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In 1888, Alfred Edward Beken moved to Cowes and bought a pharmacy. His son Frank was captivated by the boats and the harbour – and decided to record these scenes.

Rowing out into the Solent, Frank Beken used an innovative camera of his own design – a large wooden box with handles either side, a lens and a viewing screen.

A rubber ball on a lead was used to release the shutter. By squeezing the ball with his teeth, Frank was able to hold the camera steady and produce negatives on which the horizon was level.

In the 1930s, Frank was joined in the business by his son Keith, giving rise to the Beken & Son name. Together, Frank and Keith produced an archive of over 130,000 glass plate negatives and, in the 1950s, moved into colour photography. By the late 1960s, as requests came in to photograph ever faster sailing and power craft, their big box camera was retired in favour of a smaller one.

Following Frank’s death in 1970, Keith was joined by his son Kenneth in the new company of Beken of Cowes. Each generation of the Beken family has earned the title ‘Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society’ and Beken of Cowes has held three Royal Warrants for excellence.

Beken of Cowes

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