|Dates: ||1819 - ?|
Howie started as a miniature portrait painter in Edinburgh, undoubtedly influenced by his father, James Sr., an animal and portrait painter. In 1840 the father established the first commercial daguerreotype gallery in Scotland. He was remembered as a “great character,” and Ebsworth’s well-known 1845 engraving clearly shows his rooftop open-air portrait studio, a perch whose precariousness must have at least contributed to the “frozen” character of some of his early portraits. His wife Mary and daughters Ann and Julia were all involved in the photographic trade, but it was James Jr. who was the most active. His professional career can be traced through years of advertising in the Scotsman. Howie apparently started in his father’s studio, for in later years he dated the beginning of his involvement in photography to 1840, and by 1850 he had his own photography salon on Princes Street in Edinburgh. Three years later he moved to 71 Princes Street, directly opposite the National Gallery, and advertised both photographic and daguerreotype portraits. The studio was renamed the American Photographic Gallery in 1854 (the American connection has never been explained), offering portraits in a choice of daguerreotype, collodion, or calotype. By 1859 Howie could boast that he had been in business for eighteen years, having expanded his gallery to offer all the latest improvements, adding glass and leather photographs to his daguerreotype and calotype lines; and advertisements he ran in 1860 show that he was one of the first to promote the novelty of night portraits, taken with the aid of “his new and astonishing Artificial Light.”
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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