|Dates: ||1815 - 1891|
Ellis inherited the Star & Garter Hotel in Richmond from his father but in 1845 moved to Brighton and took over the Bedford Hotel, the finest accommodation in the seaside resort. Exactly when photography piqued his interest is not known, but in 1842 he wrote a poem, “Photography,” hailing “Niepce, and Daguerre, and Talbot, and Claudet!” A dedicated amateur, Ellis was a close friend of Antoine Claudet, from whom he learned about photography and whose eulogy he would write. In 1847 he published Photography: A Popular Treatise, which he introduced as a “labour of love,” inscribing a copy to Talbot, and later he expanded a lecture given at the Literary and Scientific Institution of Brighton into Progress of Photography - Collodion, the Stereoscope (1856). From his large personal collection, Ellis generously shared his own work and that of other photographers with interested amateurs. A life member of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, he was in later years a wine merchant and served on Brighton’s town council. At a meeting of the Photographic Club in 1862, Ellis displayed one of his proudest possessions. Since his Richmond days he had been intrigued by the 1827 visit of Joseph Nicéphore Niépce, the French inventor of photography, to nearby Kew. His friend Benjamin Cussell, a hotel proprietor, had been presented by Niépce with a precious heliograph, one of a handful to have survived. Cussell died suddenly and the heliograph was almost melted down for scrap before Ellis tracked it down and purchased it. After the 1862 meeting, nothing more is known of this precious artifact. Perhaps Ellis lent it to his friend Claudet and it perished in the disastrous fire at Claudet’s studio in 1868. Or perhaps it remains to be found.
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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