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HomeContents > People > Photographers > John Mawson

Dates:  1816 - 1867
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

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

Mawson was a newly established druggist and chemical supplier in Newcastle just as photography was gaining in popularity. In the summer of 1854 he announced in the Journal of the Photographic Society that he held the sole license from Talbot for photographic portraiture in Newcastle and its neighborhood. “Having obtained the assistance of a skillful artist from London, he is now able to carry on every branch of the Photographic Art,” the advertisement pointed out, including “Talbotype photography on paper and glass.” Mawson had taken on the young Joseph Swan, whose sister he would marry, as an assistant in about 1847. (Swan was later an important photographic inventor and even owned a copy of Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature, but there is no evidence that he ever made paper negatives.) Mawson’s active period as a Talbotypist was brief, for while he continued to stock materials for the paper art, Mawson & Swan emerged as one of the foremost suppliers of collodion products. In 1867, Mawson, in his role as sheriff, was called in to dispose of barrels of nitroglycerin found in the basement of a pub in the heart of Newcastle. Tragically, he and seven others were killed in the process. Mawson was well remembered by the photographic community; four decades later, on the death of his widow, the history of his untimely demise was recounted in the British Journal of Photography
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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