I ventured onto the beach, camera in hand, film loaded, looking for my first subject. Elton Hayes and Janet Brown were presenting a BBC outside broadcast for ‘Children’s Hour’, perfect! Much to my parents consternation, I went straight up to the celebrities and asked them to pose for me, which they were pleased to do. My first PR scoop in the bag. From memory the picture suffered badly from camera shake which made my stars totally unrecognisable, I am not sure if this was due to my nervousness or a low shutter speed!
A few years later I acquired my second camera, a ‘Brownie’ 127, which at the time, as far as I was concerned anyway, was a giant leap forward in technology. The biggest bonus was an optical viewfinder which replaced the flip up and inaccurate wire frame viewfinder of the VP Twin. My first roll of film was colour, quite something then and the results were stunning. Well compared to my previous attempts they were!
The Brownie served me well through my early schooldays and it was during this time that my entrepreneurial talents started to surface. I realized that as well as a hobby, there was money to be made out of photography. My only income was from pocket money, two shillings and sixpence (12.5 pence) a week and a meagre paper round. What about a ‘1 hour processing service’ , yes I know this was 1960 but nothing is new!
My first problem was finding space for my darkroom. Fortunately, mum came to the rescue and said I could use the pantry cupboard in the kitchen. It was so small I could only just close the door behind me. There were two shelves, one just big enough for an enlarger, and the one below big enough for dishes and a developing tank. First I needed the equipment. Fortunately it was nearing Christmas and my presents included the necessary. A Gnome Beta 2 enlarger was complimented by a Paterson developing tank, processing dishes and a thermometer.
Next I needed developer, fixer and bromide paper. There were no shops selling these items locally and the only option would be a trip into town on the bus, what I needed was a local supplier. A new chemist shop had opened on a parade of shops nearby and I persuaded the manager to keep a small stock of the items I would need. The chemist provided a developing and printing service, so I suppose I was a competitor. I even asked him if he had any ‘old’ d & p receipt books I could have, cheeky!……but he found some.
Only one thing needed now, customers. I put an ad in my local paper shop window and waited. I did not have to wait long, as soon the requests flooded in, well more of a trickle really if I am honest, but enough to keep me busy after school and make some cash. I would cycle round to my customers, collect the film/s, home to process, print and then deliver back the same evening. Maybe not exactly a 1 hour service, but far quicker than the two-three day service available at the chemist shop.