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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John William Ramsden

Dates:  1834 - 1894
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for John William Ramsden
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Born the son of a tavern owner just five years before the discovery of photography, Ramsden took up the art at a young age while apprenticed to a bookseller. Wanting to be an artist, he was entranced by some daguerreotypes displayed in an optician’s window and resolved to take up the new art. His camera was a cigar box, fitted with a spectacle glass, and the space under his bed served as his darkroom. Ramsden’s earliest work was in a waxed-paper process that he devised himself. Washington Teasdale, in his 1854 analytical chart of various approaches to formulating waxed paper, failed at Ramsden’s formula but confessed, “in other hands, the best negatives I have ever seen.” In 1852, at eighteen, Ramsden was one of the founders and the first vice president of the Leeds Photographic Society. The following year he opened his first studio, later going into partnership with Thomas Henry Briggs. Ramsden specialized in architectural and landscape photographs, using the waxed-paper process, and exhibited several in the 1856 Photographic Society exhibition in London. He also took portraits and other types of photographs in his studio. When the wet-collodion process asserted itself he became the first and foremost seller of collodion in Britain. His “Ramsden’s Tourist Camera,” lightweight and ideal for field photography, was widely marketed and versatile enough to take paper or glass-plate negatives. 
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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