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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Joseph Sidebotham

Dates:  1824 - 1885
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

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

The son of a mill manager, Sidebotham was apprenticed to a calico printer in Manchester. He began to demonstrate his many talents early in life, making a working steam engine at fifteen and then taking classes in natural history at the Manchester Mechanicsí Institute. It was there that Sidebotham met the celebrated optician J. B. Dancer, and it is likely that through him became interested in photography. About 1846, Sidebotham became close friends with the engineer James Nasmyth, and the relationship mutually reinforced not only their astronomical interests but also their photographic ones. That same year Sidebotham became a partner in a calico printing firm that specialized in a par-ticular shade of red. Sidebothamís comprehensive and practical understanding of chemistry was very useful in his photographic experiments. In 1852 Sidebotham was elected to membership in the prestigious Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, further strengthening his ties with Dancer and Nasmyth. Sidebothamís earliest known calotypes are from the mid-1840s, but he is best known for his exquisite mastery of the waxed-paper process in the 1850s. When the Manchester Photographic Society was formed in 1855, Sidebotham was elected its honorary secretary. He contributed eighteen waxed-paper architectural views to its first exhibition. About 1856 Sidebotham formed a close working relationship with James Mudd, and the two men photographed together. Not long afterward, like many amateurs, Sidebotham converted to collodion. He had made his first ambrotype in 1853. In the 1860s Sidebotham contributed a variety of articles to the photographic journals, ranging from technical treatises to a commentary on perspective. In 1865 he was an important conduit for information from his friend Charles Piazzi Smyth, then engaged in a controversial study of the Great Pyramid. Before Smythís departure, Sidebotham had worked with him on problems of measurement and illumination. In ill health, Sidebotham retired from calico printing in 1877 and lived off the proceeds of a colliery. 
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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