Early silver gelatin photographic print of Gaff Yawl Seaweed On port tack in the Solent, by Kirk and Sons of Cowes, signed in white ink.
William Umpleby Kirk (Kirk and Sons) A photographer of the late Victorian era. Born in Hull and grew up nearby where, in the early 1870s, he set up his first photographic studio. His early work has survived and are collected. In 1881 Kirk movies to Cowes, Isle of Wight. Cowes at the time was the centre of yachting internationally. A sport of royalty and the rich and privileged. At Cowes boats and yachts were raced, bought, sold and of course shown off. Kirk photographed the boats and their owners. He specialised in Marine photography, in portraiture e.g a copy of Kirk’s photograph of The Marquis of Ormonde is held in the British National Archives at Kew.
He also photographed groups at house parties, tutor groups and sports teams of Naval Cadets at Osborne Naval College. His photographs of the sumptuous interiors of large yachts remain to record that era.
Kirk’s reputation grew when he photographed Queen Victoria’s yacht, HMY Alberta at a speed of 10 knots entering Cowes Harbour; this is said to be one of the first British photographs of a vessel in motion. (citation needed) and to have earned him the Royal Warrant to Queen Victoria. Photographs by Kirk of the yachts Bona and Ailsa, for example, were sold by auction at Christie’s, New York.