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HomeContents > People > Photographers > J. Craig Annan

Born: James Craig Annan 
Joint: T. &. R. Annan & Sons 
Dates:  1864, 8 March - 1946, 5 June
Born:  UK, Scotland, Hamilton
Active:  Scotland
Scottish photographer and son of Thomas Annan. He learnt the photogravure printing process from Karl Klic and combined it with his photographic skills to produce portfolios of his Italian travels. In the 1890s he printed the photographs of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson who were friends of his father. He was also one of the first photographers to use a hand held camera to create artistic impressions of a location and had his first one-man show at the Royal Photographic Society in 1900. He was also a member of the Linked Ring Brotherhood.

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for J. Craig Annan
(Courtesy of Christian Peterson)

Annan was the top Scottish pictorialist at the turn of the twentieth century. He was a leading photogravure printer, the medium in which he issued virtually all of his own creative work.
James Craig Annan was born in Hamilton, Scotland, on March 8, 1864, the son of Thomas Annan, who was known for his early documentary photographs of the slums of Glasgow. After studying art, chemistry, and natural philosophy, he joined his fatherís Glasgow business in 1877 (at thirteen years of age), and began assisting in studio portraiture and photographic reproductions of artwork. In 1883, father and son traveled to Vienna to learn the photogravure process from its inventor, Karl Klic, and T. & R. Annan and Sons soon became Britainís leading gravure printer. In 1885, he moved to London and established a photoengraving firm with Donald Swan, but returned to the family business after his father died, two years later. Annan oversaw the printing of original etchings by artists such as Muirhead Bone and William Strang, who he befriended. Around 1890, he also made prints from the negatives of fellow Scots, Hill and Adamson, creating renewed interest in their work.
Annan became an accomplished professional portrait photographer in his own right, but most of his artistic pictures comprised outdoor figure studies and pastoral scenes reminiscent of Barbizon paintings. In 1894, he joined the Linked Ring Brotherhood, Englandís leading group of artistic photographers, and took on the pseudonym "Selector." Four years later, he published the limited-edition portfolio Venice and Lombardy: A Series of Original Photogravures.
Annan exhibited widely, from about 1890 to 1915. In 1900, he was given a one-person retrospective at the Royal Photographic Society in London. He showed at salons in Philadelphia, London, and Paris, and photographic exhibitions in Amsterdam, Brussels, Dresden, Edinburgh, Florence, Hamburg, Leeds, Glasgow, and Vienna. His work was seen in the United States at venues in Boston, New York, Rochester, and Syracuse. Involved with the organization of the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition in 1901, Annan invited Alfred Stieglitz to select the American contributors. In 1910, Stieglitz included over twenty of Annanís prints in the International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography, presented at the Albright Art Gallery in Buffalo.
Unlike any other photographer, Annan supplied his own finished photogravures for two high-quality quarterlies edited by Stieglitz. Five of them were seen in Camera Notes, between 1898 and 1901. No less than twenty-five of his gravures appeared in Camera Work, making him one of the best-represented pictorialists in the magazine; the January 1914 issue was devoted exclusively to him. In addition, Annan provided the photogravures by other British photographers for Camera Work. Annan and Stieglitz were exact contemporaries (same birth and death years), and shared a commitment to both high-quality gravure printing and photography as a fine art. For over twenty years they corresponded regularly about business and personal matters.
Indicative of Annanís importance, Photograms of the Year reproduced his work almost continually between 1896 and 1915. In 1924, the Royal Photographic Society granted him an honorary fellowship (Hon. FRPS). By this time, he had retired from printing and was dealing in etchings by Albrecht DŁrer, James McNeill Whistler, and other masters. J. Craig Annan died on June 5, 1946. 
Christian A. Peterson Pictorial Photography at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (Christian A. Peterson: Privately printed, 2012) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of Christian Peterson and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 1 June 2013. 
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.
If you find any errors please email us details so they can be corrected as soon as possible.

Further research

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F. Holland Day
James Craig Annan 
Family history 
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Visual indexes

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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
Grove Art Online ( has a biography of this artist. 
[NOTE: This is a subscription service and you will need to pay an annual fee to access the content.]
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Printed biographies

The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.

• Auer, Michele & Michel 1985 Encyclopedie Internationale Des Photographes de 1839 a Nos Jours / Photographers Encylopaedia International 1839 to the present (Hermance, Editions Camera Obscura) 2 volumes [A classic reference work for biographical information on photographers.] 
• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.88 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] 
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.30-31 
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press)  [Includes a short biography on J. Craig Annan.] 
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.69-70 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.] 
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