About London - Collectables
In the United Kingdom, postcard collecting comes second only to stamp collecting in popular appeal. There are many households with a few historic photographic postcards squirrelled away.
These cards are of topographical and social historic interest and there are an estimated 100,000 collectors in the UK alone, so good examples are much sought after. Among the most common postcards of this type cover the UK capital London over the last two centuries.
To early photographers working in the streets of London was a complicated job. Victorian people found it fascinating, although cameras and technology were crude and photographers needed to prepare and process their plates themselves.
As a result, the hobby was mainly for the rich. The cameras, although simple, were big, difficult to carry and needed tripods. The job of exposing images required the photographer to uncap his lens for the length of time he guessed.
Some techniques were very dangerous. One process of plate preparation needed a big volume of liquid mercury to be heated under the plate, which was exposed. Earlier photographs show ghosted images where a person or carriage has stopped and then moved on. Later in the late 19th century photography became affordable by middle class and some of the better off working class.
But it's not the technology that matters so much as the images - reflecting the fashion and transport of the different eras. The photographs that can be found are of well-known locations shown in an often surprising earlier unknown way - horse-drawn vehicles, empty streets. Colour in an early form became available from the mid-1920s.