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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Thomas Milville Raven

Dates:  1828 - 1896
Active:  Great Britain / France

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Thomas Milville Raven
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Shortly after joining the Photographic Society of Scotland, Rev. Raven recalled in the Journal of the Photographic Society of December 21, 1858, “it was after reading Dr. Keith’s admirable paper on the waxed-paper process that I determined to adopt it. I was at that time living in a country parish in Yorkshire, and had to fight my way through photographic difficulties and troubles unaided and unadvised by any one. I had been working some little time with various processes before I came to Edinburgh.” Raven was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, and thus had a scientific background. One brother was a painter, and his brother-in-law was Henry Holiday, a prominent member of the Pre-Raphaelite circle. Thomas Keith, himself a masterful photographer, had adapted the waxed-paper process to the needs of the British amateur, and Raven probably had the opportunity to discuss photography with him. Raven began exhibiting as soon as he joined the society in 1856, contributing dozens of calotype and waxed-paper views, mostly of architecture and archaeological sites. By the time of their 1858 exhibition, his subject matter had broadened to include the Pyrenees, where he did a substantial amount of waxed-paper work. Raven submitted more than two dozen waxed-paper views of French architecture and scenery to the 1859 exhibition of the Glasgow Photographic Society. His published account of his photographic journey through the Pyrenees is instructive about photography but reveals nothing of himself. He and his wife, Eliza (possibly the mysterious photographer E. Raven), arrived in Pau with a daughter in December 1857. The daughter is not recorded on a subsequent visit, and no daughter is registered in either the 1851 or 1861 census. One might conclude that the Ravens went to Pau hoping to find a cure for their young daughter but left childless. Whatever transpired, Raven used the time there to good photographic advantage, and his narrative, “Account of a Photographic Tour from Jersey to the Pyrenees,” illuminates the experience of a dedicated amateur photographer. After his success with waxed paper in France, Raven returned to calotype in the cooler climate of Britain, finding it, as he wrote in Photographic Notes in 1858, “unrivalled” for “landscape portraiture.” He also experimented with a dry collodion view of Stirling Castle. His contributions to the 1861 Photographic Society exhibition in London were a mix of waxed-paper and collodion, including views, portraits, and studies of busts. Raven continued to show some waxed paper in 1864 and made his final contribution to the 1865 International Exhibition in Dublin, again a mix of collodion and waxed paper. In 1860, in Photographic Notes, Raven cheerfully challenged Thomas Sutton, the outspoken editor of Photographic Notes, having “so often told you ‘that the success of all out-door work in photography must eventually depend on paper, and that to paper all collodion men would have to turn.’” Raven was elected a member of the Photographic Society in London on June 7, 1864, the same day that Julia Margaret Cameron was admitted. 
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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