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Spotlight on historic photographic collection

A prolific father and son team they worked on commissions on a wide variety of buildings including country houses, hospitals, shops, banks, railway stations, cruise liners and, during the First World War, armaments manufacture. Its work centred on London, but it received commissions throughout Great Britain and occasionally from abroad.

Using large format negatives, they produced images of exceptional quality, depth and sharpness, capturing the monumentality of a building as well as the minute detail of its decorative scheme.  The size and clarity of the photographs render them as fresh and legible today as when they were first composed.

Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: "The historic sites and photographic archives that make up our national collection illuminate England’s history in a unique way. The Bedford Lemere collection demonstrates the superb craftsmanship and boldness in Victorian and Edwardian architecture and offers a fascinating glimpse of a society marked by extraordinary change and unparalleled optimism."

On at the V & A/RIBA Architecture Gallery Room from 4 June to 30 October, the display will explore Bedford Lemere & Co’s extraordinary client list, the evolving role of commercial photography and the lasting social significance of the images.

The exceptionally high quality photographs offer a rare look at late Victorian interiors such as the Moorish Room at Rolleston Hall in 1892, the bar at the North Eastern Station Hotel in 1893 and a host of other ‘new’ interiors and exteriors.

Interior view of the generating hall at Chelsea Electricity Generating Station, commonly known as Lots Road Power Station.

A new book ‘The Photography of Bedford Lemere & Co.’ by Nicholas Cooper showcases the firm’s work. The hardback book features over 250 striking photographs printed from the original negatives. Especially evocative are the firm’s photographs of those – mostly women, old men and children – involved in war work between 1914 and 1918.

The majority of Bedford Lemere & Co’s surviving photographs are cared for by English Heritage in its public archive. The collection comprises over 21,800 glass negatives and around 3,000 unique prints, principally dating from the 1880s to the 1930s.

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