Historical Photographs Identified

Historical Photographs Identified

I identify old black and white photographs of soldiers, sailors, airman and marines from 1850 to 1980, for the families of those who served.

We did it!

On 14th May 2017 we successfully raised £170 with 7 supporters in 56 days


Good Day! Allow me to introduce myself. I am David McLoughlin, founder and sole proprietor of IRIS; Image Research & Identification Services.

I have been fortunate enough to work in the field of historical photographs for over thirty-five years, both as a freelance picture researcher and an in-house photographic archivist for companies as diverse as The Photo Source, Sky News, The History Channel and The Press Association. I have an Honours Degree in History and have studied Art and Design History and the History of Photography.

IRIS was set up to identify old black and white photographs and post cards held by members of the public, institutions, museums and photographic archives. There are millions of people in the UK, and further afield, who are interested in the fields of Genealogy, History and Ancestry, and many of them have photos of relatives or ancestors who have served in the Armed Forces, as well as photos of vehicles, buildings or events, that have very little or no information available on them. This is where IRIS can help. By undertaking the research into these images, using my years of experience and considerable historical knowledge and identifying these snapshots in time, I can bring the personal history behind these photographs to light. In addition to this service, I can also undertake military records searches for individuals who served, going back as far as the eighteenth century. So not only can the military images you provide be identified, but the soldier, sailor, airman or marine’s path through his military and war service can be deciphered, giving the client the whole picture. And for those whose images are painted rather than photographed, I offer an identification and valuation service.



It is easy to think that, with the aid of the internet, anyone can research images and find out everything they need to know. But deciphering clues hidden in the image is not as easy as you might think. With military photographs there is a language of stripes, stars, bars and patches that is unique and tricky to navigate. Unless you are a military historian. Having an extensive library, built up over forty years also helps. Experience over many years of image researching makes it far easier to look at an image and give it an approximate date and, for example, whether it is an English scene or a foreign scene, or if it is an American Battle Cruiser or a German Light Cruiser. Types of clothing can also date a picture, as can the look of a vehicle, or the fact that a particular building  that is in the photograph did not exist after World War Two. And there are many other tricks and tips that can help identify much of an image before one hits the books or the internet. And the latter is a tool that only works if you know exactly how to use it and in the right context. And most people have neither the time, knowledge or desire to go through all that to identify something. But I do. There is another and very important aspect of my work.  Millions of men, women and children were invloved in the cataclysme that was the Second World War. There are just as many stories that have never been told, stories of soldiers, sailors, marines and airman, those who were the combatants, the background boys and girls, intelligence gatherers, Bevan Boys, and so many others whose stories were never known or told. I want to tell as much of those stories as I can. My expertise is in the military, so I concentrate on discovering the tales of the fighters and those who also served, in less gallant roles. And now, we are losing those who served, each and every week. These people are in the eighties and older. Theyr'se are the stories that should be discovered and told and saved for the families and for future historians. Records ARE kept, but with photographs you have a moment captured in time, and it puts the stories into perspective. 



This is an example  of the work I have done for a previous client. Upon receiving a commission to identify a photograph of an airman or, as he was so young, an air cadet, I first found the location where almost all air cadets were trained prior to World War Two. The White band worn along the top of his forage cap gave me the institution he was in. It was then a long and difficult search to try and put a name to the face. The photograph had been purchased by a new museum, and was among a number of documents belonging to a young woman, all dating to the beginning of WWII. There were passes and cards and identification papers, and these gave us her location and age in the 1940’s. And this one photograph. It had been repeatedly put into something; a wallet or purse. And there were no other images with the package. The records section of the training site had no records of anyone with this young woman’s surname. There is a site which has the records and some photographs of all the aircrew that flew for the RAF during the 1939-1945 war. And it was there I found an image that was the young man, just a few years older. He had been a fighter pilot, and was shot down and killed in 1944. The picture was that of a young man, given to his girl in time of war. She kept it with all the other mementos  of her time during that war. And when she died it found it’s way to a museum where it will be put on display, and their story will be remembered. 



The work I do brings the history behind these images to life. It allows people to look back, at events or relatives, items or buildings, that had an influence on the course of their families lives. And the rates I charge, £25 per day, per image researched, mean that it is affordable to almost every one. With military service records it is £25 per day plus £30 if I have to get the full documentation from the Armed Forces Documents. It is an affordable way of finding out more about your family history. What I am hoping to achieve with this crowdfunding page is to be able to advertise my services in the various magazines and periodicals that cover historical and genealogical research and also the black and white photography magazines. I also need to travel to see many of these clients, which is proving difficult at the moment. I want to be able to decipher these moments of history caught forever by the camera, for my clients, and to ensure that future generations know the stories of the past. I can achieve all this with your help and support.  I thank you for listening.



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