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HomeContents > People > Photographers > James Valentine

Joint: Valentine & Sons 
Active:  Scotland
Valentine was a well-known photographer of Scotland. Valentines of Dundee produced Scottish topographical views from the 1860s, and later became internationally famous as the producers of picture postcards.
The business was founded in 1851 by James Valentine (1815-1879). He added portrait photography to the activities of his established Dundee business, which had been based up to 1851 on the engraving, printing and supply of business stationery. In 1855 he erected one of the largest photographic glasshouses in Britain. In 1866 James Valentine carried out his first Royal commission and received the Royal warrant in 1867. His organisational and presentational skills were essential in the rapidly expanding and thriving concern which opened a large printing works in Dundee. William Dobson Valentine (1844-1907), son of James Valentine, took a course of chemistry at London University and trained to be a landscape specialist in the studios of Francis Frith at Reigate, Surrey, the largest English publisher of the commercial landscape. He entered the family business in about 1860.
Valentine views in the nineteenth century aimed at the national middle and upper class tourist market, with the production of both drawing room albums containing selections of photographs arranged geographically and individual landscape prints. Landscapes were available in a choice of sizes - cabinet, imperial and card. Stereoscopic views were also produced. Subjects concentrated on tourist sights in Scotland, then to England in 1882 and on to fashionable resorts abroad, including Norway, Jamaica, Tangiers, Morocco, Madeira and New Zealand before 1900.
The company became very widely known after the Tay Bridge disaster of 1879, when they were commissioned to photograph the remains of the bridge for the Court of Inquiry. The pictures were sold across the country, and used in picture postcards.

James Valentine (1815-1879)
Like many of the early photographers, James Valentine first trained as an artist and engraver before moving into photography. He apparently travelled to Paris to learn the new technology, before opening a Dundee studio in 1851. By the 1860s, he was employing around 50 people.
His son, William Dobson Valentine, was sent to train with the important English photographer, Francis Frith, and on his return became a major driving force in the continued expansion of the Valentine family enterprise.
In 1867, Valentine received a royal warrant and could call himself Photographer to the Queen, something Wilson always claimed, but an honour he did not officially receive until 1873.
Although Valentine published over one thousand stereoviews of Scotland, his work was overshadowed by Wilson's and it was even cruelly suggested that he sought out the imprints of Wilson's tripod to take similar shots of famous viewpoints.
Valentine was able to differentiate himself both geographically, by photographing regions ignored by Wilson, such as his local Dundee area, and also by his choice of subject matter. His remarkable scenes of mundane everyday life in the Highlands are among the most fascinating of any early stereoviews. These carefully staged documentary compositions of the locals cutting peats, washing clothes and spinning capture a lost way of life.
The Valentines had the last laugh. The Valentine company outlived that of Wilson by a century. It astutely moved into postcards and became a successful publisher.
Biography taken, with permission, from: Peter Blair, 2018, Scotland in 3D, (P3DB Publishing)

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