One of the first known landscape photographers, William England was born in London in approximately 1816. He began is professional photography career by opening a daguerreotype portrait studio in 1840. However, he closed the studio in 1854 to join George Swann Nottage's fledgling London Stereoscopic Company. During his tenure at the London Stereoscopic Company, Mr. England established his reputation for his striking stereoscopic views of Ireland in 1858.
The following year, Mr. England embarked upon an extended journey through the United States and Canada. From New York, he traveled up the Hudson River through the Catskill Mountains through Niagara and into Canada, capturing more than 200 stereoscopic views. Along the way, he also photographed Philadelphia and the construction of the Capitol building in Washington, DC. His cameras recorded both natural scenic waterways and new manmade railroads that were connecting cities to the vast American frontier. It is believed that Mr. England's views of America were the first to be commercially sold in Europe in 1859. The iconic image of Charles Blondin using a tightrope to cross Niagara Falls sold more than 100,000 copies internationally.
The decade of the 1860s proved to be equally busy for the traveling photographer. In 1860 he became a member of the London Photographic Society, and the following year, he took stereoscopic views of Paris. Also in 1861, he invented a camera containing a variable slit that enabled the user to vary the shutter settings. He photographed London's International Exhibition in 1862 and the Dublin Exhibition in 1863. In addition to his landscapes, Mr. England also resumed his portrait photography and was the mastermind behind the London Stereoscopic Company's "Comic" series, which employed double-exposure processes to create "ghost" stereographs.
Seeking to work independently, Mr. England and the London Stereoscopic Company parted company in 1863. It was around this time that he captured his famous series on the views of Switzerland, the Tyrol, and Italy, which further cemented his status as the premier global landscape photographer, having published more views of Europe than anyone else up to that time. In 1864, the volume of 77 photographs entitled Panoramic Views of Switzerland, Savoy and Italy was published.
In 1866, Mr. England opened a studio in London's fashionable Notting Hill district, and the following year, another volume of photographs - this time, 72 views of the Rhine - was published. Several important honors followed including becoming a member of the London Photographic Society and being named President of the Photographic Society of Great Britain. Mr. England was a judge at the Universal Exhibition in 1889, and was later named vice-president of the jury. Another crowning achievement in 1889 was being named chairman of the West London Photographic Society.
William England believed that small views were best, and his plates seldom measured beyond 10x8. He also had his own way of taking and developing pictures. The lightweight traveling stand he favored was made of bamboo. Mr. England did everything himself, dry plate preparation with a mixture of beer and tannin, varnishing, albumenizing his paper using eggs, and mounting. His studio contained a lithopress and two type-presses.
In his later years, Mr. England continued to maintain an active work schedule, which included running the Solar Club of Great Britain from 1890 until his death on August 13, 1896. Today, the name of William England and his stereoscopic views of Europe and North America have sadly faded from public view. In his biography for the Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Matthew Butson described Mr. England as a forgotten giant of nineteenth-century photography.
1878 The British Journal of Photography, Vol. XXV (London: Henry Greenwood), p. 228.
1882 The Studios of Europe (New York: H. T. Anthony & Co.), pp. 15-18.
1962 Creative Photography: Aesthetic Trends, 1839-1960 (Toronto: General Publishing Company), p. 235.
2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 488-489.
2000 Pioneer Photographers of the Far West: A Biographical Dictionary, 1840-1865 (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press), p. 374.
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