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Marine Photo Service 

MPS ... the company that photographed the world was the first company, therefore the oldest company in the world, to recruit photographers and place them on cruise ships, their sole purpose to take photographs of passengers as they travelled in luxury, visiting destinations across five continents. Since the 1920’s MPS grew from being the only employer of ship board photographers, to being the leading light. Subsequent companies that set up placing photographers on cruise ships did so by following MPS’s example, every company in business today has in some way been influenced by those very first steps taken in the 1920’s by Marine Photo Service and the Morris family. This was never recognised more than when the National Maritime Museum’s curator John Graves decided to write a book called “Waterline” about MPS ships and their photographers, photographers who unwittingly not only archived the various cruises and passengers, but also left an amazing legacy of negatives, giving an unprecedented insight into fashion, ports and countries all over the world and how they have changed in the last 88 years.

 

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Marine Photo service was founded by Gilbert Morgan Morris a self employed photographer returning to England from South Africa after being commissioned to photograph war graves, he was returning on a Union-Castle Line ship, the year was 1920, en-route he was approached by a representative of 'Thomas Cook' and asked to photograph their tour party, having no immediate employment in prospect he felt this would be a good way to while away the time on the return journey and as they say, 'the rest is history' and in this case it truly is, Marine Photo Service was born and here started an extraordinary lifestyle for many and an unrivalled archive of photographs from all over the world.

 

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MPS was a family run business and as such had a very relaxed and friendly relationship with all its photographers, MPS photographers came from all over Britain and some in the early years were service men who remained in Britain after WW2, a significant number however were local, coming from in and around Colchester, a close and friendly relationship was essential when sending photographers as young as 17 to destinations as far away as New Zealand and Australia, the first posting was often the very first time photographers were separated from their families as well as being the first trip overseas, photographers built up an incredible bond with co-workers and met regularly with colleagues from other ships.
 

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One of these photographers was Geoff Pettit an ex-army intelligence officer; Geoff’s first posting with MPS was in 1954 as ships photographer on the Kungsholm on a four month world cruise. Geoff spent many happy years with MPS, but as all MPS photographers do at some stage he made the decision to leave the sea and in 1968 founded Colchester Colour Processors (CCP) a Colchester based professional photographic laboratory, Geoff and therefore CCP kept a very strong link with MPS.

 

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Photographers had the option of training on the latest equipment at CCP before setting off to sea and CCP had its pick of photographers who wished to have a spell ashore, together CCP & MPS became one of Colchester’s larger employers, CCP under Geoff’s tutelage rose rapidly and soon became East Anglia’s largest Professional Laboratory, one of CCP’s other businesses Colchester Photographic Wholesalers was sold on as Geoff was unable to divide his time successfully between both businesses, CPW was soon to become one of the country’s leading photographic wholesalers.
 

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In the early years MPS continued to expand its fleet of commissioned ships, the most exciting at times, were the Russian ships, sailing in and around the black sea, when most of the west were being frozen out of the USSR and contact between East and West was at its bleakest MPS photographers were excepted as honorary Russians’ and were wondering ashore in places such as Odessa, Yalta and Varna, MPS directors flew regularly to Russia at this time when western diplomats were having their visas refused, MPS was to secure and extend contracts with the Black Sea Shipping Company throughout this cold war period.
 
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The most lucrative ship, and MPS’s flag ship was the Oriana, this was the Orient flag ship and when Orient merged with the Pacific Shipping Company it became one of P & O’s leading ships. MPS photographers manned this ship for most of its life from the Ł10 immigrant passengers being shipped to Australia with the promise of a new and exciting life through to its final cruise in March 1986. 
The Oriana in its later years sailed out of its home port of Sydney Australia doing fortnightly South Pacific cruises with Australian and New Zealand passengers with a few far eastern cruises each year including ports in Red China, Korea, Guam, Manila and Japan, the Oriana’s name lives on, as a new P & O ship is currently sailing under the name Oriana. 
 

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Geoff who sadly died on 17th January 2008 instigated a reunion of the two companies to be held at the Holiday Inn Eight Ash Green Colchester on the 25th October 2008, so far there has been a huge response to the reunion, the web site www.ccpmarine.co.uk and the e-mail ccp.marine@gmail.com have been very instrumental in bringing old ship mates and colleagues together, we have had many responses from not just the length and breadth of the UK but also from countries as far away as Australia and New Zealand, MPS truly was a global company in every sense of the word, its photographers took part in, watched and photographed history ... 

 

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... they witnessed the Sydney Opera House being built, visited Eastern block countries when high ranking western diplomats were refused entry, stepped foot on Pacific islands with undiscovered tribes still to be discovered in their interiors and one or two of them over the last 88 years may just have made a little bit of history themselves.

 

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It’s fitting that Marine Photo service (MPS) & Colchester Colour Processors (CCP) are organising their reunion in Britons’ oldest recorded town, “Colchester” which was their base for so many years. To get involved with the Marine Photo Service & CCP Reunion on the 25th October 2008 here's the contact information again; 

Website: www.ccpmarine.co.uk

Email: ccp.marine@gmail.com 
 

Thanks go to Mark Winterbottom for sending in all the above information and photos. Mark's contact information is;

Website: www.redwoodphoto.com

Email: mark@redwoodphoto.com 

  

The next reunion will be on Saturday 12th October 2013 at the Holiday Inn, Eight Ash Green. All the above contact details still apply so get in early and book your place. 

 

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