2017: a look back at the year

photo cutout boards 2017

2017 was a great year for face in hole boards!

In 2017 our photo cutout board sales have more than tripled as businesses, charities, wedding planners and corporate event planners have embraced the fun factor and engagement value that’s built into every one of our boards. We’ve made some important quality and safety improvements, added new boards to our standard and seasonal ranges, and improved our logistics to get the boards out to customers’ venues ever more quickly and efficiently.

We can honestly say that we’re here to stay, as we have carved out our niche in the event planning space and watched our boards grow in popularity more than we’d ever thought possible. So a huge thank you to all our customers – it’s been an outstanding 2017!

Some of the best boards of 2017

Mrs Brown’s Boys

Mrs Brown's Boys board for the BBC

Feckin’ brilliant! Agnes Brown from the hit BBC TV show featured on this board we made for the BBC’s EdFest. At their request, we contoured the top to fit into the location it was used. This is something we can do for you if you prefer, rather than a standard rectangular shape.

Cussons Carex

2017 photo cutouts face in hole boards

This was a great example of a brand running a promotion using a photo cutouts board. With special competition packaging for their hand soap, combined with social media hashtags promoted on our boards and a promotional partnership with Alton Towers, Cussons did it right.

Seabroook Crisps

Photo cutout board marketing

Another competition board, this time from Seabrook Crisps. They are very active on social media and their #seabrookselfie hashtag has generated a lot of posts and shares as people try to win boxes of tasty crisps!

Nuts Over The Atlantic

Nuts over the Atlantic

These brave lads are rowing across the Atlantic right now for the Movember Foundation to raise funds to help with testicular and prostate cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. We seriously hope they don’t encounter too many sharks and make it across safely!

The National Trust

2017 face in hole board for national trust

The NT have used us on several occasions for their properties around the country. This board was for Wordsworth House and Garden. We gave it a period flavour that worked perfectly for their event.

Peter James

Peter James 2017 photo cutout board

Bestselling novelist Peter James’ Roy Grace novel Need You Dead was launched in Brighton in May. His publicist commissioned this board from us for fans to photograph themselves in as they waited for his autograph.


Mead Farm Oinkfest

Mead Farm came to us in 2017 wanting a face in hole board for their pig-based event, Oinkfest. This one led to some very funny photos!

Want to see more? Visit our site and follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram!

Thanks to everyone for a fantastic 2017! Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year.

Our Geffrye Museum face in hole board is a bit special

This week’s Board of the Week is one we made for the Geffrye Museum of the Home.

An 1830s drawing room

If you’ve never visited the Geffrye Museum of the Home in London’s Shoreditch, you really should. It explores home and home life in England from 1600 to the present day.  Just the building is wonderful enough. It’s a Grade I-listed 18th -century almshouses that was built in 1714 from a bequest from Sir Robert Geffrye, a former Lord Mayor of London and master of the Ironmongers’ Company. It’s beautiful. Just look at those proportions.

Geffrye Museum, building, beautiful

Inside, displays of middle-class London living rooms and gardens show how tastes, styles, society and behaviour have changed over the centuries. One of the museum’s most popular regular fixtures is the Christmas Past exhibition, with eleven different period rooms decorated authentically for the season. How times change!

A 1695 parlour

The almshouses have been restored to their original condition and give a glimpse into the lives of the poor and the elderly in the late 18th and 19th centuries.

The Geffrye Museum is currently raising funds for its £18m ‘Unlocking the Geffrye’ project, which will open up the Geffrye for all visitors and the local community by developing existing buildings, creating new spaces and preserving the museum for future generations. It aims to provide improved access, new galleries and more collections on display at any one time.

Here’s a face in hole board we’ve made for the Geffrye Museum which they have been using in their fundraising efforts. It is a cartoon depicting a Dandy and a lady with some pretty spectacular headgear.

And here it is in use by the museum on their Twitter account.

Dandy, Geffrye

We’re pleased to have helped yet another fine institution with a photo board for attracting attention!

How would you use a photo cutout board to promote your business or raise funds? What would it look like? What messages would be on it? To discuss your ideas with us, call 08450 570321 or email office@connectedshopping.com today!

Face-in-hole boards: a bit of history

coolidge, comic foregrounds, face in hole boards
People could be silly in those days too.

Face-in-hole boards are a Great British seaside tradition – but where did they actually originate? Surely they started in English Victorian times during the great bathing hut and donkey ride epoch? Not so fast.

Our brains seem to be hard-wired to find it funny when a disembodied head becomes part of a fictional scene. The first time a cave dweller put their face through a hole in an animal skin to amuse the children, the first face-in-hole was born. Sadly there weren’t any cameras then, and cave paintings mostly depict hunting rather than heartwarming domestic scenes.

What more can we say? Well, some seem to think they might have an extraterrestrial origin:

photo cutout board, aliens, peep board, standee board
Even aliens need to have fun

We need to look to more recent times, and preferably here on Earth, to find any documented evidence.

Some theorise that the whole ‘disembodied head’ thing is linked to the French Revolution and the horrified response it got from across the Channel in the cartoons of James Gilray.

Jmes Gilray, comic foregrounds, face in hole boards,
How this became funny is not entirely clear.

