From Billy Fury to Bolivia

Intern Bekki Frost blogs about the amazing work she’s been doing digitising Oxfam’s photo archive – and the hidden gems she’s unearthed in the process.

I came to Oxfam in January with the task of creating a digital archive of all its photographic material.

The task is quite daunting but I’m thoroughly enjoying it! I am spending my days here sorting through thousands of negatives, prints and contact sheets, selecting the most important, relevant and beautiful photographs to be scanned, captioned and uploaded. And I’m finding lots of little treasures…

There are some great celebrity shots in the archive, my favourites so far are Billy Fury cuddling a puppy for the 1964 Christmas Gift Appeal (see below), and Graham Hill taking part in the London to Brighton Rally in 1972 for Oxfam (also below).

I have also found a very interesting negative of Mick Jagger in Nicaragua just after the earthquake in 1972. Unfortunately the negative seems to be polarized so will not print very well but I am on the hunt to find the photographer, where the original negative is, and a bit more information on it, as it is a cracking shot. Hopefully I’ll be able to share it in the near future.

Billy Fury Christmas Gift Appeal. December 1964


As well as all the prints and negatives, there are six boxes in Oxfam House of around 4-5000 copy negatives/single frame negatives, all sleeved and captioned beautifully. I found a stunning photograph among these that I had to scan immediately.

Here is the sleeved captioned contact:


And the scanned negative:

bolivia 2

Depicting a Bolivian Family in July 1964, the photo is titled “Promised Land’ and the caption explains that although the land in the jungle of East Bolivia is fertile, it was uninhabitable for years because of disease. Having finally conquered the problems of Malaria and Yellow Fever, the Government was able to move about 600 families  into new homes in the area. The picture shows a family stood on a hill watching their new home being built.

I am having a great time working on this project. The excitement of not knowing what will be in the next box of negatives is addictive and the satisfaction of creating a thorough pictorial archive is immense. Once it is all finished I am hoping to create something to show it all off, maybe a book or an exhibition. Watch this space…