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HomeContents > People > Photographers > William Russell Sedgfield

Names:
Other: Russell Sedgfield 
Other: W,R. Sedgfield 
Dates:  1826 - 1902
Active:  Great Britain
 
  

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for William Russell Sedgfield
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

 
  
Sedgfield was born in Devizes, just a few miles from Lacock Abbey, shortly before Talbot moved back into his family home. There is no evidence they ever met, but later Russell Sedgfield (as he styled himself) would remember his unhappy brush with the calotype patent at age sixteen. About 1842 he started making photographs with Mungo Ponton’s bichromate process and asked Robert Hunt about using the calotype as an amateur. On Hunt’s advice, Sedgfield wrote to Talbot, but in reply he got a demand from Talbot’s solicitor that he apply for an expensive license. Two decades later Sedgfield confessed that after observing some more prominent figures “refusing to have a license, I straightaway went and got a camera, and proceeded in my experiments, hoping that, as I was scarcely safe for costs, Mr. Talbot would begin with some of those more distinguished amateurs.” Sedgfield established himself in London as an engraver on wood but continued to practice his photography. Sometime after 1851 he shifted professions. At the start of 1854, Samuel Highley (soon to become the first editor of the British Journal of Photography) advertised a “Photographic Exhibition” of Sedgfield’s views. Highley soon published four parts of Sedgfield’s Photographic Delineations of the Scenery, Architecture and Antiquities of Great Britain and Ireland, and a lifelong career was launched. Sedgfield showed ten waxed-paper architectural views in the 1854 exhibition of the Royal Infirmary Fund in Dundee and twice that number in the exhibition of the Photographic Society of London that year. From that point on, Sedgfield exhibited with regularity, continuing to use waxed paper for his architectural views through at least 1858. He was so accomplished in waxed paper that during an 1854 meeting of the Liverpool Photographic Society, as reported in its journal that March, a debate broke out between two members who could not believe the quality of Sedgwick’s view of a church at Salisbury; it was so sharp that “the doggerel poetry could be read on the tomb-stones.” Sedgwick became a member of the Norwich Photographic Society, bringing him into contact with some of the most active amateurs. However, Sedgfield had firmly committed to a photographic studio in London, and commercial realities began to influence his art. He began taking portraits on collodion, a technique that would soon dominate his business. In the 1860s he turned to the newly popular stereo views, photographing some of his favored architecture in this medium. Sedgfield, who had been deaf since childhood, remained a professional photographer until about 1890. 
  
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. 
  
SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT 
  
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
 
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