Twenty years in London

akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh
akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh

Last Wednesday, we welcomed some of our friends and clients to the akg offices in London to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the founding of the London office. To mark the occasion we organised a small brunch with a retro theme, complete with pretty vintage crockery, finger sandwiches and tea. Many of the guests remembered the party we held for our tenth anniversary, some remembered akg’s London office when it first opened, a few even remembered contacting and in some cases visiting our head office in Berlin in the years before we opened up in London.

akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh
akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh

akg-images has been in existence since November 1945 when it was first opened as a photographic press agency by the art collector and journalist Wilifred Göpel. After Wilifred’s death in 1990, his son Justus took over the reins and was instrumental in the founding of CEPIC, the umbrella organisation that gathers together the various European trade associations for picture agencies. A year after CEPIC begain, akg London was founded, and a year after that our colleagues in Paris opened their doors for the first time. The Berlin office is now run by Justus’ wife Kathrin and their eldest son Friedrich: Friedrich spent a year working in our London office in 2006/2007 so knows this part of south-west London pretty well!

akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh
akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh

A number of the guests at our party last week remembered akg London’s first office near Parsons Green. I joined akg twelve years ago and by that time we had moved to our current location, just by Putney Bridge in Fulham. When I first joined the company, we were still receiving requests by letter and sending out bundles of prints and transparencies in the post; our first steps with digital images usually meant sending a scan by connecting to their ISDN line and dialing it through, as sending a (not very high-res) scan via email was the stuff of science fiction.

akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh
akg-images vintage brunch, 25 June 2014, photo © Stephanie Marsh

The filing cabinets filled with prints and transparencies are now all gone from the London office, only their outlines on the carpets remain! All our originals and valuable prints were sent back to Berlin for safe storage and we are a digital office. I can still hardly believe it. At the end of the CEPIC Congress last month, akg Berlin hosted a garden party and guests were treated to a grand tour of the impressive headquarters by Nikolassee. We may have given up our filing cabinets in London, but Berlin has more than enough to keep going! A digital archive presents its own idiosyncrasies: as technology and scanning techniques advance we have to keep up, in order to provide our clients with the very best versions of our images we can offer; we have to ensure we have enough storage space for all the enormous tif scans that are produced daily, as well as supplying physical storage for all the original negatives, glass plates and prints we keep carefully in Berlin; and we have to ensure that our website, which started off life as a rather basic marketing tool with about three pages some fifteen years ago, is able to cope with the demand of all our clients and agents worldwide who use it every day in their research.

Elegant 1920s party scene © akg-images / Florilegius
Elegant 1920s party scene © akg-images / Florilegius

Our office in London is small so we were limited in the numbers of guests we could invite to our celebration last week. We would have liked to have invited everyone who has ever worked with us: researchers, editors, designers, authors, photographers and collectors. It has been a fantastic twenty years and we look forward to serving you into the future!

I have chosen a selection of favourite photographs, painting and illustrations from the akg-images archive that matched the vintage theme of our brunch, please visit our searchable website to browse through them, preferably with a cup of tea and a slice of cake!

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