This stylish-looking woman was my great-aunt Esther, and I believe this was the beach at Brighton, Sussex, as I have another photo from the same period, but not taken on the same day, in which she and two of her sisters were sitting in deckchairs and it says Brighton on something behind them.
I decided to keep things simple and do part of the background as a slight tint rather than in full colour, as I wanted Esther to be more noticeable than the people pottering around with their boats in the distance. Also the photo was too damaged to make out exactly what they were doing, so I thought an impression was best.
If you’re viewing this on a phone or tablet you probably won’t be able to see the detail, but if you’re on a desktop I hope you’ll be able to make out the pebbles in the foreground. I’ve tried to make them as realistic as possible. I know Brighton, though haven’t been for many years, and its pebbles are many different colours, though the predominant colour is pinkish. I started colouring them like that then stopped myself because, of course, this was taken on a dull, cloudy, day – or maybe it started out bright but then, typical of Britain, it became overcast. So there are no sharp contrasts of light and shade and… the pebbles are shiny which means it had recently rained.
Wet pebbles are darker than when they are dry and it brings out their detail.
The tracks behind Esther look old and worn, so I weathered them with the colour that damp, greening wood has.
Most of the family were in the fabric trade in one way or another and like most of the clothes in my family photos of that period and earlier, I thought this might have been an outfit she’d made herself, particularly as the family weren’t wealthy.
Embroidery, silk or satin lined jacket, pleated skirt, metal or metallic adornment, beads, stockings, white shoes, pale gloves and decorative bag, and a wide brimmed hat… did everyone dress up for a day at the seaside or were she and her out-of-shot sisters on their way back from something? A tea-dance? A wedding? I doubt that I’ll ever know.