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Cyril Arapoff (1898–1976)

Cyril Arapoff had a photographic studio in Headington from 1933 to 1938.

Born Kyrill Semeonovitch Arapov in Russia on 21 October 1898, he fled with his mother for England in 1919 because of his family's Tsarist connections He spent time in Paris and Germany in the early 1930s and learnt photography at the studio of Annelise Kretschmer in Dortmund.

Arapoff’s house in Osler Road


Arapoff’s mother took the post of governess to the Russian emigré family Captain V. Narishkin at 3 St Andrew’s Road in Headington. Cyril also lived here when he returned to England, and from 1933 had a photographic studio in their house.

Mike Seabourne in his book Cyril Arapoff: London in the Thirties (1988) says that Arapoff was so successful in his Headington studio that by 1935 he was considered by many to be the leading portrait photographer in Oxford. He then moved his studio at 41 Osler Road (right), whose address was then 19 Manor Road, and remained here until 1939.

Both these Headington addresses are stamped on the back of the photographs he took during his period in Oxford.



Arapoff took photographs of Headington in the 1930s, including the Black Boy pub in 1937 while it was being rebuilt, and of the thatched cottages that used to stand next to St Andrew's Church.

The Oxfordshire Photographic Archive at the Oxfordshire History Centre in Cowley has 5,000 copies of his pictures, including some taken in Headington. Many of them can be seen online if you search for “Arapoff” in the Oxfordshire Heritage Search.

In 1939 Arapoff left Oxford and went to work in the film industry, including the Crown Film Unit. By this time he had nine studios in England, including one at 119 High Street, Oxford:

Telephone directory 1941

He was granted British nationality on 11 June 1949.

From 1961 until his death he worked for the National Coal Board Film Unit.

He died on 14 October 1976. His death notice in The Times read:

ARAPOFF — On 14th October 1976, suddenly, in London, Cyril. Service at Russian Orthodox Church in Exile, Emperors Gate, S.W.7, on Friday, 22 October, at 12 noon. Flowers to Kenyons, 9 Pond St., N.W.3.

He was buried in Hampstead Cemetery (Plot 2, section GL28), but is reported as having no grave memorial or headstone.

His obituary was published in The Times on 27 October 1976:

A correspondent writes:
    One laments the passing, albeit at a ripe age, of a photographer and film cameraman who left his imprint on the age he reflected. Arapoff's earlier years were spent on the Continent, and in particular in Paris, where he attached himself to Cocteau's coterie.
    In the 1930s, his studio in Oxford established a secure connexion in theatrical photography. Arapoff then moved his interests towards cinematography. He joined the Crown Film Unit during the Second World War, and was responsible for photographing several of their historically important films.
    He worked with Rotha (in particular on A City Speaks) and then, in the 1950s, travelled to Brazil in order to assist Cavalcanti in his effort to stimulate a new force in Brazilian film-making. His work during that period reflected his feeling for atmosphere and for people.
    Returned once more to Britain, Arapoff joined the film unit of the National Coal Board, where h served as senior cameraman for two decades. Apart from lending his talents to the recording of the changing scene in the mining industry, he still found time to record as a still photographer the times in which he lived and from which he drew enjoyment. He will be remembered by a wider public for his exhibitions of photographs.

Oxford Times article by Malcolm Graham on Cyril Arapoff

© Stephanie Jenkins

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