British photographic history

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George Washington Wilson, James Valentine & John Thomson

What do these three early Scottish photographers, George Washington Wilson, James Valentine and John Thomson have in common ?

Well, they all visited Morocco at some stage during their budding photography career. In the heart of Marrakech, a newly established House of Photography has recently been opened, housing over 3,500 historical photos and portraits of Morocco between 1862 to 1950. But do you know that the ground floor is devoted to photographs (portraits and life scenes) by both Wilson and Valentine, as well as those of the Spanish Carvilla and many others like the images of Gabriel Veyre, partner of the brothers "Lumière".

On the second floor, you will find beautiful iIlustrations of glass plates in excellent state of conservation depicting the work of René Bertrand, one of the best photographers of Marrakech who lived in Gueliz in 1933 and who was interested in the Berber tribes of the High Atlas. Photographs of the early 20th century are also on display.

You can view important photographs related to the Grand Tour, this elite movement, precursor of mass tourism, of the european educated bourgeoisie. A permanent reference of Antiquity can be seem, such as in a beautiful sepia view of the Chellah in Rabat.

The third floor of the Maison concentrates on the Berber traditions, with the documentary films by Daniel Chicault, shot in 1957, in color, first documentary filmed among the Seksawa tribe is a perfect illustration of the master study of Berques " Social Structures of the High Atlas ", and there is the attic room with documents on architecture.

So the next time you are in Marrakech, rather than bargaining at a souk or smoking hashish, do pay a visit to the Maison de la Photographie right in the heart of town ...

Photo: This cultural venue was established by Patrick Manac’h and Hamid Mergani.

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Comment by Michael Wong on July 28, 2010 at 15:01
Thanks for highlighting it - I stand corrected!

Indeed, as you pointed out, Wilson relied on his staff or other photographic firms commissioned by him to add to his growing catalogue of work, in particular, all of his Mediterranean views and many of the English and Scottish series, especially in the 1870s and 1880s. I guess I have fallen for the common misconception that a 'GWW' image must have been taken by the great photographer himself!

Wonder what the curator at the Maison de la Photographie have to say about this .....

Comment by Roger Taylor 4 hours ago
By the 1890s when George Washington Wilson issued their catalogue of "Photographs in Gibraltar, South of Spain, and Morocco" his company was actively acquiring negatives from other photographers which they then published under their own name. The new geographic reach was an attempt to keep the company afloat as by this date they were in serious financial difficulties.

It would be interesting to know who the photographer in Morocco might have been, with the answer perhaps to be found among the copyright registers at Kew.

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