Advertising Sectioned: The Photo Centre on Pelham Street c.1958

Words: Wayne Burrows
Tuesday 06 June 2017
reading time: min, words

Nottingham adverts ripped from the pages of history...


“Largest stocks of new photographic and cine equipment always for your inspection in our newly re-styled demonstration rooms” runs the copy for this 1958 advertisement. “Credit facilities available.” And as their picture shows, The Photo Centre on Pelham Street wasn’t just a place to buy cameras. There were 16mm projectors, screens, tape recordings, playback systems and accessories – such as that nifty, fold-away projector stand – and much else besides.

All this was needed to do things we currently take for granted on our smartphones, though probably without the endless adverts for Ed Sheeran’s latest “maleficent octopus” interrupting our viewing pleasure. The fact that everything we’d have found in The Photo Centre of 1958 is now packed into a slab of plastic and glass the size of a fag packet is arguably one of the most mind-boggling things about the present day, though it’s by no means the only one.

Still, as the chap operating the projector in this picture would no doubt tell us, in what I imagine would be his mild-mannered Wizard of Oz voice: even if our phones do pack cameras, video libraries and sound recording mechanisms he could barely have dreamed of, we can’t pretend something hasn’t been lost.

It’s not that in our transition between cumbersome past and slimline future we shed the inefficiency and romance of the analogue technology seen here; nothing is more frustrating or fascinating than a dusty and damaged reel of film, or a machine that makes glitches by chewing up tapes. Rather, it’s that the very limitations of these technologies, and the laborious process of making and finding things to watch on them, simply brings its own satisfaction when it all comes together.

So, as we stride boldly into our collective future, or saunter along the pavement while idly scrolling our Instagram feeds, let’s spare a thought for the chap seen here. Single-handedly running his own YouTube channel in the days when that involved sprockets, blackout blinds, rattling spools, perhaps as many as a dozen film reels, and a tape recorder painstakingly synchronised so the comedy music cues don’t end up ruining the dramatic bits.

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