My Great Great Grandfather, Max Guillon, and his brother Valentin, were both professional photographers back in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. The Guillon family were originally from France, but moved to England in the 1880s. Max Guillon settled in the Brighton/London area of the country and owned several studios throughout his career. Valentin initially resided in Plymouth, but eventually settled in Bristol.
Not long after I started my research, I came across a website called Sussex Photo History. The webmaster, David Simkin, had been researching Max Guillon’s career and had in his possession a number of carte de visites and genuine photographs, taken by Max. Seeing these for the first time was quite emotional and I immediately started searching for more examples online.
On his website, David Simkin writes; “Maximilian Guillon was one of the few photographers in the Brighton & Hove area [during the late 1890’s] who concentrated [almost exclusively] on the production of ‘architectural photographs.’ He was unusual in that he produced photographs of residences and I have yet to see one studio portrait produced by him.”
After much searching and bidding online, I now own 6 photographs taken by Max and 26 photographs taken by Valentin. I have also discovered an additional 33 postcards held at the Bristol Records Office, 2 photographs of Victor Hugo held at the Paris Musee and 2 photographs of a private dwelling held at the Priaulx Library in Guernsey.
It amazes me how many photographs have survived and how many people are so eager to collect them! I can’t imagine anyone being this interested in my work when I’m dead and gone! I’m disappointed that I can’t own every single photograph that Max and Valentin took, but it’s reassuring to know that so many of them are being kept safe in libraries and museums.
If you would like to find out more about Max and Valentin, head over to my Guillon Photographers website. It’s not the best site in the world and you may find that it doesn’t resize well for mobile devices, but I built it about 6 years ago and have never gotten around to transferring it over to a WordPress site.
Nicky Woodward, March 2020