had been fortunate to secure Royal patronage and his aristocratic
and noble clients saw him safely through his first two years of
business at Marine Parade. However, Constable was an astute businessman
and was prepared to take steps to ensure a steady flow of sitters.
When Constable opened his Photographic Institution in November 1841,
he charged one guinea (£1.1s or 1.05p) for a portrait in a
plain morocco leather case. His prices are comparable to those charged
by other Beard Licencees of the period. Prices in the West End of
London were rather higher. Beard's own Polytechnic Studio in Regent
Street London charged upwards from £1 8s 6d (about £1.42p)
for a small daguerreotype portrait.
Hogg, an operator for Richard Beard, taking a daguerreotype portrait
of Mr Johnson in London (c1842)
Running a Photographic Institution in the 1840s could be lucrative,
but it was a risky business. Within two months of opening to the
public in September 1841, the Liverpool studio had taken 500 portraits.
However, in Nottingham, Alfred Barber had taken only 53 portraits
over a four month period and when he failed to keep up his quarterly
payments, Beard took legal action to close Barber's studio. Constable
feared that the prices he charged his exclusive clientele would
deter other potential customers. By the end of 1843, he had reduced
his price for a cased portrait from £1.1s (£1.05p) to
12s 6d (62p), hoping "to possess himself of the patronage of
the middle classes of the community." A daguerreotype portrait
was still out of the reach of ordinary working people. An unskilled
worker would earn less than 10 shillings (50p.) a week in the 1840s.
However, reducing the price of his daguerreotype portraits meant
that his customer base was widened to embrace wealthy visitors and
Brighton's expanding middle class. The Dukes, Earls, Lords and Ladies
who made up Constable's early clientele were joined by prosperous
merchants, successful businessmen and professional gentlemen together
with their wives and children.The addition of customers drawn from
the middle ranks of society ensured that Constable had no shortage
of sitters in the late 1840s.
William Constable is known to have employed operators at his Photographic
Institution on Marine Parade from the very beginning.Constable's
sister, Mrs Susanna Grece, mentions in her journal that her brother
employed at least two assistants in 1842. John Counsell,
who later became a daguerreotypist in Edinburgh and Cornwall, claimed
to have made the portraits of Prince Albert and the Duke of Saxe
Coburg at Constable's Marine Parade studio in March 1842. The photographic
artist James Thomas Foard, who went on to manage Beard's
Liverpool studio in 1849, had worked for William Constable five
Very few of the original proprietors of the provincial Photographic
Institutions licensed by Beard stayed in business for very long.
The Photographic Rooms in the Horticultural Gardens of Bristol changed
hands at least 3 times between 1841 and 1848. John Palmer, an early
Beard licensee, vacated the Cheltenham Photographic Institution
in 1844 after only 3 years. In contrast, William Constable remained
in business as a Photographic Artist in Brighton for 20 years from
November 1841 until his death in December 1861.
CLICK HERE TO CONTINUEDaguerreotype
Portrait Studios in Brighton