British photographic history

Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history

Research: James Valentine and Daguerreotype photography

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 

Views: 991

Add a Comment

You need to be a member of British photographic history to add comments!

Join British photographic history

Comment by Ken Hall on July 12, 2016 at 11:32

Thank you, Ken, Alison and Marcel for your responses.

I will attempt a group reply, start firstly with a 'great work and well done’ to Alison (and to Sara) for your Scottish Photography: The First Thirty Years – I had to get a copy – you have done a beautiful job.

From what you say, it appears that we perhaps won’t see any solidly identified James Valentine Daguerreotypes. It's a sad fact that not enough Daguerreotypists thought to help us out by attaching names to their work. (A related, similar frustration here in New Zealand is trying to work out where these portraits were made - here or there.)

Thanks also to Marcel for your suggestion to be alert to the possibility of JV producing calotypes. (Anyone else able to help with this one?) I haven’t yet seen any clues to indicate this possibility.

Ken – your further thoughts on Bulot, Cattin, Adrien Tournachon, etc. also helpful for steering likely/possible conclusions about JV’s Parisian tutor. I suspect that we won’t be able to wrap this one up completely. It would be good, though, to know if anyone has more information on Belloc’s photography teaching in 1850. While he is now best-known for his ‘under the counter’ productions, there must have been something reasonably respectable and standard going on if he was able to attract those wanting tuition, including from Scotland. I wonder if he advertised his teaching.

I'll also try to track down a copy of your 2007 book on Orientalist photography – looks very good.

I am pleased to be able to name the Valentine company photographer working in Morocco – the same photographer who travelled through New Zealand in 1892-93, after spending time in North Africa and elsewhere. John Samuel Powell was born in London 23 June 1848, died in Dundee 27 March 1915, the son of photographer John William Powell and Sophia Powell. He started working for Valentine & Sons in 1873 as a photographic printer. I have good information and am happy to share, but shouldn’t perhaps fill up this blog with it. (Marcel has my email address if you have his – and he has my permission to forward it. Otherwise you can contact me through Christchurch Art Gallery website, with contact link found in the address included in the following.) This short newspaper piece about one of his photographs in the Gallery collection was published locally last year. It has a little bit of good information about him (as well as an awful title and poor image reproduction that needs fixing as soon as possible!).    

(We could also perhaps think about J.S. Powell for a future blog...)

Best wishes all,


Comment by Ken Jacobson on July 11, 2016 at 15:28

Thanks, Ken. I indeed did not know the Scottish paper you quoted. Oh, the perils of photographic research – TWO different misspellings of the same name. I've finally found Bulot & Cattin though they are not in most books even of photographic processes. It seems they first appeared in the journal, La Lumière, in 1855 when the journal had discussed their ceramic photo method. La Lumière, however, had mentioned this to be the invention of Adrien Tournachon, Nadar's brother. In the next issue they made a correction saying the process was in fact invented by associates of Adrien, Bulot & Cattin.

That B & C might be employees of Adrien makes sense as I can't find any evidence of B & C ever having a studio in Paris in their own name nor of any published photograph by them (in very rushed research !). In the literature, Bulot is reported a few years later as having coming to England in the early 1850s to demonstrate his ceramic process to Malone who had his own method.

All this suggests that if Valentine went to Paris to study with Bulot (rather than Belloc), he would have most likely mentioned the studio of the prominent photographer (although less famous than his brother) who ran the firm, Adrien Tournachon, not Bulot, an assistant. BUT, anything is possible, I suppose!

Incidentally, my small biog on Valentine was in my 2007 book on Oriental photography. If you find out who made the often very good views of Morocco published by Valentine, I would be interested to know.


Ken Jacobson

Comment by Alison Morrison-Low on July 11, 2016 at 12:26

While Sara Stevenson and I were doing research over the past few years for Scottish Photography: The First Thirty Years (published last year), we didn't encounter any daguerreotypes identified as by James Valentine. In fact, one of the great mysteries was that - although we looked at a lot of daguerreotypes - really comparatively few were identified as Scottish or made by Scots photographers, despite the literature leading us to believe that there should have been more survivals. We're still searching, and will be interested to see what you discover.

