Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
I am researching the Scottish photographer James Valentine (1815-1879) with the goal of a publication in mind. I would therefore welcome information on James Valentine specifically related to his earliest involvement in photography. Of particular interest to me is a comment in one of his obituaries that claimed he had ‘commenced photography at a very early period after its discovery’. While I have not yet seen evidence to support this, there is another, later account that also suggests James Valentine’s involvement with photography to have been early. The writer of the 1906 account, from The Philadelphia Photographer, had first met Valentine 65 years before, or in about 1841, at which time he was an engraver and small scale commercial printer, though apparently also experimenting with photography while in pursuit of other business:
‘He then from time to time wandered through certain parts of Scotland trying to get orders for lithographing the labels used by chemists and druggists, doing the work in a little shop in Dundee; at the same time doing a little in photography, although more as an amateur than a professional.’
The commentator added that Valentine’s early experiments with photography had included ‘views’ and portraits, and that he had ‘soon acquired considerable proficiency’. James Valentine’s printing business operated from 100 Murraygate in Dundee from 1845, for the next twelve years before changing premises. In 1850, he is said to have travelled to Paris to increase his photographic learning, studying there under either André-François Bulot or Auguste Belloc. The jury is still out on this photographer's identity, whose name was spelt in Valentine’s obituary 'Bulow', and who was described as ‘one of the most skilful photographers in that city’. Back in Dundee, James Valentine opened his new ‘Photographic Portrait Rooms’ at his Murraygate premises in 1851. This marked the beginnings of a photography business that would become probably the largest photographic (and later postcard) publishing company in the world.
I am aware of eight ambrotype studio portraits by Valentine, each impressed ‘J. Valentine, Dundee’ on their framing mats, but have not seen concrete evidence of him having ever produced Daguerreotypes. If any BPH member is aware of Daguerreotypes by James Valentine surviving in public or private collections, or knows of any further published reference, I would be very grateful to hear from them.
James Valentine, Portrait of a Young Girl, c.1856. Ambrotype. Ken Hall Collection
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