It is impossible to say how Thomas Shires's undoubted talent for photography would have evolved over the years.
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But sadly his life ended in 1905 at the age of 28.

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About The Collection
AN INTRODUCTION TO THE THOMAS SHIRES COLLECTION BY BOB SHIRES.
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As a young man in the 1970's I became interested in photography, and my father gave me two wooden boxes and a small folder containing a collection of glass and celluloid negatives taken by his uncle (my great uncle) in the early years of the last century.
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These negatives have formed the basis of an ‘on and off’ hobby from that day to this.
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At that time, long before digital, I did not have an enlarger which would carry the 5inch by 4inch negatives, so I borrowed an antique magic lantern projector, and in an improvised darkroom in our kitchen, often to my wife’s annoyance, I projected the images onto a wall where my printing paper was fixed with sticky tape, over a number of months I managed to produce an acceptable set of prints from many of the negatives.
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From time to time since then I have opened the album and admired the quality of this small collection, and occasionally tried to research the locations and retake the pictures in an up to date setting.
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I have always thought that my ‘private little collection’ might be of interest to a wider audience, and also it has concerned me that the years would inevitably lead to the deterioration of the original negatives, so I recently decided to have the negatives professionally scanned. After a little research I came across The House of Images, a company which specialises in scanning antique photographs, and Ian Smith of that company very helpfully picked up the collection and returned it a few days later along with five discs containing the digitised images.
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Having the images available on a computer screen was a joy. Compared with the struggles in the early days I could now instantly view the pictures and zoom in to examine the marvellous detail, I could change the contrast and brightness and remove blemishes in a few seconds, but the obvious next step was a black art to me, how could I make the pictures available on the internet?
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A chance visit to a another antique photograph collection web site proved to be the turning point. The Rowley Collection web site impressed me sufficiently to call the designers Skiptonweb, and whilst they were unable to help me directly they suggested I speak to Mark Wilson of Cowlingweb.
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Mark was immediately enthusiastic about my project, his enthusiasm was remarkable, within a couple of days the framework of the site was developed, and within a couple of weeks the site was live on the internet and the whole world could share my little collection.
ABOUT THOMAS ATHERTON SHIRES
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Thomas Atherton Shires was born in Bolton on the 9th of July in 1877 one of five children that reached adulthood . The family built up a grocery business at 94 Folds Road, and eventually extended it to a second shop elsewhere in Bolton. Thomas was described as a master draper and it is assumed that he was employed in the milliners shop that his two sisters ran next door to the grocery business on Folds Rd.
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As a young man with a steady income Thomas was able to indulge in a hobby and although he is rumoured to have been a member of a ‘banjo’ band, he was principally attracted to the relatively new interest of amateur photography. It is believed that the Sanderson ¼ plate ‘field’ camera used by Thomas only became available in about 1903, so it is possible to date all the pictures to between 1903 and 1905.
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The content of the pictures appears to support the premise that this collection represents the Sunday activities of a middle class young man.
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The people displayed in the photographs are mostly shown in their ‘Sunday best’ cloths, and apart from the Bolton scenes the remaining pictures largely illustrate what would probably have been day trips out by train or by steamer from Liverpool to North Wales or the Isle of Man: One of the Amlwch Port pictures very well supports the Sunday trip theory in that it appears that many local people can be seen on the jetty watching the steamer leave port.
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Unfortunately the collection is limited to 186 pictures, only five rolls of film for a modern photographer, but photography for Thomas Shires was a more involved process; firstly he would set up his tripod in a suitable position, then he would fix the camera to the tripod after which he would carefully view the inverted picture through the camera, with the well known black cloth over his head! Finally when satisfied with the image he would insert the frame containing the glass plate negative into the camera and operate the shutter, having first calculated the exposure time to get the desired result; not exactly ‘point and shoot’.
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It is impossible to say how Thomas Shires's undoubted talent for photography would have evolved over the years, but sadly his life ended in 1905 at the age of 28.
 

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