Marjorie Baker (1912 - 2004) was for over sixty years one of the district's foremost photographers, renowned for her ability to capture naturalistic and characterful portraits and for her skill at distilling spirit and sense of place. Her long career often meant that she became the visual chronicler for multiple generations of the same family and of locations which saw significant change during her lifetime.
The Museum curators Marjorie Carreck and Alan Barwick worked with Marjorie to catalogue her collection in her final years, and in 2006 the museum accepted a bequest of over 30,000 of her negatives - a life's work and an invaluable picture of the district across a large portion of the 20th century.
Marjorie was born the daughter of local butcher Albert Baker and Ethel Thrift, who had married at St. Peter's at Henfield in 1910. Upon finishing school and not being sure of which direction to go, she opted to take the leap to begin an eight year photographic apprenticeship, building upon an interest she had had since her schooldays.
Although often travelling to photograph her clients, Marjorie opened her first studio at her parents' shop at Southdown House. The big shift came with her move to a full size studio in a building on Park Road, where when photographing indoors, she had a penchant for arboreal studio backgrounds of the kind favoured by her Victorian forebears. The building itself had in the past been the stables for Pattenden's horse drawn coach service. Rapidly establishing herself as the local photographer of choice, before too long she was employing two assistants, the war years providing a surge in business, despite often requiring extreme efforts to acquire film.
She was famous for her ability to bring the best from all of her portrait subjects; adults, children, babies and even groups of multiple animals! Her assistants would often help to bring the best from such challenging subjects - many of her portraits were displayed at Institute of British Photographers exhibitions in London. By assessing the best approach needed to relax each individual (having known some since birth), she could achieve a portrait that could be treasured. She was forthright but kind in taking into account any preconceived ideas of setup or pose her subject might have - almost invariably clients ending up favouring her preferences!
In the days before digital image manipulation, Marjorie would personally retouch images with brush and dye as required, with a believe that her clients would want to look their best - most subjects did not take the Cromwell approach! She later married auctioneer Stephen Tidey and managed to continue her career with the help of a nanny. Her first professional commission having been taken in 1930 during her apprenticeship, Marjorie took her final professional portrait in 1995.
For more about Marjorie's life, to read some of her personal memories and for a curated overview of a broad selection of her photography reproduced to a high quality, see Henfield: Through the Lens of Marjorie Baker (2007) by Alan Barwick, Henfield Museum Curator.
All photos in the Marjorie Baker Collection are the copyright of Henfield Museum, being digitised from the original negatives. We allow use under the following Creative Commons license:
Please contact us if you would like to use any of the photos on this page for commercial purposes or would like a high quality version. We are happy to discuss usage for a negotiable fee.
If you would like to order a digital or physical copy of one of Marjorie's photos, please get in touch. We will need to know as many of the following details as possible:
- Name of individual or family photographed
- Approximate date
- Address of the family at the time