[ Walton Adams, Victorian photographer.] Unpublished autograph biographical account, written in his nineties, describing his career as 'the oldest living British photographer', with reference to Queen Victoria, General Gordon and his son Marcus Adams

Walton Adams [ Arthur Walton Adams ] (1842-1934), pioneering British photographer, co-inventor of the dry-plate process, father of Marcus Adams (1875-1959) and grandfather of Gilbert Adams (1906-1996)
Publication details: 
Without place or date, but written after May 1932, when he was living in Caversham, Reading, Berkshire.
SKU: 17546

4pp., 8vo, paginated 1-4. On two bifoliums. Aged and worn, but with the text clear and complete. From the Adams family papers, which also include an extensive archive of Walton Adams's papers relating to the British Israelites. An interesting artefact relating to an important figure in the history of British photography. (See also his obituary in The Times, 15 June 1934.) Untitled and unsigned, the unpublished account begins: 'As I am now over 90 years of age I believe that I am the oldest living British photographer, my first Studio was opened in 1864'. He boasts that the 'greater part' of his life has been 'spent in Photography', and that he has 'in my Time Photographed about sixty thousand sitters & many strange tales & experiences have come my way'. He singles out two individuals among the 'noted people amongst my clientele': Queen Victoria and General Gordon. Regarding Gordon he claims to have been 'the only European Photographer, who had the honour of a sitting from him'. He describes Gordon as 'a man of rather peculiar ideas on some subjects' (rich, considering Walton's own convictions), and states that he made Adams promise that 'Queen Victoria should not have a Copy of his photograph': 'But strange to say, John Brown presented himself in my Studio one day with a command for a Photograph of General Gordon for her Majesty. | I was in a dilemma - I could not offend either - what was I to do?' He explains how he solved the problem, before giving an overview of his career. He started as an amateur, but was enabled by a bequest on the death of his father to 'build a Studio & set up as a professional Photographer'. After his marriage he 'opened a larger studio in Southampton, where I had the honour of being appointed Photographer to H.M. Queen Victoria'. As a result in having 'dabbled so deeply in inventions' and losing 'a great deal of money through a dishonest agent' he was forced to sell up and leave Southampton, and moved first to London and then to Reading, where he 'once more opened a Studio - in 1887, in which my two sons joined me'. The elder son Chris 'gave up Photography for painting, & has made his name as a miniature Painter, exhibiting regularly in the Academy & Paris Salon &c. | Marcus the younger of course everone knows as a Photographer of children, his portraits of Princess Elizabeth & Margaret-Rose have made his name familiar all over the world'. He notes that Marcus Adams is 'no mean Artist & some of his Pastels, Water colors & ink Drawings would make quite a small Exhibition in themselves'. As 'the younger generation is carrying on' he is now 'quite content in my retirement, with my Garden & wireless', his 'wife & helpmate' of sixty years having died seven years before. The account concludes: 'I should like to express my appreciation of the kind sentiments conveyed to me in the handsome booklet, signed by the President Council & members of the P.P.A. attending the annual Congress at Brighton May 1932.'