Bell reminisced in the Liverpool Photographic Journal that he was in Mexico in 1840 or 1841 when he first became aware of photography and purchased his first lens, a simple spectacle glass. But when he returned to England, Bell “left it behind me, and had even entirely forgotten and cast off the once loved subject, photography, not then so named, or so much talked of or thought about; but a friend among his heaps of rubbish found my old boxes, and kindly brought them home with him.” He recalled this when he began comparing modern lenses in 1855. Bell’s movements are not documented, but by 1853 he was a wine merchant in Liverpool, an ideal place to rekindle an interest in the art of photography. Bell was soon using both Frederick Townshend’s and James How’s waxed-paper formulas. In 1856 he was appointed treasurer of the Liverpool Photographic Society, contributing four waxed-paper views of Malvern to their scrapbook the next year. In 1856 he also became the chairman of the Liverpool and National Photographic Exchange Club. Brimming with enthusiasm for the art, Bell joined up with James Alexander Forrest and James Newlands as proprietors of the new Liverpool Photographic Journal.
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012.
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