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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Alfred Swaine Taylor

Dates:  1806 - 1880
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Alfred Swaine Taylor
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Taylorís father was an East India Company captain, and his maternal grandfather was a manufacturer of gunflints. Nothing in his background suggests that Taylor might emerge as the leading forensic doctor of his generation. Apprenticed to a doctor in London at sixteen, he excelled in anatomy and took an extended Continental tour upon completion of his medical studies. In 1831 he was appointed Englandís first professor of medical jurisprudence at Guyís Hospital, London. Taylor had proven to be an enthusiastic if not talented draftsman during his Continental tour, and perhaps that skill and chemistry were equal draws for him when photography was announced in 1839. He took it up right away and carried out his own experiments on Talbotís process for more than a year, publishing his findings in 1840 in On the Art of Photogenic Drawing. Taylor, like many others, found Talbotís original process ďcapriciousĒ and he devised his own, based on ammonio nitrate of silver. He worked with Henry Collen to improve Collenís prints and to gain access to the artistís fine Ross camera. Taylor particularly liked copying prints by photography, and one early example (published in 1987 by Stephen White) was captioned by its owner Photogenic before photography by Faraday and Dr. Alfred Taylor. In April 1839 Taylor explained his entire process to the chemist and physicist Michael Faraday, loaning some of his photographs for exhibition at the Royal Institution and mentioning that he did not copy directly from engravings but rather from lampblack tracings of them. An album preserved by his daughter Edith indicates that Taylorís interest in photography extended beyond his 1840 book: it includes a salted paper print of the back of his house and a caricature drawn and titled by Taylor Cambridge Photography Saloon, a reference to the house on Cambridge Place near Regentís Park that he occupied until 1854. 
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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