Okk Arts has partnered with Birmingham Aerofilms to showcase and promote the Birmingham part of this fantastic archive. Birmingham Aerofilms is part of Aerofilms Ltd. Here you can see some examples of this archive, however, if you are interested in purchasing any other documentation of Birmingham streets from the early 20th century, then please contact Jaanika here.
The archive is copyright ‘Historic England, Swindon’
The Aerofilms History
Aerofilms Ltd was born on 9 May 1919. An unprecedented business venture, it hoped to marry the still fledgling technology of powered flight to the discipline of photography. Its founders were Claude Grahame-White, an internationally-famous English aviation pioneer, and Francis Lewis Wills, a trained architect who had flown as an observer for the Royal Naval Air Service during the First World War. Together they embarked on a distinctively British tale of derring-do. From developing photographic glass plates in a hotel bathroom at the London Flying Club in Hendon, to producing many thousands of aerial images every year, they took a tool which had first been used for military intelligence, and repackaged it for the mass market.
As a result, Aerofilms lived through and recorded one of the most tumultuous periods in British history. After surviving the worldwide economic crash of the Great Depression in the 1930s, and serving their country at the request of Winston Churchill during the Second World War, they were still on hand to help shape the Britain of the future, capturing the major reconstruction projects of the 1940s and 50s.
The collection has thousands of images, including many that are rare or previously unseen. They present a vivid and uniquely varied picture of the nation in the first half of the twentieth century. Including urban, suburban, rural, coastal and industrial scenes, providing important evidence for understanding and managing the built and natural environments. These are the first oblique aerial photographs taken of Britain and their cultural and historical importance is renowned.
The story of the company’s enigmatic founders, daredevil pilots, skilled photographers and innovative advertisers is one to be explored as they manufactured and sold a potent sense of place and identity to the British people. The story of Aerofilms – the men and women behind the company and the photographs that they produced – is a story of innovation, entrepreneurial spirit, war, marketing and the making of ‘Brand Britain’.