British photographic history

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Albumen Photographs by S. S Soley, Gloucester.

Hello from "across the pond"! I'm a photography collector who recently purchased four albumen photographs that have a blindstamp to the mounts that reads; "S. S. Soley / Photographer/Gloucester". The photos are circa 1860.

 

On the back of one of the mounts is written in pencil "Sampson Samuel Soley / Gloucester Photographer 1825-1903." Of course I have no way of knowing when this pencil notation was added, but I haven't been able to find any information about this particular photographer.

 

Can anyone out there help me out?

Sometimes, being in the States puts one at a disadvantage when trying to research more obscure British photographers!

Hannavy's Encyclopedia of 19th Century Photography has no entry. Might there be another (perhaps more "local") source available?

I do appreciate any kind responses!

 

John Minichiello

Providence, RI

USA

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Hi John,

I have access to UK family history records, as I have been researching my own family tree - this is what I have found out.

In the 1861 UK Census, Sampson Soley (born in Worcester) is mentioned as a "Photographer", and he is living with his mother, Mary

In the 1870 Gloucester Post Office Directory, he has an advertisement for his services. The image is attached.

In the 1879 Kelly's Directory of businesses, he is at Brunswick Road, Gloucester.

In the 1881 UK Census, he is living at 3 Brunswick Road, Gloucester.

In the 1891 UK Census, he is living in Church Street, Painswick and his occupation is "Retired Photographer"

In the 1901 UK Census he is living in Victoria Street, Painswick and his occupation is "Retired Photographer"

I hope some of this may help you.
Regards

Kelvin
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Hi Kelvin,

Many thanks for your kind response to my query.

So far, yours is the only response that I've received! It's obvious that Soley is an obscure photographer, as even a search of the V&A photography database doesn't bring up his name, and there is almost no information about him online.

It always intrigues me as to who is "remembered' and who is "forgotten", in the history of art and photography. These four photographs that I recently purchased by Soley were done about 1860-1865. Three are of local farmhouses and one is a group of persons leaving a country church. In my (humble) opinion they are every bit as good as works done by his more famous contemporaries. Maybe it's just a matter of "volume"? Perhaps Soley didn't leave enough work behind to allow for a serious critical evaluation of his work. Perhaps he never showed in the famous photography exhibitions of the day and preferred to labor in relative obscurity like hundreds (or even thousands) of his compatriots at the time. Perhaps his main body of work is that of the typical studio photographer producing portraits in cdv and cabinet card formats, and these photos are merely an anomaly, albeit very good ones.

Once again Kelvin, thank you for your efforts.

Kind regards,
John

John

 

Soley began as a wetplate era photographer in Worcester, moving to Gloucester and he worked a photographer for over 25 years. He was perhaps not distinguished as a photographer but practiced as you say mainly typical portrait photography in cartes de visite although he probably began with ambrotypes. There are throusands of photographers active in the 19th century about whom little is written and for many probably nothing ever will. Details of his practice are however contained in the database I contribute to www.cartedevisite.co.uk. Cheers! Marcel, Brisbane, Australia.

John Minichiello said:

Hi Kelvin,

Many thanks for your kind response to my query.

So far, yours is the only response that I've received! It's obvious that Soley is an obscure photographer, as even a search of the V&A photography database doesn't bring up his name, and there is almost no information about him online.

It always intrigues me as to who is "remembered' and who is "forgotten", in the history of art and photography. These four photographs that I recently purchased by Soley were done about 1860-1865. Three are of local farmhouses and one is a group of persons leaving a country church. In my (humble) opinion they are every bit as good as works done by his more famous contemporaries. Maybe it's just a matter of "volume"? Perhaps Soley didn't leave enough work behind to allow for a serious critical evaluation of his work. Perhaps he never showed in the famous photography exhibitions of the day and preferred to labor in relative obscurity like hundreds (or even thousands) of his compatriots at the time. Perhaps his main body of work is that of the typical studio photographer producing portraits in cdv and cabinet card formats, and these photos are merely an anomaly, albeit very good ones.

Once again Kelvin, thank you for your efforts.

Kind regards,
John

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