Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was born in Leeds in 1853 – just 14 years after the birth of photography. He was the son of Thomas Sutcliffe, an artist, lecturer and art critic.
In 1870 the family moved to Whitby, where they had often spent their summer holidays. His father died the following year and Frank, now the head of the family at eighteen, decided to make his living with a camera.
Whitby in Victorian times was a thriving tourist resort and Frank Sutcliffe became very successful taking studio portraits of the wealthy holiday makers.
Taking portraits in a studio paid the bills, but Sutcliffe really wanted to photograph the everyday working people in Whitby and the beautiful surrounding countryside.
He developed an affection and respect for the town and its people which shines through his work, producing photographs which were not only of the highest technical merit, but also displayed great artistry.
Between 1880 and 1894, Sutcliffe was awarded around sixty gold, silver and bronze medals at exhibitions as far a field as New York, Tokyo, Berlin, Paris, Chicago and Vienna, as well as at major exhibitions in this country.

The beautiful photographs taken by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe live on at The Sutcliffe Gallery in Whitby where, for the last 60 years, the Shaw family have been the custodians of the collection, always conscious of being responsible for a great National archive.
Visitors from all over the world make a pilgrimage to the gallery and are fascinated to see how working people lived in Victorian England. The Sutcliffe photographs portray an immediacy and realism of everyday life that paintings of the period sometimes struggle to emulate.

All the sepia photographs you see on this website were taken in and around Whitby by Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (Hon. F.R.P.S.) between 1875 and 1910.
His large camera was made of mahogany with brass fittings and took 'whole plate' glass negatives (6.5"x8.5").
Photography in Victorian times was not an easy craft to master and people were often content to produce an acceptable image which was sharp and well exposed - but there were a handful of photographers who wanted to lift their pictures into the heady realms of 'Art'.
Frank Meadow Sutcliffe was one of these artists and he became world famous as one of the greatest exponents of pictorial photography and was made an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Photographic Society in 1935, the highest award attainable.

The Sutcliffe Gallery was established in 1959 when we purchased the collection of 1500 original glass plate negatives taken by award winning Victorian photographer, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe. We have been the sole publisher of this unique collection ever since.
After 60 years experience, the quality we are now able to achieve is stunning!


Michael was born in the rugged North Yorkshire fishing town of Whitby where observation of surroundings and climate change come as second nature. Having worked in the photographic world all his life, Michael took up photography seriously around twenty years ago, prior to this, taking and developing his own black and white photographs in The Sutcliffe Gallery darkroom as a teenager in the 1970s. Digital format photography was the catalyst which inspired him to seek his own style.

Amongst the artists in photography who have impressed and influenced Michael over the years are his father Bill Eglon Shaw, Ansel Adams, Joe Cornish, and of course, Frank Meadow Sutcliffe (Mike is now the curator of the Sutcliffe collection).

Although Michael uses 'Photoshop' for image processing, he prefers the minimum of manipulation and enhancement. Natural light and atmosphere are more important. However, the control over the final image is a great technical advantage. To make a photograph a 'picture', the requirements are the same as those for a good painting: light, atmosphere, composition ... and of course, subject matter. Patience and persistence can pay dividends.

Back in the 'digital darkroom' technical creativity can take time. In general, the less alteration and manipulation the better, but taking time to crop the image,brighten or sharpen it, can make the world of difference.