Search for Studio Alexander
Dorothy began her own studio in 1946, after working since her 1942 graduation at the well known Samuel Cooper Photography Studio, building up her reputation as a portrait photographer. Dorothy called her new business Studio Alexander and the studio ran under Dorothy until 1958.
Both studios were based on the hustle and bustle of Manchester’s Market Street. Currently there is one image of Studio Alexander which was taken by Dorothy herself of the shop doorway and her husband (right), and none of Samuel Cooper Photography Studios. My challenge is to see if any other images or information can be unearthed in the archives.
Posted on April 28, 2010 - by jennifer
A little bit of exciting news! Following my chat with Barbara Arrowsmith, who identified one of the portraits in the exhibition as well as having one of her own, it can be confirmed that my archive information is correct on the whereabouts of Studio Alexander!
Barbara has a very strong memory of her experience at the studio and describes it exactly as my research has led me to believe, round about where Boots is now on Market Street, just up an alley off the main street. Barbara says it wasn’t very well advertised and you had to know about it to find it, but once you got there it was nice, quiet, secluded and exactly what you want in a Studio.
Posted on April 14, 2010 - by jennifer
The next port of call in my search for Studio Alexander is to look through a picture archive as I think from my experience at the North West Film Archive I will have a better chance of spotting the studio in a picture that isn’t moving!
As I found such lovely images of the Manchester College of Technology, which Dorothy attended, in the Manchester Local Images Collection I thought this would be the best place to start. When I visited the University archives I was also informed that the Local Images Collection comprises images from other sources too, so for example by searching this I am also searching in the Guardian archives, which I think are available at the University (I did look through these for Dorothy’s name on my visit but no luck!) as well as online at Central Library. So this is a brilliant resource as it is a number of searches in one!
I began by searching for the names of the studio’s as well as “Hope Chambers” where the Samuel Cooper Photography Studio was based, but nothing came up. Next I tried searching for Market Street but a vast number of images came up from a number of different decades and places. At this point I did do a bit of extra research to see if Market Street in the City Centre has ever gone by a different name and discovered at one point it was called Market Stede Lane but this was well before the 1940’s. Next I decided to limit my search by date-just searching for Market Street in the 40’s and 50’s and lo and behold a great number of images came up!
Excitingly, using the address I have for Studio Alexander (28-30 Southside- meaning it was just up from Boots) as well as the names of the buisnesses around it I think I have been able to find where the Studio was in these images!
The picture which shows this best is this one in which you can follow the shops around Studio Alexander in accordance with the Trade Ledger (for more information on how I found the addresses and other shops see my earlier posts). First we can see on the left SS. Handbags (no.36), then Meesons Ltd (no.34) next a wool shop (which I had registered as Edmonds + Co. so the buisness is the same but not the name, at no.32) then next in the Leger is our Studio at no.28-30.
From this image you can see a few differences from the Leger, like the name of the wool shop and also that “Paragon Jewellers” is actually next, however this will be due to the date when the picture was taken (1955) against the date of the Trade Leger. The next picture shows the next few shops down in this row. Again we can see Paragon Jewellers on the corner, then an alley way, and then Reid Bros Ltd. which is at no.26 in the Leger.
When I showed my findings to staff in the gallery and they were passed on to Dorothy too I found out that Studio Alexander had actually been just off Market Street. So I think the conclusion can be drawn that it was just around the corner in the alleyway between Paragon Jewellers and Reid Bros.
It’s such a shame that there wasn’t an image of Studio Alexander in these archives but we are very close! If any one knows any more information or knows whether my information is definitely on the button then please get in touch!
I will update on how my search for the Samuel Cooper Studio is coming along later in the week!
Posted on April 7, 2010 - by jennifer
Newly armed with my information obtained upon the whereabouts of the Samuel Cooper Photography Studio and Dorothy’s own Studio Alexander on Market Street I have been heading into the city’s archives to try and find picture evidence of these buildings.
The first point of call was the North West Film Archive. This is a really lovely institution based in Manchester City Centre, if you are on any kind of historical quest yourself I cannot recommend making an appointment here enough! The staff are wonderful and placed me in a back room jammed with old camera and video equipment (which was an experience in itself!) to go through a number of recorded images of Market Street, which I had previously located through their online catalogue. It was brilliant to go through a number of films and see how Market Street has changed over the last 100 years. The films I viewed showed Manchester at Christmas, the bomb damage from WW2, student activities (i.e. drinking and dancing!), a fashion show (here I was hoping to glance the face of one of Dorothy’s Lucy Clayton fashion models) and finally street and traffic scenes.
Despite this being really useful in terms of the historical experience of Manchester at this time, the architecture and social aspects, unfortunately with moving images it was difficult to distinguish any specific doorways or buildings. I think the next step may be to use a picture archive, which might make it a bit easier to study the buildings in detail…we shall soon see!
Posted on March 31, 2010 - by jennifer
The first step to finding the studios is to find their addresses and therefore location on Market Street, those of you who live in Manchester will know that the shops change regularly and there is quite a number of them!
To do this I have visited the archives at Central Library, hoping to find a buisness directory or street map from the 1940’s or 1950’s. Firstly I looked (with help from the very efficient library staff) in the Manchester Trade Ledger until I found a record of the Samuel Cooper studio in 1948 listed as being in “Hope Chambers” listed as 107, Market Street, Northside. Which according to the knowledgeable staff is before Debenhams and opposite Primark! Unfortunately there is no record of Studio Alexander, in fact there is another buisness listed at 28-30 Market Street, but this address is on the Southside of Market Street, meaning it would be just after Boots.
Finding these addresses is really important so that when I come to look in photographic archives (or anyone contacts me with a flash of memory from the past!) I know exactly where I’m looking and we have much more chance of finding the studios.
Next in the Library I searched through the Manchester, Salford & Stretford Street Directory, until finding a register of Studio Alexander on Market Street at the correct address! What was brilliant about this directory is that the shops around it were also listed from the same period, again giving me more signs to look for in any photographic evidence. The studios neighbours listed up to the Royal Exchange theatre were at no.26 reid Bros (Tailors) ltd. among others in a large building (presumably like “Hope Chambers”) then on the other side going up to Piccadilly Gardens there was at no.28&30 the Irish Linen & hoisery Association ltd. (which presumably shared the address with Studio Alexander), at no.32 Edmunds + Co. (a wool shop), at no.34 Meesons ltd. (a confectioners), at no.36 SS.Handbags ltd and at no.38&40 a Dolcis Shoes before reaching Pall Mall Street.
This is wonderful information to have found as now I really know what to keep my eyes out for when I visit the North West Film Archive, which is the next point of call, where hopefully a discovery will be made! Fingers crossed.
Posted on March 4, 2010 - by Manchester Galleries
Over the next few weeks I’ll document what I’ve discovered about Studio Alexander, exactly where it might have been located and what it looked like.