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Bloomsbury Project

Bloomsbury Institutions


Photographic studio


It was a photographic studio run from her family home by Alice Hughes

“In the London of the 1890s Alice Hughes, who shared a house with her father, the society painter Edward Hughes (1832–1908), at 52 Lower Gower Street, was the leading society photographer. At the height of the season she employed up to 60 staff, all female, and personally took up to 15 sittings a day” (Terence Pepper, obituary for Lady Victoria Wemyss, The Independent, 12 May 1994)

It operated in defiance of Bedford estate edicts

“Hughes was unique and revolutionary in many ways. She refused to photograph men, since she disliked men's dress, but would photograph boys until they donned what she termed the ‘toga virilis’ ” (Terence Pepper, obituary for Lady Victoria Wemyss, The Independent, 12 May 1994)

She was also a pioneer of photographic portraits: “By fusing the conventions of society portraiture with the cool, monochromatic tones of the platinum print Hughes created a new and distinctive style of photographic portraiture” (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography)

“Hughes’s example inspired a large number of women to take up photography as a career and the success of women who adapted her style such as Lallie Charles and Rita Martin led to the eventual eclipse of Hughes’s fame, although she continued in business at a second studio in Ebury Street until 1933” (Terence Pepper, obituary for Lady Victoria Wemyss, The Independent, 12 May 1994)

Some of her photographs are in the National Portrait Gallery

What was reforming about it?

Its existence on Bedford estate land was controversial, and its founder’s form of photography was revolutionary and inspirational

Where in Bloomsbury

The studio was at 52 Gower Street from 1891 to 1910

Website of current institution

It no longer exists

Books about it

There is a summary of Alice Hughes and her photographic career, together with an excellent bibliography of interviews and other articles in journals, at PhotoLondon, www.photolondon.org (opens in new window)


There appear to be no extant administrative records of the studio

This page last modified 13 April, 2011 by Deborah Colville


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