A mysterious last century photo collection

One of a large collection of 1920s glass plate negatives going under the hammer
One of a large collection of 1920s glass plate negatives going under the hammer
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A vintage collection of photograph negatives featuring early aircraft and English cavalry are going under the hammer after being discovered wrapped in old newspapers near York.

The young owner took boxes full of around 100 six-by-four inch glass plate negatives, wrapped in news print from the early 1980s, along to Wombells in Upper Poppleton and they will be sold at the auction house on May 31.

Impressions of the negatives, digitally enhanced and shown here, appear to show the Royal Scots Greys mounted in full service dress, an aircraft belonging to the short-lived airline Aircraft Transport & Travel Ltd, which ceased operating in 1921, and a gentleman manning an early cine movie camera. Among the wider collection are family portraits, household interiors, still life and images from the ‘Beauty of Britain’ film series.

Auctioneer and valuer, Matt Harris said they date from around 1920. He does not know who the photographer was or what connection they had to the subjects of the pictures, or even how much they will fetch at auction, but he expects the collection to appeal to buyers.

“There’s a huge amount of interest in the leading names in 1920s photography and I think it’s now spreading from those early prints through to 20th century photography when photography really started to boom.

“With the advent of digital photography, people are becoming interested in the processes that are now obsolete and how they have developed into what we see today, and for some people I suppose the appeal is nostalgia - they like the feel of photographs and trawling around in boxes like these.

“For about 20 years now, 1920s photography has been recognised as an artistic medium, not just by photo-journalists.”