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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Francis Steward Beatty

Dates:  1807 - 1891
Active:  Ireland / Great Britain
 
  

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Francis Steward Beatty
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

 
  
Beatty’s name is closely associated with daguerreotypy, and he is credited with producing the first ones made in Ireland. He was a well-known engraver possessed of the social conscience then emerging in Ireland. In 1832 Beatty became the first secretary of the Belfast Co-operative Society, putting him in the vanguard of efforts to address the sweeping social tensions of the day. About 1840 he traveled to London to learn more under the eminent daguerreotypist Richard Beard. Beatty set up the first of his various daguerreotype studios in Belfast in the early 1840s. He had already begun working with paper negatives, however; in September 1839 he wrote to the Belfast News-Letter that he “was somewhat surprised to find that in using silver paper the effect was different from silver plated on copper . . . namely, the light parts of the subject are dark, and the dark shades are in a proportionate degree light.” The fact that Beatty relocated his studio almost annually throughout the 1840s, alternating between Belfast and London, implies that commercial success eluded him. His engraving skills led him back to paper, and he offered calotypes as well as daguerreotypes. He took great interest in photomechanical processes, particularly photolithography, and opened a correspondence with Talbot in 1859, receiving examples of photoglyphic engraving from the inventor. Beatty exhibited these in Dublin and took pride in the newspaper reviews. Talbot gave him a free license to practice the new art, but not commercially. In March 1860 Beatty exhibited his own photoglyphic engravings made by Talbot’s process to the members of the Photographic Society of Scotland, who were charmed, especially by the miniature copy of the business program for the evening, a plate capable of making many impressions. Like Talbot, Beatty instinctively saw that photography rendered in printer’s ink was the future, but also like Talbot, he never made a commercial success of the venture. He died a pauper, and few of his photographs are known to have survived. 
  
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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