Since 1888 three generations of the Beken family- Frank, Keith and Kenneth (along with Peter Mumford) – have produced a mammoth archive of some one million plus marine photographic images, which have now been put up for sale with a large price tag.
When Frank died in 1970 the Beken and Son pharmacy was sold, leaving the photographic side of the business to stand alone. Keith’s son Kenneth joined the now renamed Beken of Cowes company. Over the next 4 decades Kenneth would cover worldwide regattas, championships and gatherings.
‘Beken of Cowes’ is revered worldwide for its high-quality images which are recoginsed as a pictorial history of the development of modern yachting.
Although the majority of photographs were taken on the Solent, the family did venture further afield with major events abroad including the America’s Cup, the Olympic Games, Tall Ships gatherings and offshore powerboat races. Indeed, Kenneth himself raced a powerboat along with another Cowes businessman Barry Cass.
Following his retirement in 2011 and after careful consideration Kenneth Beken has decided to sell the complete black and white historical archive compiled between 1888 and 1970. A number of America’s Cup yachts are included in this section along with shots of various liners, including Titanic. Aeroplanes and Seaplanes feature with some from the Schneider Trophy Air Races.
These particular images plus the right to use the name ‘Beken of Cowes’ have a pricetag of £3.5 million. In addition the modern colour archive has a valuation of £1.5 million.
Kenneth is insistent that he will continue with his photographic career “For the next ten years” though. Many of the original plate-glass images have been restored to highlight their quality.
Having been given first refusal to acquire the extensive archive the National Maritime Museum declined the offer. Getty Images took the stance that they concentrate on celebrity portraiture, not marine subjects.
Report thanks to Alan and Suzanne Whitewood