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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Thomas Sutton

Dates:  1819 (ca. 1818 Getty ULAN) - 1875
Active:  Great Britain / Jersey / Italy / France

Preparing biographies

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

The son of a famous London numismatist, Sutton emerged as an excellent mathematician at Cambridge. He posed for a daguerreotype by Antoine Claudet in 1841 and immediately became intrigued by photography. Sutton secured a daguerreotype camera and dabbled in calotypy following instructions in Robert Bingham’s manual. Becoming a tutor, Sutton followed his student to Jersey in 1847 and there soon began serious photographic researches. Struck by the beauty of calotypes he saw in a shop window, he arranged for lessons from their creator, John Nicolas Laverty, a locally based naval instructor. Sutton’s first serious calotypes were taken during a visit to Italy in 1851. He began a collaboration with the Frenchman Louis Blanquart-Evrard and established a photographic printing plant in Jersey, asserting, “I solemnly believe that the best paper work for views is absolutely finer than the best collodion work.” Sutton displayed calotypes of Jersey, Italy, and France in the 1855 Photographic Institution exhibition in London, in the 1856 Photographic Society of Scotland exhibition in Edinburgh, and in the Manchester Photographic Society exhibition that same year. Also in 1856 Sutton started Photographic Notes, a highly personal and lively journal, the columns of which reflected the enthusiasm and combative nature of their editor. Entranced by collodion, Sutton began to rail against his former passion, the calotype, leading Reverend Thomas Milville Raven to remind him in 1860 in Photographic Notes “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. I never could get you to listen to me when I was in Jersey, for you were always calling it ugly names.” Raven credited Sutton’s invention of a panoramic camera with bringing him back into the circle of paper photographers, for the camera required a curved negative plate, expensive in glass but easily accomplished in waxed paper. In 1858 the Jersey Times reported that Sutton was “thrown among some neighboring furze” by an explosion of ether that destroyed his photographic laboratory, but he survived. In 1861 he briefly held the post of lecturer of Photography at King’s College in London, but he so disliked his hometown that he quit after a few months and moved to Brittany, becoming the French correspondent for the British Journal of Photography. Sutton died after a lingering illness. Despite his ascerbic comments, his contemporaries greatly regretted the loss of one of their most influential colleagues. 
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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Thomas Sutton
The Late Thomas Sutton (Cantab.) 
1875, 30 April
Family history 
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Internet biographies

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Getty Research, Los Angeles, USA has an ULAN (Union List of Artists Names Online) entry for this photographer. This is useful for checking names and they frequently provide a brief biography. Go to website
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