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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Charles George Hood Kinnear

Dates:  1832 - 1894
Active:  France / Scotland / Italy / England

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Charles George Hood Kinnear
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

From an influential Fife family, Kinnear was a highly sought after Edinburgh architect and an early member of the Ed-inburgh Photographic Exchange Club. A founding member of the Photographic Society of Scotland in 1856, he was elected the society’s honorary secretary. Kinnear designed a sturdy folding camera, which he had constructed by Robert Bell, an Edinburgh woodworker. He first used the camera in 1857 while on an architectural and photographic tour of the north of France, an area not yet opened up by the railroad. Early cameras were mostly sliding boxes, although bellows cameras had begun to appear in 1851. While in early models the bellows was square, Kinnear recognized that a “conical” or tapered bellows would make possible a much smaller field camera. In his camera the bellows was full size at the negative end tapering to a much smaller size at the lens end and it was able to collapse in on itself. Kinnear’s innovation set the pattern for nearly all subsequent cameras. Between 1856 and 1859 Kinnear exhibited dozens of waxed-paper views of architecture in Scotland, Germany, Italy, France, and England. A reviewer of the 1860 exhibition of the Photographic Society of Scotland regretted the growing prominence of his commercial work, lamenting in the Photographic Journal: “We miss the fine architectural wax-paper studies of Mr. Kinnear, who is probably too much occupied with erecting building[s] terra firma to find much time for delineating them on paper.” (In 1856 Kinnear had joined the thriving practice of John Dick Peddie, one of the most prolific Scottish architects of his time.) Kinnear’s final public showing was at the 1864 exhibition of the Photographic Society of Scotland, by which time he had abandoned waxed paper for Dr. Hill Norris’s dry-collodion plates. Just days before his death in 1894 Kinnear visited the editor of the British Journal of Photography, who was struck by the fact that “his love for photography had suffered no diminution, but that he was, if possible, still more attached to it than ever.” The next year the British Journal Photographic Almanac remembered Kinnear primarily for his influential camera design. 
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. 
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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