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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Joseph James Forrester

Other: Joseph James barão de Forrester 
Other: Joseph James Baron de Forrester 
Other: Joseph James Baron Forrester 
Dates:  1809, 27 May - 1861, 12 May
Born:  England, Kingston-upon-Hull
Died:  Portugal, São João da Pesqueira, Cachão da Valeira
Active:  Portugal
Early photographer in Portugal.

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Approved biography for Joseph James Forrester
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Born in England to Scottish parents, Forrester moved to Oporto, Portugal, in 1831 to join his uncle in the port wine business. He had ample leisure time to work in watercolors and chalk (he was an unusually accomplished amateur artist), and particularly to pursue his passion for cartography. Forrester’s map of the Douro River, completed in 1843 and based on his own survey, became the standard for navigation. In 1844 his gently titled A Word or Two on Port Wine shook up the industry and led to necessary reforms. Forrester took lessons in photography from Hugh Welch Diamond, probably growing out of their shared interest in archaeological photography. Like Diamond he preferred a close variation of Talbot’s original calotype process that involved waxing after the negative was developed. In 1854 Forrester wrote to the Journal of the Photographic Society that he was “about to plant my camera amongst the mountain scenery of Portugal, which I am desirous graphically to describe, and photographically to illustrate.” The French photographic critic and historian Ernst Lacan recalled that Forrester had been “accused of exaggeration and inexactitude” in his descriptions of Portugal and desired a “means to prove he had told the truth,” but, whatever the motivation, his output was prodigious. Introducing his contribution to The Photographic Album for the Year 1855, Forrester said his Margins of the Douro was but one of a series of 220 negatives. He showed a similar view in the 1855 exhibition of the Photographic Society in London, but otherwise contributed primarily to exchange club albums. Also in 1855, the queen of Portugal, reflecting the gratitude of a nation, made Forrester a baron. Charles Piazzi Smyth stopped by Oporto on his way to Tenerife to take lessons from Forrester in the new stereo photography. In 1861 the very river that Forrester had mapped claimed his life when his boat was smashed on the rocks, the Douro never yielding up his body. 
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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Unidentified photographer
Joseph James Forrester 
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