|Dates: ||1830 - 1901|
As a youth, Shadbolt was captivated by the announcements of Daguerre and Talbot. Finding the daguerreotype too expensive to attempt, he remembered in his 1864 “Valedictory and Introduction” in the British Journal of Photography, his “gratification of being enabled to repeat the experiments of the latter.” With a smattering of chemistry, he “entered enthusiastically into the idea of investigating the phenomena of photogenic action.” His first darkroom was his father’s wine cellar, which was illuminated by a candle. Shadbolt vividly recalled “the subsequent triumph when . . . the first impressions of leaves and lace and flowers were produced, and fixed (!) . . . how they were shown to admiring friends, and preserved as ‘pearls of great price.’” Shadbolt entered his father’s timber business but remained active as an amateur photographer, taking a great interest in lenses and becoming a pioneer in microphotography. In both the 1854 Royal Infirmary Fund exhibition in Dundee and the Photographic Society exhibition in London he showed waxed-paper and calotype architectural views and portraits. He continued to exhibit frequently, turning to collodion. However impressive his photographs were, more important was the role Shadbolt played in the acceptance of photography. He was one of the founders of the Photographic Society in London and in 1857 became the first editor of the London and Manchester Photographic Journal, which evolved into the widely influential British Journal of Photography. In his editorial capacity Shadbolt finally made actual his youthful ambition of “reading every scrap that was published relative” to photography. Ill health and the demands of his commercial business forced him to give up research in photography. In 1864, in one of his last acts as editor, Shadbolt wrote to Talbot, addressing him as “one to whom photographers owe in eternal debt of gratitude.” On his retirement from the British Journal of Photography he was widely praised in its pages (July 1865) as “a scholar and a man of science” and was given a silver epergne by his friends. On his death thirty-six years later, pronounced the same journal in his obituary, there were “photographers still living who speak in terms of the highest appreciation of the late Mr. Shadbolt’s great ability as an editor and a student of photographic science.”
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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