I wonder what it was like to be a North Yorkshire wedding photographer in the 1930s?! Recently, during a visit to the family home in Northallerton, I came across some family photos dating back as far as the early 20th century. There were loads, but the few that caught my eye, that I’ve chosen to share in this post, were my maternal grandparents’ wedding photos.
William Dunn Dack and Elsie Sharpe were married at the All Saints Parish Church in Northallerton in 1936. I’m unsure of the exact date, although I know my mum has it written down somewhere. 78 years later, my wife and I would be married just a few miles away at Solberge Hall. They had met when Granddad, originally from Salturn-by-Sea, boarded at my great grandmother’s house during the week because he worked in Northallerton as a registrar. Times were very different back then, but it’s strange to think that as a registrar Granddad also worked in the wedding industry in some capacity. I wonder, how did they get engaged? How did Granddad propose? With a ring and romantic gesture? Or was it a little less extravagant back then?
Boarding at someone’s house is a strange concept these days but I think it was quite common in the 30s. In my family’s case, my great grandmother needed the extra income following my great grandfather leaving the family when Nana was still just a child. This is him below. We don’t know the details other than that after departed for the USA where in time he joined the flying circus, he died trying to perform the loop-the-loop. We don’t know whether he fell out of the cockpit, or if the plane crashed, but it’s a crazy story nonetheless eh?
And so Nana was raised by a single parent. Rare back then. This her in the below-left photo, third child on the left, as a very little girl, with her brother and sister. Granddad was the son of a local miner-turned-politician. My Great Grandfather was a member of the labour party and fought for the rights of child-workers. He entered an election – and this can still be found on the internet – but didn’t perform too well. After World War II came to an end, the family discovered that my Great Grandfather’s name was known to Nazi Germany. He was on a list of influential people to be tracked down if and when Germany invaded the UK. How scary is that? Granddad is the smaller boy on the right. He was born in 1907 so this photo dates from around 1915 at a guess (Yes, this print is over 100 years old!).
Anyway, back to the wedding! There are only a few wedding photos: The bride being lead to the church by her father, the bride’s maids walking up the church path, and then a couple of the bride and groom leaving the church, looking very happy. Nana was pretty groovy for her time. She found traditional wedding dresses very boring so she wore a gold dress instead. It raised eyebrows, but she wasn’t one to care. I suppose by today’s standards she’d be considered an ‘alternative bride’ or ‘boho bride’. She didn’t wear high heels either. Granddad was too small and she didn’t want to embarrass him by towering over him!
All of these moments were captured with film photography. Standard practice for professional photographers was to make their living selling individual prints rather than delivering a full set of photos. These are the only photos that Nana and Granddad bought, presumably. We don’t have the negatives so, understandably, my mum didn’t want me to take these away with me. Instead I captured them with my own camera and then cropped out the background. You’ll notice how out of focus the photos of the bridesmaids are. Due to the difficulty of using 100% manual cameras (no auto-focus, no aperture-priority modes etc), I can only suppose that newlyweds’ expectations were lower back then.
You’ll also notice that there are no photos from the wedding ceremony. Even today, some vicars do not allow photography in the church and/or during the ceremony. I can only imagine that 80-90 years ago, attitudes were even more conservative. Not to mention, in the days of wedding photography on film, the interior of a church would probably be too dark to capture without a using a flash, which were very big and cumbersome.
Documentary photography didn’t exist back then, or to put it more accurately, the term ‘documentary photography’ didn’t exist. But I think you’ll agree looking at these old photos, that they aren’t overly posed or staged. In fact they are actually very natural. These are moments that are captured as they happened, and that’s why I love them all the more. Not only do I get to see my Grandparents as they looked as young adults, but also I can experience their happiness and get a sense for the wider context and period in which they chose to tie the knot. I’m not sure just how much I’d be able to do that with posed photographs.
I hope you enjoyed looking through these old photos which mean so much to my family. I feel incredibly lucky to be a North Yorkshire Wedding Photographer. I capture your day in a natural and relaxed way, where you guys get to really let your hair down without any demands or intrusion from me. I give you photos packed full of emotion and character that will give you lasting memories for years to come. You’ll relive your day, experiencing the same feelings you felt at the time, and with my natural and vibrant editing style your photos will never look dated because I don’t follow passing trends. Why not take a look at some of my work in my blog, check out my home page or get in touch to check for availability.