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Boris Bennett was born Boris Sochaczewska to a Jewish family in Ozokoff, Poland, in 1900. He was one of eight children. His father had a small cloth factory, and the family later moved to Lodz, which was the centre of the textile trade.
At the age of 18, Boris left Poland for Paris, partly to avoid military conscription. He worked in a photographic studio, and later as a salesman for a German company producing photographs on celluloid. In 1922, he was sent to London as a sales representative.
Boris stayed in London and, in 1927, set up his first photographic studio at 150 Whitechapel Road. It was an instant success. The highly organised studio emulated the glamour of Hollywood photography, and was able to photograph up to 60 bridal couples on a single Sunday - the traditional day for Jewish weddings. Crowds would often gather outside to witness the scenes.
Boris Bennett met Julia Vines in 1929 when she came to have a set of passport photos taken at the studio in preparation for a trip to America. He fell in love with her at first sight, and married her as soon as she returned to England. Julia attended to the day-to-day running of the studios, using her artistic flair in setting up the stylish wedding sessions.
Just before the Second World War, Boris opened the first of his five studios in the West End at 27 Oxford Street, though he also continued with his studio in Whitechapel Road. With the trend away from formal studio photography, he opened a retail camera shop, Bennett Cameras, in Oxford Street, in partnership with his brother-in-law Sidney Vines. Further shops were to follow, run by his sons Michael and Maurice. This part of the business was sold to Dixons in 1963.
Boris Bennett was also very active in charitable work. In 1945, he established the Freshwater Hostel for refugee boy survivors from the concentration camps of Nazi Europe. He was a founding member of the Finchley Synagogue and, in 1970, he endowed a community and recreation centre in Israel. He died in 1985.
- Sochaczewska, Boris
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