How did Santa photography begin.
How having a photo with Santa began is a really interesting story, also interesting to see how far it has drifted from the original idea.
I like to think we at Our Real Santa Experience are returning it back closer to the original idea.
The first department store photo is generally believed to have been introduced in Brockton Massachusetts in 1880.
By the early 20th century Santa started to become a feature in many kinds of stores in the lead up to Christmas around the United States.
In the 1930’s a visit to the department store to see Santa was not uncommon for most people who lived in urban areas around the United States, but taking a photo with Santa and selling it to mums and dads was to become something new.
In December of 1943, The Fredrick & Nelson department store in down town Seattle decided to move Santa from deep within the store and put him in a window display at the front of the store.
“Happy” French as he was known was a photographer for the Seattle Post – Intelligencer and was known as something of a gruff hence the ironic nickname of “happy”.
“Happy” French had a desk at a window that was across from the department store and sitting at his desk he could watch children climbing onto Santa’s lap with parents looking on, and this gave him an idea.
A year later for the 1944 Christmas season French took several weeks leave from his job, got permission from Frederick and Nelson and set up a concession close to the department store Santa in the department store window.
French used a HIDDEN large format camera and captured candid shots (yes these were candid shots not staged smile shots) portraits really of children visiting with Santa in black and white.
It was so successful that French did it again in 1945.
How it became popular around the USA from there is unclear but in 1946 Time magazine profiled French and the industry he had launched.