Portrait Of Ronald White
Ronald Arthur White (known as Ron)
Born 05/06/1917 Died 08/11/2000
Mabel Anne White nee Pearson (known as Mabs)
Born 09/09/1918 Died 16/02/2001
Vickie Grace White (Harris) Born 08/08/1942
Ivan Graham White Born 06/02/1951
From his teens Ron owned a camera. He played the Cornet and was Leader of the Salvation Army Boys Band. In December 1931 he signed up to be an apprentice carpenter with Herbert Goodsell a builder in Hardy Street Maidstone. He married Mabel Anne Pearson 24/6/1939 In January 1940 he joined the Wiltshire Regiment. Whilst on leave he visited Maidstone Zoo with the family and camera, other visitors asked if he could take their photograph. At the time the Zoo was a huge tourist attraction although people owned cameras film was hard to obtain. While in Germany waiting to be demobed in 1945/6 he acquired a Contax 35mm camera. German photographers seeing his enthusiasm for photography taught him the finer arts of the trade. On arriving back in England he decided on a career change, with the support and help of his wife Mabel, Ronald White Photography was born in April 1946. The front room of 75 Monktons Avenue, Maidstone became a Studio. Remembering that war time visit to the Zoo he approached Sir Garrard Tyrwhitt-Drake who owned the Zoo about hiring a paddock so pictures could be taken .Sir Garrard painted a mural back drop & supplied 2 Royal Cream Pony for children to sit on, the parents could stand alongside if they wished. It proved to be a great success. Equipment was difficult to obtain and expensive but was upgraded during the first year on trading. For example an Enlarger £38 6s 1d, Westax Flash Gun £15 15s, Exposure Meter £8 7s & Leica 111B f2 Sommer £135 3s. Our present Queen then Princess Elizabeth made a private visit on the 12th November 1946 to the zoo. After being presented to the Princess permission was granted to take photographs of the visit. The zoo always opened the season with celebrities ie Richard Hearne (Mr Pastry), Richard Murdock, Elsie & Doris Walters, Pearl Hackney , Eric Barker, John Snagge, & Petula Clark, these visits too were well photographed.
Young Vickie White (Harris) On A Cream Pony
At Maidstone Zoo & The Painted Mural Back Drop
As the demand for Portrait, Weddings & Commercial photography grew the family moved to 8 London Road, Maidstone in 1949. This was part of a large Victorian terrace with a large corrugated iron building connected to it which had been an annexe for the Commercial School. This building was turned into a darkroom and a spacious studio. The basement also housed a darkroom and finishing room. Mabel was the receptionist and did the vast majority of the print finishing work which in the early days often meant working into the early hours of the morning.
With the start of commercial work a quarter plate camera was purchased. As the business grew a half plate camera was acquired. By the middle 50s there were three 5”x4” MPP, all using glass plates. One of the MPP camera’s was still being used in the 1980’s.
The London Road Studio
It was in the early 50s that the first of the major contracts to photograph the construction of the BP oil refinery at the Isle of Grain was won. The 1953 floods created an enormous amount of work, every breach in the sea defences had to be photographed & multiple prints were required, this meant thousands of prints each one produced by hand. There was many high profile visits to the refinery from Sheiks to Sterling Moss which were photographed. In 1955 the Queen officially opened the refinery which was the start of many Royal Visits. Also the Coryton Mobil Gas refinery was photographed as it was constructed .
A Visit to Isle Of Grain Refinery
By Queen Elizabeth II
In 1954 Ron was one of the first professionals in Kent to print his own colour photographs using the Agfa process these were still pioneering times for colour, you had to work in near total darkness and it would take nearly an hour to make one print so it proved not to be a commercial success. Not to be beaten he returned for another go with the Kodak system in the 1960s but it was still to soon.
