Photographer William Crooke was born in the Irish Free State of Inneskillen in 1849. Little is known about his childhood, education, or professional training. He moved to Edinburgh, Scotland, and quickly established himself as one of the preeminent portrait photographers in the United Kingdom. In 1883, Mr. Crooke established a portrait studio at 103 Princes Street in Edinburgh, and having one's portrait by the acclaimed photographer became a status symbol among the aristocratic class. Mr. Crooke's methods were considered conservative because he had no interest in experimentation, unlike other photographers of the period. His preference for using only platinotype and carbon and printing from negatives directly onto large plates never changed. Mr. Crooke's style of elegant sophistication became his professional trademark.
Founded in 1886, the Photographic Convention of United Kingdom (PCUK) - comprised of both professionally trained and affluent amateur photographers - was created to provide some organization and standards to the growing field of photography. A veritable "who's who" of late nineteenth-century photographers, the PCUK invitation-only membership included Mr. Crooke and some of his most esteemed colleagues including William England of the London Stereoscope Company, Linked Ring Member Richard Keene, James Craig Annan, Alfred Stieglitz, and famed pictorialist photographer Henry Peach Robinson, who was elected President in 1896. Mr. Crooke became President three years' later, and soon became its international spokesman.
In December 1910, Mr. Crooke accompanied London photographer Walter Barnett on a six-week tour of the United States with an exhaustive itinerary that included New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington DC, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Boston, Niagara Falls, and Rochester. American photographers were eager to exchange ideas with Mr. Crooke, such was his fame at the time. While in Rochester, Mr. Crooke and his group received a private tour of the Kodak facilities and attended a luncheon afterwards with George Eastman, who was always eager to learn about the latest global photographic trends.
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