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Photographic Exhibitions in Britain 1839-1865: Records from Victorian Exhibition Catalogues


Photographic Exhibitions in Britain 1839 - 1865 was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board (renamed Arts and Humanities Research Council on 1st April 2005). It is a research database containing individual records for over 20,000 photographic exhibits drawn from forty exhibition catalogues published between 1839 - 1865. The website was developed by Roger Taylor and Knowledge Media Design at De Montfort University.

The research database was created by Roger Taylor and originally published in book form by the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, 2002. Roger Taylor was the recipient of the 1997 - 1998 Lisette Model/Joseph G. Blum Fellowship in the History of Photography at the National Gallery of Canada. This acquaintance resulted in the National Gallery of Canada being the publisher of Photographs Exhibited in Britain 1839 - 1865. The publication was also generously supported by the Kraszna-Krausz Foundation, London.

The old dictionary definition of an exhibition is "a public display of whatever is interesting either as a matter of art or curiosity." Professor Taylor's research highlights that photographic exhibitions meant far more - they were of crucial importance to both the photographers and the organising body. The exhibitions were equally important to the way in which photography was perceived and understood by the general public.

The national touring photographic exhibition by the Society of Arts in 1854 had a cultural impact on the audience. The exhibition's arrival in some venues inspired local photographic activity, and in a few instances it may have been all that was needed to encourage local enthusiasts to establish their own photographic societies. Meanwhile the Photographic Society, whose ambition was to keep commercial and industrial applications subservient to the higher ideals of fine art, was involved in a second type of exhibition that was entirely commercial. The Photographic Society offered studio portraits, photographic instruction, commercial printing and a significant number of publications, including photographic manuals and print portfolios.

Photography as a valid occupation

In the eyes of Victorian Society there was a real need to distinguish between those who were in trade and those who were not. By its very nature, photography became part of these social changes, for it was a medium that did not distinguish between individuals possessing a high level of education and artistic training and others of more humble origin who sought to master its secrets. Anyone with sufficient capital and ambition could set himself up as a commercial portrait photographer, and many did so. The official census of 1861 for the first time included photographers as a "new occupation", heralding their emergence among the commercial classes of society.


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Enquiries regarding reproduction or use of the material should be sent to the address below.

Contact Details

Project Manager Professor Roger Taylor
Address De Montfort University
Faculty of Art and Design
The Gateway
United Kingdom

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The compilation of the database that underlies this publication would not have been possible without the help and constant encouragement of many friends, colleagues, librarians, and archivists. Above all, I would like to thank Susan Bennett, Royal Society of Arts, London; Mark Haworth Booth and Chris Titterington, Victoria and Albert Museum, London; Richard Brown; Robert Elwall, Royal Institute of British Architects, London; Andrew Eskind, International Museum of Photography, Rochester; Roy Flukinger, University of Texas at Austin; Sophie Gordon, Sepia International, London; Iestyn Hughes, National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth; Stephen Joseph; Ken and Jenny Jacobson; Hans P. Kraus, Jr.; Richard Morris; Richard Ovenden, National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; Michael Pritchard, Christie's, London; Pam Roberts, Royal Photographic Society, London; Larry Schaaf; Joan Schwartz, National Archives of Canada, Ottawa; Sara Stevenson and Julie Lawson, Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; and Peter Stubbs.

The following institutions offered generous access to their collections: Central Library, Aberdeen; Aberdeen University Library, Aberdeen; Central Library, Birmingham; National Museum of Photography, Film and Television, Bradford; Central Library, Bristol; Central Library, Cambridge; National Library of Ireland, Dublin; National Library of Scotland, Edinburgh; Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh; Scottish Record Office, Edinburgh; Mitchell Library, Glasgow; University Library, Glasgow; Central Library, Leeds; National Art Library, London; British Library, London; Royal Society of Arts, London; Central Library, Newcastle upon Tyne; Norfolk and Norwich Library, Norwich; Dougan Collection, Princeton University, Princeton; Wiltshire Libraries, Museums, and Archives, Trowbridge; Library, Yeovil.

Finally, my heartfelt thanks to Murray Waddington, Ann Thomas, Lori Pauli, Jim Borcoman, Hazel Mackenzie, Serge Thériault, John Barton, Usher Caplan, and Claire Rochon of the National Gallery of Canada, and the designer Daniel Lohnes, for their tireless efforts in bringing this publication to completion.

Roger Taylor

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