Information and discussion on all aspects of British photographic history
Born to a family of lapidaries (precious stone merchants) in 1840 in Edinburgh, Thomas Begbie only took up photography in the late 1850s before becoming a member of the Edinburgh Photographic Society in 1867. He set up a professional photography studio at 7 Leith Street (now the site of the St James Centre), and appeared in trade directories from 1874, advertising himself as a professional photographer from 1879-1881.
Begbie travelled all over the city to chronicle what he saw – from the Port of Leith and Newhaven with its fishwives and schooners docked onto the cobblestone quayside, to John Knox's house with a group of scruffy urchins outside, to Princes Street when Waverley Station was still under construction.
The Cavaye Collection of glass negatives by Begbie was discovered in a house in St James' Square in 1950, and is currently held at the City Art Centre. They cover a wide range of subjects, most notably Edinburgh's Old Town, but also the coastal communities of Leith, Granton and Newhaven and further afield such as Roslin and Stirling. Some of the photos in the collection pre-date the first record of his studio (in the 1880s) and it seems that Begbie was a teenager when he took them, which is quite extraordinary.
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