COWES, ISLE OF WIGHT
Canterbury, Castle Road, Cowes
Frank William Beken arrived on the Isle of Wight in 1888 at eight years of age, when his family moved to Cowes from Canterbury. His father, Alfred Edward Beken had purchased an existing pharmacy situated in the town.
Cowes was already famous for its International Sailing Regatta and young Frank was captivated by the sight of the magnificent yachts that he could watch from his bedroom window. He was so inspired by them that photography soon became Frank’s passion.
Unfortunately, cameras of the time just did not reach Frank’s expectations, so he designed and constructed his own. Innovative at the time, his large format wooden box camera was the forerunner of the later developed twin-lens reflex camera. Frank, alone in an open boat, operated the camera by holding it in both hands and firing the shutter with a rubber bulb ‘air’ release in his mouth. He also constructed an enlarger in his bedroom that obtained its light source from the window. This enabled him to produce fine prints from his negatives that were then sold in his fathers Pharmacy, alongside the medicines, toiletries and perfumes.Frank was one of the finest photographers of all time and his lasting legacy is the Beken Marine Photography Archive.
Even today, very large prints of his classic yacht photographs are still produced and much revered.