Okk Arts is excited to present a curated collection of The Aerofilms Archive. The project allows us to promote local history and find perfect venues for those photos. All photos are available as giclee prints of various sizes. We also have the option of a wallpaper print. Please contact us for a quote. 


The Aerofilms Archive –  A City on the Horizon


A City on the Horizon, is an exhibition of the first oblique aerial photographs taken of the city of Birmingham. Dating from 1919 – 1953 these incredible photographs show a city on the rise and provide an exclusive view into its past, whilst envisaging the cityscape we see today. With many of our most beloved landmarks still visible, they can be used as anchors to map the subtle and dramatic architectural changes that have shaped the contemporary metropolis we see today.

Birmingham’s changing and dramatic skyline has become synonymous with the city’s persona. Always on the rise, this dynamic city has had a fluidly shifting, and developing landscape since its birth; with the most climactic changes taking place over the last 100 years. It’s within this pivotal period Royal Navy observer Francis Wills and pioneer aviator Claude Graham White began to photograph the city from above.

These two dare devil entrepreneurs took to the sky’s in one earliest forms of aircrafts to photograph Britain using nothing but a heavy large format camera and shooting on delicate glass plate negatives. It’s from these original glass plates, which have been preserved by Historic England, that we are able to print this incredible photographic collection and bring ‘A City on the Horizon’ together for its first commercial exhibition of limited edition fine art Gi Clee prints, available for purchase on request.

Francis Wills, Jerry Shaw and Claude Friese-Greene posing in AIRCO Ltd’s De Havilland DH.9B K-109 11 July 1919

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’.

All images have the copyright of Historic England Archive.