|Dates: ||1820 - ?|
Along with his brother Thomas, Willats was a partner in the firm of T. & R. Willats, a leading London philosophical instrument maker and one of the first significant dealers in photographic apparatus and supplies. In 1898 a photogra-pher named Edward Foxlee gave a presentation on the early history of photography to the Photographic Club in London, illustrating it with actual examples in a significant album compiled many years before by the Willats brothers. The Photographic Club members were so delighted by the opportunity of seeing the old examples that “a vote of thanks was passed to him and to Mr. Willats.” Miraculously, this album survives today, purchased at the historic 1952 Albert E. Marshall sale and preserved at Princeton University. It still contains 255 of the prints seen by the Photographic Club. The album is a uniquely valuable resource in the earliest history of the art and the sole repository of the memory of photographers such as John Sherrington. Its earliest dated examples were made by Theodore Redman in 1839, and nearly all the others are from the 1840s. In addition to designing and building cameras, selling supplies, and giving instructions, the Willats firm was also an important publisher of photographic books, including the influential manual written by John Croucher, a parliamentary agent, owner of an academy, studio photographer, and author. Willats was not only a supplier and a collector but also admitted to at least one photogenic drawing, done in 1840 and included in his album. He almost certainly produced others, and perhaps some of the presently unattributed photographs in the album are by him.
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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