Early photojournalist Alfred Henry Wall was born in the London district of Charterhouse Square in 1828. The boy suffered an unhappy childhood and became a runaway, taking work wherever he could find it. He was contentedly working as an architect's apprentice when his mother's second husband decided he could earn more money as a clerk in a papier-mache company. The lad ran away once again and found employment in a London daguerreotype studio before joining William Charles (W. C.) Macready's theatrical company. After working impressively behind the scenes, he was rewarded with small acting parts. The sketches he made during this time attracted the attention of Mr. Findlay, a painter of miniatures at the Strand Theatre. Shortly thereafter, he began painting the backgrounds of Mr. Findlay's miniature creations.
Twenty-two-year-old Alfred Henry Wall pursued a career as a daguerreotypist in 1850, and began a partnership with a Royal Academy exhibitor named Collins in Cheapside. The following year, he became a photographer's assistant, and briefly opened a painting studio in the Strand. Undeterred, the recently married Mr. Wall became an itinerant painter using the pseudonym of R. A. Seymour, with little success. However, in 1861, he published A Manual of Artistic Colouring as Applied to Photographs that received critical praise. Following the death of his wife, a grieving Mr. Wall returned to the theater troupe as a scene painter and occasional actor.
By 1862, Mr. Wall changed career paths yet again and opened a commercial photography studio in the Westbourne Grove section of London. Finally generating some income, he decided to combine photography with his love of writing, becoming editor and publisher of The Art Student, which educated readers on the art of photography, and also became editor and contributor of The Illustrated Photographer from 1868 to 1870, and edited several other London and Australian pictorial and news publications. He also made frequent editorial contributions to The Amateur Photographer and The Photogram. His final photographic text was Artistic Landscape Photography, which was published in 1896.
The founder and honorary secretary of the South London Photographic Society, Mr. Wall defined these early photographic organizations as providing essential conversational links between the art and science of photography that inspired newer and more sophisticated technical processes that enhanced rather than detracted from its aesthetic appeal. His final years were spent as curator of Stratford-on-Avon's Shakespeare Memorial Library. Alfred Henry Wall died on June 24, 1906, and the words he wrote to conclude A Manual of Artistic Coluring as Applied to Photographs provide a fitting epitaph to the photographer, artist, writer, teacher, and actor:
"I have now laid before you the garnered experience and tediously-acquired information of many years, briefly, and consequently, imperfectly; but with earnest and studious care, and with every desire to be practically useful: and I must now make my bow and ring down the curtain."
1991 Bernard Shaw's Book Reviews (State College, PA: Pennsylvania State University), p. 216.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 1305, 1466.
1861 A Manual of Artistic Colouring as Applied to Photographs (London: Thomas Piper), p. 262.
1895 The Photogram, Vol. II (London: Dawbarn & Ward, Ltd.), pp. 103-104.
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