Then and Now: Lynn Acutt’s photography shop
Lynn Acutt was one of the most prominent professional photographers in Natal. A scion of the Acutt family, his grandfather arrived in Durban in 1850. After 11 years in the motoring industry, Acutt decided to pursue his love of photography. In 1928 he embarked on his new venture which quickly prospered and in the early 1930s moved to premises at 343 West Street. He also had a large studio at 22 Convent Lane which housed the advertising and postcard sections.
In the old photograph dated 1934, Acutt’s West Street shop can be seen with two other old Durban businesses: on the left is Adams Booksellers, and on the right, JF King Ltd (Kings), the gunsmiths and sporting shop. The horse-drawn carriage is something of an anomaly in 1934, and it appears to be an SA Harbours delivery to Acutts.
The recent photograph, taken further back, shows the venerable Adams still in its landmark shop. The Acutts and Kings premises are today a single store occupied by Clicks.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Local History Museum purchased a large number of Acutt’s photographs, and being professionally taken, the quality is superb. Although the city purchases many photographs from other sources and has received countless donations, those by Acutt form a key segment of the museum’s collection, although they only represent a small selection of his work.
Apart from commercial work (photographs of factories, offices, weddings, funerals, accident scenes and models for adverts), Acutt was was also an official photographer for The Natal Mercury and African Film Productions Ltd.
He also went on long expeditions around South Africa and to Mozambique. His car was specially altered for his requirements, which included a roof adapted as a portable platform.
The 1934 photograph is the only close-up of Acutt’s shop, and it was once framed and hung in the shop. After he moved across the road to Embassy House (326 West Street), Kings took over Acutt’s shop. During later alterations to Kings, the photo was about to be thrown out but was saved by one of the contractors. Without its glass, thick dust damaged the photograph. It will now be donated to the Local History Museum to join the many companion photographs from Lynn Acutt’s studio.
The Independent on Saturday