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Italian-born Alexander B Bassano established his first photography studio in Regent Street, London, in 1850. He moved to Piccadilly in 1859–63, then to Pall Mall, and then in 1876 set up at 25 Old Bond Street. By then, Bassano had become a leading portrait photographer of high society. He had taken portraits of William Gladstone and even Queen Victoria.
The Old Bond Street studio was decorated with carbon photographic prints, plaster busts and an 80-foot (24-metre) roller-mounted backdrop, which could provide a variety of background scenes for the sitter.
Appointments had to be made at the studio. The publication 'Photographic News' described the place as a ‘model establishment of the West End’, where clients could pay two guineas (two pounds and two shillings) to receive 20 ‘cartes-de-visite’ photographs, a particularly popular format of photography at the time. Once the negatives had been retouched and the results were approved, they were sent to premises in Kilburn for printing.
Among the dignitaries Bassano photographed was Horatio Herbert Kitchener, when he became the Secretary of State for War during the First World War. One of these portraits featured on the famous propaganda and military recruitment poster ‘Your Country Needs You’.
In 1903, Bassano retired. His studios were refurbished and unveiled under the new name of Bassano Limited, Royal Photographers. Various photographers worked at the studio, carrying out a wide range of work, from society portraits to fashion photography for department stores. Bassano himself died in 1913, but the studios continued.
The studio moved once again in 1921: a move written about by the 'Lady’s Pictorial' at the time. The article described about a million negatives, all systematically numbered, which had to be moved from the cellars of the premises to the new location at 38 Dover Street.
The company became Bassano and Vandyk in 1964. The following year it incorporated Elliot and Fry, a photographic partnership that had been running in Baker Street since 1863. In 1977, the company became Industrial Photographic, based at 35 Moreton Street, SW1.
Many glass plates from the Bassano Studios, including some by Alexander Bassano, are held in the National Portrait Gallery, London. The Museum of London holds a large number of the fashion-related plates.
Please note that the Museum of London will be closing at 5.30pm today (Tuesday 21 January). We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.