Good Luck!

Alison Morrison-Low

Comment by Marcel Safier on July 11, 2016 at 12:13

Hi Ken, it was good to catch up with you in Wellington last month. I think you should consider whether Valentine's early photographic practice was with calotypes, especially given his proximity to the hot bed of calotype photography that existed in nearby St. Andrews. If he opened his studio in 1851 (I have not researched this but other authors quote 1856), that was too early for the ambrotype and he would most likely have produced portraits in the daguerreotype format and that is a skill he likely refined in Paris. Cheers! Marcel

Comment by Ken Hall on July 11, 2016 at 10:15

Thank you Ken for your response and comments. (It will open a little more confusion possibly, but it’s also useful to be looking at.) I haven’t been aware of your 2007 biography - I first read about the possibility of Valentine being taught by Belloc in Paris through a paper presented by Marc Boulay in 2010.

(Marc Boulay, ‘Scotland’s Industrial Photographic Production, Technologies and Distribution: The Legacy of James Valentine and George Washington Wilson’, 2010)

The name ‘M. Bulot’ appears in one of James Valentine’s obituaries, 'Death of Mr. James Valentine, Photographer', 20 June 1879 (thought to be from Dundee Advertiser – R.N. Smart sent me a Xerox of this many years ago). Smart noted in 1988 that M. Bulot's "chief claim to fame was that he evolved with Cattin a method of fixing, vitrifying and colouring photographic images."

(Robert Smart, ‘Famous Throughout the World’: Valentine & Sons Ltd., Dundee, Review of Scottish Culture, Vol. IV 1988, p.76.)

While André François Bulot is obscure within the broader photographic historical record, he is recorded as patenting (with Joseph Marguerite Cattin) a particular process in 1854. Among the several online references:

‘Bulot and Cattin patented in England on December 13, 1854 their method of fixing, vitrifying, and coloring photographic images taken by Collodion process (which had been transferred) upon enamel, metal, stone, porcelain, glass, china, and all kinds of earthen ware’.

(Kirsten Haydon, Antarctic landscapes in the souvenir and jewellery, 2008, p.151 (referencing Woodrow Carpenter, ‘Enamel Photography,’ Glass on Metal 4, 1985.)

Returning to the possibility that JV’s tutor was Belloc, however (as Marc Boulay has also noted): ‘Valentine’s own promotional catalogue of 1860 states his training in Paris as having been with a “M. Billoch”’. It is certainly closer in pronunciation and spelling. It is interesting to know that Belloc gave lessons in photography. 

Thanks again, Ken

Comment by Ken Jacobson on July 10, 2016 at 13:42

I am intrigued by your comment about Valentine's period of study in Paris as a photographer. I think I might have been the first to suggest that the probable misspelling in Valentine's obituary of the photographer who Valentine studied with was meant to refer to the photographer Auguste Belloc. The date of Valentine's trip fits perfectly with Belloc's dates and Belloc is know to have written a manual (later) and to have given lessons in photography. It is perhaps surprising that this respectable Scottish photographer may have received early training with a Parisian who was condemned more than once for selling pornography and who is best known for photography of the nude.

I only wrote a very short biography of Valentine in 2007 but my notes of Smart's entry in DNB was that the Parisian photographer was referred to as "Billoch" in the Dundee obituary, not "Bulow", as you have suggested. You also indicate that an alternative possibility as Valentine's tutor (other than Belloc) is André-François Bulot. I have never read this anywhere and neither do I know this person as a photographer. Can you tell me who he is?

I hope this is helpful and has not confused the situation more. Quite possibly, there is an entire discussion somewhere in the literature on this matter that I have entirely missed. To answer the main point, I have never seen a Valentine daguerreotype. Belloc became proficient in both daguerreotype and paper photography.


Ken Jacobson

© 2022   Created by Michael Pritchard.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service