Ron had joined the Institute of British Photographers to obtain his professional qualification twelve 20”x16” photographs of different subjects were submitted to the Institute. It was one of his proudest moments when in January 1954 he heard that he had been granted Associate Membership and could be put A.I.B.P. after his name. It was in1960 he was President of the Kent Centre of the Institute.
It was in August 1955 that the shop at 27 Pudding Lane, Maidstone opened (See Bottom of page). Ron & Mabel ran the retail between them. The studio and print finishing was moved in upstairs, often Geoff cycled between London Road and Pudding Lane with photographs to be mounted in folders or on wedding album leaves. At the time retail was just a small part of the business. In fact obtaining accounts was not easy & equipment was on quota it was also extremely expensive. For the amateur colour photography was a luxury at 5 shillings (25p) per print. The darkrooms remained at London Road and did not move to Pudding Lane until 1959. All wedding and portraits were taken on 5”x4” until the middle 60s when Yashica & Rollei roll film camera’s were used.
It was in 1963 that Ron opened a retail shop in St. Leonards, Hastings. After leaving Oldborough Manor school in 1967 Ivan joined the business on the retail side plus learning the book keeping. When Ron’s eyesight started to fail in the early 1970’s he stopped taking photographs professionally. It was in the middle 1970’s Ron & Mabel jointly ran the St. Leonards business until they retired in 1988 when the shop was closed. Ivan took charge of the Maidstone business by the middle 70s the retail side had expanded and became equally important as the professional photography. With the quality of film improving over the years in the 80s a Linholf Tecnical camera was acquired using 120 roll film for commercial work. By the late 80s the Yashica & Rollei’s were replaced with Bronica SLR Medium format camera’s.
In 1992 we moved over the road to larger premises (25 Pudding Lane), taking over the lease from Sloman & Pettitt Audio-Visual. Over the years the need for commercial photography had diminished with the advent of camera equipment becoming more user friendly. With Geoff & Angela retiring it was the end of an era. We closed our darkroom and studio. So we moved back across the road to smaller premises (Next door to our original premise in Pudding Lane). We still accommodate Instant Colour Passport & ID photographs. Also the trend for nostalgia keeps us busy with copying and restoring old photographs. Our other speciality is optical equipment Binoculars, Magnifiers, Microscopes & Astronomical /Terrestrial Telescopes.
There is just the two of us Ivan White & Darren May who has worked alongside us since 1992 until joining the Ronald White team in 2000.
Max Tester was our first employee starting in November 1951. He worked in the darkroom and photographed weddings. 1960 As the retail increased Max started helping in the shop eventually working full time.
Geoff Smith started with us as an apprentice in February 1952. Darkroom work at the beginning progressed to Weddings & Commercial photography, also turning his hand in the shop when required. He retired after 50 years with the firm in 2004.
On moving to Pudding Lane Mrs Rowecroft was employed to retouch negatives.
Mrs Balcombe was employed to do finishing work. Print retouching and mounting.
Irene Kemp worked from home doing hand colour work in oils. Later she worked as a retoucher and print finisher at Pudding Lane.
It was after leaving Art College in April 1959 Vickie White joined the business. She started in the darkrooms Monday to Fridays then served in the shop on Saturdays, this also entailed booking weddings. When Mrs Rowecroft left the firm, she took on the retouching and more shop work when required. She married in 1963 and left in January 1965 to start a family.
Angela Madle joined us taking on Vickie’s job, over the years she helped in all departments of the firm and stayed until retiring in 2003.
Peter Falkner joined as trainee photographer and printer operator.
Ray Rogers was a salesman.
Margaret Dean was a part time printer as well as being a Wedding Photographer.
After leaving Oldborough Manor School, Maidstone in 1967 Ivan joined the business on the retail side & learned the book keeping. Until 2000 Ivan was the newest member of Ronald White's.
Darren May joined us in 2000 when Sloman & Pettitt closed.
Our Shop 27 Pudding Lane 1955-1992
Our Shop 24-26 Pudding Lane 1992-2002
Our Current Shop 25 Pudding Lane 2002 - Today