area too over that way, so it was lovely to see this.

    Thanks Cherie. Allow me to steal one shot.

  11. -eve- says:

    The photographs you have are beautiful. Peaceful, haunting… one can almost feel the atmosphere…

  12. Bob Piper says:

    Cherie, I was alerted to your site by John Hirst (JHL) and I just wanted to say how terrific it is. I have some of the Sutcliffe prints on the wall in my study and they are stunning.

    • CherryPie says:

      Thank you for your kind comments :-) This post has made me realise what small world it is with so many connections we didn’t even know about.

  13. Bernard says:

    Some years ago I had calendar with 12 of his photos. I kept them all. Two have been framed and the one of the Jet Workshop is on the wall in my workshop, to admire everyday.

    • CherryPie says:

      I spotted next years calendar on the website and I am very tempted to send for it. One of my ancestors worked in the jet industry and I often wonder if just maybe he was in that picture.

  14. Wow those are wonderful Cherie

  15. Steve Hayes says:

    Seeing those pictures of Victorian Whitby made me think of Dracula!