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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Peter Wickens Fry

Dates:  1798 - 1860
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Peter Wickens Fry
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Fryís well-deserved reputation as one of prime movers behind the promotion of photography sometimes overshadows his own considerable attainments in the art. We do not know when he first became interested in photography, but, according to the British Journal of Photography, after his death it was said that he had begun with photogenic drawing even before Talbot announced his discovery of the calotype process in 1841, and also that he visited Robert Hunt in Falmouth to share information. A solicitor in London who was always known as a kindhearted fellow and a good companion, Fry founded the Calotype Club, a loosely organized gathering of a dozen amateurs, in 1847. When the Photographic Society was being formed in 1853, the controversy concerning Talbotís patent rights had still not been resolved, with Fry leading the battle to reject the inventorís offer of a special license. He was also the zealous defense lawyer for Sylvester Laroche in the action that eventually overturned Talbotís patent in 1854. Fry participated regularly in exhibitions between 1852 and 1856; most of his work was in paper negatives, predominantly architectural views; there were also some portraits rendered in collodion. Fry was one of the first to learn of Frederick Scott Archerís wet-collodion process and he urged the young sculptor to publish his invention, which he did in 1851. Not long after this, during a visit to Italy, Fry set up his camera to photograph a work of art in collodion. A student had been engaged for a week in making a copy of the work in oils, but on seeing how rapidly Fry was able to make his exactingly faithful photographic copy, the hapless artist smashed his canvas across his knee. Perhaps Fry had inadvertently created one more convert to 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. 
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