This period photograph is hardly a ‘snapshot’ at all: it could scarcely have been more carefully posed. In particular, the suave proprietor (one assumes) of this modest establishment, sitting centre, with his legs casually crossed, has taken up the same pose that a poet or an artist, or distinguished statesman, would adopt for the most formal of portraits.
It is a fascinating image and one that contains more questions than it does answers. 35 overall-clad mechanics face the camera, a significant workforce even in days of low wages and labour-intensive procedures, whilst far left is surely the man from the office: the man on the extreme right, his head to one side, exudes an air of unreliability. Maybe he’s just called round for some overdue rent. This modest workplace has sliding doors, and a similar building is just visible across the yard or back alley.
Identification is awaited of the make of the two cars: they seem to be of identical design, and not new. There’s evidence of use, and the exhaust silencer seen lying on the floor is very dirty. The steering column of the car seen to the left is dismounted and its box must rest on the floor, and that car’s engine is either out, or has its cylinder block/s removed. Drip-feed oilers sit behind and a little above the vertical and shapely dashboards, and a sliding gate-change gearbox is indicated. The car sitting to the right is over an inspection pit. Vaguely Darracq-like, its radiator bears no nameplate and has a vertical gilled-tube cooling element. Is that a chain-guard just visible inside the near-side rear wheel of this car?
The postcard hasn’t been mailed and carries no inscription on the reverse. The general design features of the cars suggest those common in, say, 1906. Can some follower of ‘snapshots’ put us out of our misery?