ISLE of Wight postcard collectors will know the name William Hogg.

He photographed events and street scenes in Ryde in the early 1900s which he then produced as postcards, selling them from his tobacconist’s shop and post office at the bottom of George Street in Ryde.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see more of Mr Hogg's work and see the Cross Street photos in chronological order with explanatory captions...

These original postcards are highly sought-after today and collectors will pay anything from £10 for a common scene to £40 or more for the rarer ones. Today, I have custody of about 400 of Hogg’s glass negatives.

Isle of Wight County Press:

One of William Hogg's photos of Cross Street in Ryde. © Alan Stroud/County Press.

Like all serious photographers in those days, Hogg took photographs using a bulky camera made from wood and brass which produced glass-plate-negatives.

He could have used a pocket-sized roll-film camera, but plate cameras were used because of their much higher quality. The downside was lugging them around from place to place.

There was no such thing as an instant snap in those days. Before a photograph could be taken, the camera had to be mounted on its wooden tripod, a struggle at the best of times, and then the glass plates were loaded into the camera one at a time, in a light-proof carrier, and then exposed.

There were no digital settings to work out the exposure — just an educated guess. Then it was back to the darkroom to develop the plates.

Hogg’s negatives that were used to make postcards are glass ‘half plates’ measuring 6½ by 4¾ inches, much bigger than postcard size, which is 3½ by 5½ inches, so to make a postcard Hogg had to mask his negative down to the smaller format.

To do this Hogg would stick strips of paper directly onto the glass negatives to frame a postcard sized picture.

Finally, before printing, Hogg would print a title directly onto the glass negative using minute rubber letters.

When the photographic paper was exposed to light the black inked letters would show up as white lines of text.

Isle of Wight County Press:

This is the shot Mr Hogg chose to make into a postcard; the coloured shading shows his cropping.© Alan Stroud/County Press.

Many of Hogg’s negatives still have these titles stamped on them and the briefest rub with a spirit-soaked piece of cotton wool would remove them but Mr. Hogg’s printed titles are still intact; if they are not wanted on a new print, they can be digitally removed.

Postcards were the text messages of their day and with far more postal collections and deliveries than there are today, a postcard written in the morning would be delivered later that same day.

As a result, the demand for postcards was almost insatiable and they were produced in their millions.

A photograph was allowed on one side of a postcard, and the other side was in two parts, the right-hand side for the address and the left-hand half side for a message. The cost of sending a postcard was half an old penny.

Thanks to Mr Hogg, today we have an almost complete photographic record of a Victorian town, frozen forever in a collection of hundreds of glass negatives of the highest quality. Virtually the whole town has been preserved.

Hogg has photographed scenes of every description, covering nearly the whole of central Ryde, including roads, buildings, lanes and many back streets, which were largely ignored by other photographers.

Very few of Mr. Hogg’s postcards were topical and there are two reasons for this. In the first instance, setting up a camera and tripod for a photograph was a cumbersome, time-consuming task that didn’t allow for the taking of impromptu photographs, and secondly, topical photographs could only be sold for a very short while before becoming outdated.

However, Mr Hogg sometimes had ways round that. For example, he photographed an unusually late snowfall on April 26, 1908, and produced a postcard of it within a few days but later that year those same April scenes made another appearance — this time as a Christmas card!

With a ton of gear to lug around and set up, Hogg took no chances and would take multiple photos of a scene to make sure of capturing a usable one. His postcard of Cross Street, shown here, is a good example.

Taken in May 1906, Hogg took three photos of the same scene within a few moments of each other so that back in his darkroom he could chose the best one to use as a postcard.

On the left hand side of each photo the same self-conscious little girl has remained standing in the same place in the road near the kerb. The baker has got himself in two of the shots — on blowing up the image he is revealed to be “Wright. Baker, 41 High Street, Ryde.”

Preserved for all time are ten minutes in the life of Edwardian Ryde — and the plates are as sparkling and pristine as the day Mr Hogg developed them.

As to the photographic quality, would Mr Hogg swap his camera for a modern digital one? Almost certainly not. He might like the convenience but certainly not the pixels.

Mr Hogg’s photo of the Theatre Royal (main image, top), the site of today’s not-so-lovely NatWest Bank at Ryde, is from one of his 6½ by 4¾ inch plates.

To demonstrate the quality of the plates, alongside is a blow up of the billboard on the wall outside — and not a pixel in sight!

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