One of Great Britain's most exclusive portrait salons began with the birth of Joseph John Elliott to John and Mary Elliott in Croydon, Surrey, England, in 1835. At 16, he sailed to Australia with his sister and brother-in-law, and after failing as a gold prospector, he became an itinerant photographer in New South Wales. Mr. Elliott returned to his native England in 1859, and within two years he was living and working in London. Clarence Edmund Fry was born to Edmund and Caroline Clarence Fry in Plymouth, Devon, England on February 8, 1840. His career began as a portraitist for the George Washington Wilson & Co. commercial photography studio in Scotland.
Their shared occupation brought Mr. Elliott and Mr. Fry into contact, and evolved into a professional partnership that culminated in the opening of the Elliott & Fry studio at 55 Baker Street in London. It also led to a personal partnership when Mr. Elliott married Mr. Fry's sister Elizabeth on August 20, 1864. The following year, Mr. Fry married photographic colorist Sophia Prideaux. The successful collaboration was based on Mr. Fry's impressive technical precision and artistic sensibilities and Mr. Elliott's entrepreneurial spirit. His business acumen allowed Mr. Fry to devote his full attention to portraiture, with both equally reaping the commercial and artistic awards that accompanied their highly profitable alliance.
By 1880, Elliott & Fry were operating a trio of studios, each designed to take advantage of eastern light, and featured arrays of large and small lights for vignettes and painted backgrounds, movable shades and screens, and overhead canopies. Their prices for sittings were expensive for their time, and necessitated catering to an elite clientele. Many firms also contracted with Elliott & Fry, and instead of paying for their services, allowed the studios to sell their prints commercially, which promoted their business services that proved financially advantageous to both parties. Mr. Fry became was elected to the Photographic Society of London in November of 1886, and the following year, the partnership was dissolved, although the studios continued to operate as Elliott & Fry, with Mr. Elliott overseeing the Baker Street facility (later joined by his sons Ernest Clarence and Hubert John Elliott) and Mr. Fry operating the South Kensington studio.
Clarence Fry died suddenly of a heart attack during a round of golf on April 12, 1897, and Joseph John Elliott died nearly six years' later, on March 30, 1903. Sadly, Ernest Clarence Elliott, who retained ownership of the Elliott & Fry studio, died in 1910 at the age of 37. The Baker Street studio ceased operations in 1919. Many of Elliott & Fry's early negatives were destroyed during World War II, and the firm disappeared altogether after its purchase by Bassano & Vandyck (now Bassano Portrait Studios) in 1963. More than 10,000 Elliott & Fry negatives are part of the National Portrait Gallery collection in London, while several nineteenth century prints can be found at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
2017 Clarence Edmund Fry of Elliott & Fry of London (URL: http://www.photohistory-sussex.co.uk/FryClarence.htm).
2017 Elliott & Fry (active 1863-1962) (URL: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/person/mp06938/elliott--fry?role=art).
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 479-480.
1903 The Photographic Dealer and D. & P. Trade Review, Vol. XIV (London: Photographic Dealer, Ltd.), p. 106.
1897 Wilson's Photographic Magazine, Vol. XXXIV (New York: Edward L. Wilson), p. 546.
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