June 4, 2015

Frankel’s studio

Frankel’s Compound is a place where I often used to visit with my mother as a child to meet some of our relatives from my father’s side.  Those days the families were very closely knit and for every small function the families came together.

I recall so many such events in this place, there were marriages, anniversaries, baptism, first Holy Communion and even death. All the family events were covered by the Frankel’s photo studio. My first Holy Communion photo was also taken in Frankel’s studio which was one of the popular studios in that area.

Last one decade things have changed; and I am no more associated or have attended any social function in this area, marriage and moving to another parish and my parents death has isolated me from this place.

my mom & Dad wedding photo
Thanks to my brother Selvaraj who took time to help me in posting the background of this Frankels photo studio. According to my brother Selvaraj The 200- year-old Secunderabad cantonment, established by the British East India Company and later taken over by the Indian Army after the liberation of Hyderabad, is one of the biggest in the country and home to numerous heritage buildings.

While most of the heritage buildings in the cantonment occupied by various defense establishments are regularly maintained and protected, those lying in the civilian areas like, Lal Bazaar and Trimulgherry, are not that fortunate.

In the last 30-35 years, many old and elegant colonial structures have been pulled down. One of the surviving buildings is Frankel's, the 125-year old photo shop near Lal Bazaar, apparently counting its last days in an old, tile-roofed ramshackle house named: Christie's Lodge.

The studio is close to the main road, but it is not visible unless one enters the sprawling, wooded compound. Frankel's studio was established in 1885 by a German Samuel Harper Frankel. According to its present owner, George, Frankel was a creative photo-artist and a good portrait-painter.

Some of his photographs and paintings of the Nizams and other nobles of Hyderabad are in the precious collection of the royal palaces in Hyderabad. To substantiate this, there is a beautiful painting by Frankel's on display in the studio.

Frankel's have been the authorised photographers for the army in the cantonment right from its beginning. Besides the Army work, they also enjoy the regular patronage of the local St. Ann's educational institutes and Secunderabad Club.

My mom with two elder brother and my sister

George uncle's father, David Gabriel worked in the studio under Frankel for 43 years and rose to become its manager, before the death of the latter in the year 1946. George uncle  was only 12, when his father asked him to join the business.

After Frankel's death, his second wife, Winsmore Christie a Scottish lady, fulfilled her husband's last wish by selling away the business and some portion of the premises to David Gabriel, before she left for England.

After Gabriel's death, his elder son, uncle Manickam Gabriel ran the show for some time, and when he died after some time, Frankel's was taken over by uncle George, its existing owner.Frankel's was a “day-light” studio, which means, no artificial light was used in the studio, except sunlight. For this, Frankel's built a special room in the backyard wherein he fitted glass on all the sides to let the sunlight in. “He was good at taking pictures in ambient-light and even in dim interiors,” says  uncle George..

My first holy communion taken at Frankel's studio
The studio has an office occupying the front room, where numerous photographs of various army functions and other events taken by uncle George, are on display. Some of them, especially the large, old group photos of the army taken on medium format film are praiseworthy.

Uncle George still loves to work with his old film cameras. He has Mamiya 645s, besides some 35mm SLRs, which he has carefully preserved in the almirahs. Whereas, his two sons, Lestor Gabriel and Allen Sheen Gabriel, who are assisting him in his business, have already started working with digital cameras.

Frankel's is continuing under the same name, which uncle George considers as a fitting tribute to its founder. Christie's Lodge is owned by one, G. J. Fernandez of Kerala, who is a builder.

Uncle George fears that they might lose the property, as it is under negotiation between the disputing local body and the title owner. “If that should happen, then I will shift the studio to my portion of the house, which is adjacent to the studio”, says uncle George. Frankel's is not in any heritage list, but still worth a visit for its antiquity.

Thanks to my brother selvaraj for giving me so much information about Frankel's studio.

Memories are the timeless treasure of the heart !

Be Blessed & Be happy !


  1. Hello. This was a very interesting post. I would love to know more about Frankel's and Trimulgherry. My Mother was born there in 1934 and we know so little about it. My Grandmother was married in All Saints Church and gave her address as care of Mr Frankel, Trimulgherry. So very interesting to read about this. Thank you!

  2. Thanks for being here, glad to know that you found this post interesting, also nice to know that your mom was born here... and married at All Saints..the church is still elegant and beautiful till date... preserved well. hope you get all the information you are looking for.. I am not in touch with frankel's studio..

  3. Thanta a nice story, i have few information that Mr George is not the owner. Ideally he was just a care tacker. This portion of land was bought by Fernandez who currently reside in Bangalore. My family has also spent all their life in Frankles :-)

    1. Thanks for being here; I have no other details about this place, Uncle George too has expired, am glad to know that your family has spent their life - must have some memorable moments. I got all this information from my eldest brother Selvaraj, who keeps track of all the information.

  4. Joseph Julian FrankelMarch 23, 2019 at 7:52 PM

    Historical. Yes Samuel Harper Frankel ,was the son of Frankel ewh was the personal artist to the Kaiser of Germany,and most of the European Kings, at the personal request of the Nizam to the Kaiser Samuel Frankel came to Hyderabad as Artist to H.E.H's Court. He was also Grandmaster of St.Johns Masonic Lodge. He was married only once, to Christie Corfield, grand daughter of General W.R.Corfield. He was adviser to the Nizam, as he spoke German and French. Whenever European Royalty visited the Nizam Frankel used to entertain them, and also translate what they said to the Nizam. S.Frankel & Sons, had a branch in Poona, which served Maratha Royalty and the Military. After the sad fall of the Nizam's Kingdom, the Frankel family left for U.K. Gabriel was a very faithful Manager and he had several staff under him.

    1. Glad to hear about the historical information on this post, appreciate you for the time and effort you have taken to share so much information on Frankel... its always interesting to learn a little more about the past, being a history student these things have always fascinated me and whenever my parents and elders spoke to me about the past, I used to always listen with curiosity and wonder. Thanks for sharing, and appreciate you for connecting with me here.


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