The theory goes that this spirit of social justice somehow morphed into a game called ‘The Clothes Make The Man’, which first appeared around 1820. In the game, a series of drawn figures wear clothes typical of various levels of contemporary society, from the street beggar to the King. The faces are cut out and can be changed around. The infotainment value lay in seeing how the same face topping a figure clad in rags, and a figure clad in robes, was perceived according to the attire. Faces in holes thus became a form of social satire.

The clothes make the man, social satire, face in hole, peep board, photo cutout board
Face-in-hole as social satire, c.1820

Perhaps this was the beginning of the humorous, satirical, fun-poking spirit of what we now know as face in hole boards.

One strong contender for the ‘invention’ of face in hole boards in their modern fairground/carnivalesque context was Cassius Marcellus Coolidge. An American artist born in 1844, he is famous for his paintings of dogs playing poker.

dogs playing poker
Who said ‘Squirrel!’?

In 1874 Coolidge was granted a patent for ‘…producing caricature photographic pictures by means of a board or card of stiff material having a miniature body or other design thereon, the same being held up close to the person or subject to be photographed, arranged so as to represent a complete, although disproportioned, figure.’

Coolidge, face in hole boards, peep boards, comic foregrounds
The front page of Coolidge’s patent application

So the first boards to be commercialised were not quite face-in-hole, but face-above-comically-small-body. Coolidge then expanded his business to include bigger scenes such as this, which were face-in-hole, although it’s hard to see the join here:

Coolidge, comic foregrounds,
One of Coolidge’s later comic foregrounds

Coolidge marketed them with the tagline “Now is the time to order Coolidge’s comic foregrounds for making holiday post cards!”

And it is with postcards that we finally arrive at the British seaside. We, the British, took the fun, silly spirit of earlier cutout ideas and turned it into a bawdy festival of littoral lechery. The undisputed king of seaside oo-errr was Donald McGill. Quite a lot of his output was banned by the guardians of public decency, including these:

smutty postcards
‘… and the Manager wants to try me in a different position each day’













mcgill, stick of rock, saucy postcards
An unfeasibly large stick of rock


McGill postcard raid
The scene of a big postcard bust in 1952





















It’s all down to swimsuits, really. Once the Victorians had got over themselves, British beaches became spotting grounds for the sweaty, balding man with binoculars McGill seemed to think lived inside each one of us. The promise of a trip to the seaside, for bored fathers, lay in the glimpses of thigh and boob to be had while pretending to study shipping through the goggle glasses. It was a huge attraction. Now you could have skimpy with your scampi.

British cutout boards sprang from this saucy genre when they were blown up to life-size and had face holes cut in them to create the ultimate interactive alter-egos. Not only could you escape to the seaside, you could escape from your own body by substituting it with another, set in a cartoon world of bright colours and hedonism. Arguably an early form of virtual reality, it was good for business, attracting more families to the edges of the country so they could buy industrial amounts of rock and cockles – and ogle at everyone’s wobbly bits.

We’ve seen some American and British origins of face-in-hole boards. But are they solely an anglophone phenomenon?

Not on your nelly. In Japan face-in-hole boards are used prolifically as marketing tools, and are also considered an art form. It is called ‘Kaohame’ in Japanese, which means ‘insert face’. One notable proponent whom we have posted about is Tomoyuki Shioya, who has made it his mission in life to travel Japan sticking his face in any board he can find and recording the event. At the time of writing this, he has done over 2,400 boards and is showing no sign of slowing down.

beefeater cutout board
A highly tenuous link to British face-in-hole boards

He’s clearly a nutter, but a good sort of nutter, and we have nothing but admiration for him. He takes it seriously enough never to smile, but always to have a neutral expression – to ‘give the boards the respect they deserve.’ Rock on, Tomoyuki!

The French call face-in-hole boards ‘Tintamarresques’. Maybe they got the idea from us – the English Channel is narrow enough, after all. ‘Tintamarre’ in French means ‘a din, a cacophony, a raucous sound’. It also applies to a form of caricature not a million miles from that of James Gilray. Its most famous proponent was Touchatout, who wrote a comic history of France with illustrations like this:

napoleon, tintamarresque
Big head, small body. Seems to be a theme here.

At around the turn of the last century, a Swedish folk comedian named Calle Lindström used a practice that was apparently common in Swedish variety hall entertainment: the tintamarresque theatre. Basically he would poke his head through a painted scene and do a routine like that for giggles. His natural comic talent made him hugely popular.

The Russians have their own version, which they call ‘Tantamareska.’ Here’s a YouTube video of a Tantamareska event.

Most countries probably have some version of face-in-the hole boards. They are universally considered amusing and are used to attract attention at events, for marketing purposes or for simple photo fun. We’d like to leave the last word on the subject to Walter Knott, an American entrepreneur who in 1930s California created a theme park featuring, among much else, face-in-hole boards:

“You’ll never know how good you look, until ya gits yer pitchur took.”

Face in hole boards by photocutouts.co.uk

Photocutouts.co.uk is the UK’s premier maker of face in hole boards for product launches, tourism, marketing, charity fundraising, children’s events, sports events, exhibitions and trade shows, parties and weddings. We have made them for many leading brands, charities and organisations. They work because the concept just never gets old. They create a perfect focus and photo opportunity for brands big and small. Or just for fun at parties and weddings!

Face in hole boards for marketing promotions
Our own take on the seaside tradition
Marketing campaign
Great for marketing campaigns and product launches

For bespoke face in hole boards contact us on 01842 337 100, email us or visit our site to see the latest designs!