Feb 28

Written by: host
Wednesday, February 28, 2018 



Born:  22 May 1923                         Died:   16 Jan 2018              Age 94

Mary Eve Wheeler had the most photographed bottom in Blackpool.

A lifelong partner in business with her husband Dave Wheeler, Fellow and Past President of the BIPP, Eve balanced a home and four children with the extraordinary success of Studio D Photography, which was the leading social photographic studio of the 60’s and 70’s.

The couple soon found out that if wedding guests were allowed to take pictures of Eve’s beautifully arranged family groups, reprint sales would be affected. So she fussed with details until a signal from David moved her off picture for a moment (usually 1/60th £f8) to return her bottom in front of the Bride & Groom seconds later to confound the frustrated amateurs.

She was an instinctive sales woman who learnt from the Americans, but created many more sales techniques herself. Ideas that she was happy to share as a star speaker at conferences and seminars throughout the country. One memorable national event had her entering the auditorium down the central aisle, with high heels, a tight dress and dragging a fur coat behind her. It was all about attitude, professionalism and belief and she had the mainly male audience, totally bewitched.

The move from B&W to the new colour photography didn’t faze her for a moment. Whilst the backroom staff were struggling with colour casts, fading prints and complicated chemistry she extolled the virtues of the ‘new, exciting, natural colour’ as opposed to the ‘old days of hospital grey’ and sold twice as much.

Clever solutions to portraiture problems and her natural artistic abilities led to the founding of Studio Accessories, a photo equipment design and manufacturing company to supply other professionals with props that the Wheeler’s found invaluable in their own studio. Posing stools, posing steps and painted ‘Old Master’ backgrounds were the core business with specialist print and negative retouching techniques and the famous Canvas Mount technique, that probably caused more trouble than it was worth.

Industrious at work she was indomitable in Blackpool society. She joined, organized and eventually, took the lead in many of the social enterprises that were the foundations of her community. Inner Wheel, Tangent, Siroptomists, Blackpool Society for the Deaf, all benefitted from her time and energy as she took on the roles of active member, secretary and chairmanship in every organization she joined. Experiences that took her to the very top as National President, on more than one occasion. She received a BIPP Presidential Award in 1983 for her outstanding contribution to Professional Photography and for services to the Institutes Benevolent Society.

Her blonde hair and good looks would turn heads as a friend recalled after he overheard two passengers comment on what they had seen out of a Blackpool tram window. “Look.” One said to the other. “There’s Diana Dors. You can tell because she’s got a ‘D’ on the side of her car.” as Eve drove passed in a bright yellow, Ford Consul carrying the Studio D logo.

Minnie, a no-nonsense ‘Lancashire Lass’ of a mother, who had been a child worker in the Bolton cotton mills at 13, brought her up. Her father, Joe Melling a clock repairer at the Blackpool Gas Works, had damaged hearing from the First World War and was as gentle as Minnie was fierce. The result was a daughter of considerable artistic talent, superb sales skills and total self-belief. In her teens she made several appearances in the annual Blackpool Children’s Pantomime, danced her way through the war at the Tower Ballroom and was a glamorous guest and host of parties throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s.

She always said that her life had been hard but good and was quite content to pass away from the effects of 20 years of Diabetes in her 80’s, except that, her eldest daughter, Christine, stepped in with a change of diet and medication and Eve battled through to live another 15 years, moving south to join her daughters and son in Kingston upon Thames for the last 6 years of her life.

She passed away in the arms of her grandson, Joe, with no distress or pain, leaving her children Christine, Mark, Gaye and Craig, 8 grandchildren and 4 great grandchildren.

Mark Wheeler ABIPP


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