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HomeContents > People > Photographers > E.K. Tenison

Born: Edward KIng Tenison 
Other: E. King Tenison 
Other: Edward Tenison 
Dates:  1805 - 1878
Active:  Spain / Belgium / France / Algeria / Ireland
One of the earliest photographers taking calotypes in Spain. Some of his calotypes were shown at The Irish Industrial Exhibition of 1853. In 1854 he published an album "Memories of Spain" (Recuerdos de Espana) which contained forty calotypes of Spanish towns that had been taken between 1852 and 1854. His wife Lady Louisa Mary Anne Tenison wrote about her time in Spain in various magazine articles and her book "Castile and Andulucia" (London, 1853).

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Approved biography for E.K. Tenison
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

A captain in the 13th Dragoons, Tenison came from aristocratic Irish stock. His 1833 marriage to Lady Louisa Anson brought not only a handsome dowry but also a strong artistic influence. Lady Louisa was independent in means and equally so in spirit, and soon after their marriage she traveled alone through the Holy Land and Egypt. Her Sketches in the East established her reputation as a travel writer and as an artist. Just when Tenison first started in photography is not known, but it must have been quite early, for in 1860 he stated in the British Journal of Photography that “he had tried almost every process of photography, from its first introduction by Daguerre on the silvered plate, up to the present time, on both waxed and unwaxed paper, together with the albumen and collodion processes on glass.” The ample mountain water supply and the practical resources of an Irish castle undoubtedly facilitated his experimentation. Tenison emerged as a strong advocate for paper negatives, making the revealing observation in the Journal that “it was true the development of a paper negative was slow, but that prolonged the pleasure to an amateur.” Tenison taught himself the calotype, which he told the Journal worked “best on old English paper.” However, he then took lessons from Gustave Le Gray in the waxed-paper process. Tenison’s photography first emerged seriously in Spain in 1850-51. They had moved there for Lady Louisa’s health, and she sketched and painted while he photographed. In 1852 he became a pupil of Édouard Baldus, captivated by his approach, as he commented in 1860 in the British Journal of Photography, “because of its simplicity and general success.” Baldus used his own modification of the calotype process employing gelatine, but most significantly delayed waxing his negatives until after fixing. With this tech-nique, Tenison was able to scale his negatives up to 12 x 15 inches. This impressive size made Tenison’s work stand out in the 1853 Dublin International Exhibition. In the 1854 and 1855 exhibitions of the Photographic Society in Lon-don, he submitted a mixture of waxed-paper and calotype views, drawing on subjects in Spain, Belgium, and Normandy. Although these were the only exhibitions in which Tenison participated, he became an active member of the Photographic Society of Ireland and also photographed in Algeria and in his native Ireland. By 1860 he had so mastered Baldus’s technique that he could make up a two-year supply of paper, finding it superior, as he noted in the Photographic Journal that year, “over any other for taking large pictures on a foreign tour.” However, he also con-fessed to the British Journal of Photography that he had “almost given up the science altogether.” 
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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