Ron Francis had a photography firm in Camberley for over 50 years. His photographic archive of more than 20,000 negatives is part of Surrey Heath Museum’s collection and the collection includes images of local events, family occasions, individuals, industry, buildings and the wider community. The collection is a unique living history of the area’s development through the eyes of his photographic lens.
Ron was born in 1922, the son of Woking photographer Sidney Francis. His love and aptitude for photography took him to London at the age of 14, where he worked for commercial photographers photographing images for the Picture Post and Illustrated Magazine. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy and became one of their Photographic Officer.
After the war Ron moved to York Town taking over long-established ‘Hills & Saunders’ in 1947, where he continued their work of military photography and studio portraiture; much of his early work was from existing customers. The main clients were the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst and Staff College and throughout his career, Ron photographed official visits, parades, military groups, officers and their families.
From the 1950s the area welcomed many new businesses; Ron Francis was commissioned by them to photograph their products and their development. Firms included Aerolex , Linatex, Vivian Loyd, Southern Instruments, Clarks Equipment, Eastmead Trucks and Twin Industries, each of them employing large numbers of local people and all now long gone from this area. Ron also specialised in portraiture, family occasions and events.
As the business expanded he opened a second studio in Camberley (Obelisk Street) and in the next 40 years moved premises 6 times and diversified to sell photography equipment in addition to his photographic work.
Ron Francis was part of Camberley’s history and a prominent member in many societies including Windlesham and Camberley Camera Club, Camberley Round Table and the Camberley Rotary Club. He and his wife Audrey had three children – Ian, Jane and Mark. Mark joined the family firm in the 1970s and it is shortly after Mark’s death in 2004, that the large collection of Francis negatives were donated to Surrey Heath Museum. Ron Francis sadly died in 2010 at the age of 88.
The local branches of Nadfas (National Association of Decorative and Fine Art Societies) and the U3A are cataloguing this collection. This is an ongoing project which due to the number of negatives could span over a few years. You can search the up to date version of the catalogue online by going to our Local History, Research & Ancestry page and clicking on the link near the bottom of the page.