The History of the Shop

Edward Reeves, originally a watch-maker, took up photography in the early 1850's, when photography was in its infancy, and opened his first studio circa 1855. Four generations later, the studio and shop, in the original Victorian 19th century building, with living quarters above, are still operating. Edward Reeves (1824-1905) was succeeded by his son Benjamin Reeves (1874-1948), who handed the family business down to his son Edward Mitchell Reeves (1908-1980), father of Tom Reeves (born 1960) who is now running that same business at 159 High Street in Lewes with his wife Tania Osband.

Lewes is a market town of 17,000 inhabitants in the South Downs in East Sussex.The Edward Reeves studio is believed to be the oldest continuously operated photographic studio in the world. Opening the Shutters aims to map and unlock their archive, concentrating on the work of the first three Reeves photographers.

The Edward Reeves Studio Archive provides an unrivalled insight into English provincial life, work, fashion and recreation over a 116-year period. Unlike more high-profile studios in urban centres, the Edward Reeves Studio archive features few celebrities. Instead, about half the plates are formal portraits of townspeople and the remainder depict everyday life and events in and around Lewes. Alongside records of weddings and funerals, there are pictures of people in shops, factories, prison, at school, and on outlying farms, and, surprisingly perhaps, many pets. There are photographs of sport and of the Lewes bonfire celebrations; records of houses and streets, people at work and at leisure, and recruits about to go to war exercising on the Downs. There are pictures of the nearby Glyndebourne opera house and of the 1903 visit by Buffalo Bill and his troop.

All photographs on this website, unless otherwise indicated, are copyright Edward Reeves and need to be cleared before being used.

For any information regarding the Edward Reeves Studio business please see Edward Reeves Studio Website. For information about the research project and related exhibitions contact