Approved biography for James Patrick
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)
James Patrick was an Edinburgh photographer active in the decades around the turn of the twentieth century. He was the son of John Patrick (1830-1923), who ran a portrait studio with his sons from 1891 to 1912.
Patrick made a few appearances in the British Journal of Photography in 1892. A letter he wrote to the magazine’s editor was printed in the March 18th issue, in which Patrick defended the idea that photographers could make creative images with the camera. "Any one is an artist who can produce pictures in any medium and by any method," he stated. "To say that a photograph may not also be a true work of art, and the work of an artist, would suggest the possibility of one’s sense and sight having become fossilized, or worse."
A few months later, on May 13th, the Journal reported that Patrick had read a paper to the Edinburgh Photographic Society, of which he was undoubtedly a member. Titled, "The Imitative and Imaginative Side of Photographic Art," it suggested that no rivalry need exist between the documentary and artistic approaches to photography—that both pursuits were legitimate, in their own right. Patrick probably illustrated his talk with lantern slides, and, according to the report, specifically mentioned Henry Peach Robinson and Peter Henry Emerson, England’s two reigning creative photographers.
By all indications, Patrick preferred landscapes. The February 1903 issue of Camera Notes included his image The End of the Day, which shows two horses (one with a rider) in a field at dusk. This image is an actual tipped-in silver print, one of only four that appeared in the magazine. Photograms of the Year 1902 also reproduced one of his landscapes, this one a winter scene that started as a large-scale carbon print. This print won a first prize in a recent competition put on by the photographic manufacturing company Thomas Illingworth. And, Patrick himself published a set of twelve photographs, titled Under the Shadow of the Pentlands: The Early Home and Haunts of Robert Louis Stevenson, which comprised pastoral scenes of sheep and other livestock in the hills south of Edinburgh. Also included was Patrick’s portrait of Stevenson, reportedly the last one made of him, taken in late 1894.
Patrick’s photographs appeared in British exhibitions for at least twenty years. His first known showing was at the International Exhibition of Photography, sponsored by the Edinburgh Photographic Society and hung at the Royal Scottish Academy National Galleries in 1890. In 1891, 1898, and 1901, he showed in similar international exhibitions at the Glasgow Institute of Fine Arts. London’s Royal Photographic Society accepted his work for their annual shows every year between 1900 and 1905. And in 1908, his pictures were included in the Scottish National Exhibition in Edinburgh. In 1929, James Patrick wrote a newspaper article about his father’s relationship with the Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle, who the elder Patrick photographed.
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012)
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 1 June 2013.
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