For many Benin residents, a trip to the Ideal Photo Studio was their first encounter with a professional photographer. Some patrons chose to be photographed with their prized possessions—sports trophies, bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles. Others posed for Solomon Alonge and his large format glass plate camera in front of Victorian-style backdrops and tableau-type scenes accentuated with props that included clocks, flowers, newspapers, phonographs, and product advertisements.
The Ideal Photo Studio became a creative, imaginative space in which individuals fashioned their identities through expression, dress, pose, props, and with whom they chose to be photographed. Alonge offered his patrons a variety of backdrops, flooring, furniture, and studio props, working with them to achieve the desired image. One of the more popular supports was a waist-high wooden handrail that patrons could lean or sit on in novel ways.
Alonge also documented the civic and social life of Benin City. From the 1930s onward, emerging leaders and professional classes, new businesses, churches, schools, and industries were among his subjects. He often traveled by bicycle with his assistant of 30 years, Samuel Arasomwan, to photograph large groups of schoolchildren, civic organizations, and athletic and social clubs and to cover a variety of social events and special occasions, chief among them weddings, birthday parties, and graduations. Priceless keepsakes, today these family photographs hold special memories of emblematic moments in the lives of the residents of Benin City.