Born into a mercantile family in Halifax, West Yorkshire, England, in 1821, James Mudd began his own professional career as a silk designer alongside his brother, Robert Mudd, Jr. By 1847, the brothers had become acquainted with the calotype process by their friend, amateur photographer Joseph Sidebotham, and within a few years they were operating a calico design print gallery at 54 George Street in Manchester. Two years' later, their business J & R Mudd included primarily landscape calotypes. James Mudd emerged as the firm's primary guiding force as both businessman and photographer, and later branched out by taking train photographs first for Beyer-Peacock Locomotive Works in 1856, and later for Nasmyth Wilson and Company and Sharpe Brothers. For his locomotive photographs, he used a 12x15" camera to capture the images onto whole plates. Ever the perfectionist, Mr. Mudd grew increasingly disappointed with his wet collodion efforts, and he returned to his earlier waxed paper technique. However, in 1857, he was introduced to the dry collodion process, and never looked back.
By 1861, Mr. Mudd was installed as a portraitist in Manchester's St. Ann's Square district, and utilized the dry collodion albumen process for his cabinet prints and cartes-des-visite. To produce his large format plates, he employed 4" Lerebours lenses, and Dallmeyer Triplet lenses for his 7x5" plates. The reviews of his exhibitions in Dublin, Edinburgh, and London revealed Mr. Mudd to be in the category of elite photographers that included Francis Bedford, Oscar Gustav Rejlander, and Henry Peach Robinson. He also used his photography to promote environmental causes, producing several images of Manchester vegetation that had been adversely affected by the smog emitted by a local chemical plant. His son James Willis Mudd joined the firm in 1865, but the senior Mudd remained the studio's chief photographer. Although the studio name eventually changed to J. Mudd & Son, James Willis Mudd did not share in any photographic credits until 1875.
Mr. Mudd's technical knowledge is readily apparent in his 1866 text, The Collodio-Albumen Process, and Other Papers, and was celebrated by one critic as "facile princeps in dry-plate photography." He also shared his insights with fellow photographers on his efforts to make the sitter's experience as comfortable as possible, observing that many "prefer half an hour of dental surgery to the same time spent with the photographer." As Mr. Mudd neared retirement, he hired George Grundy as his assistant. Mr. Grundy purchased the studio in 1895, although Mr. Mudd and his son continued as photographers in Bowdon, Cheshire for the next ten years, where James Mudd died in 1906. Thankfully, many of the photographs and writings of the man once heralded as the master of dry-plate photography have been preserved.
2017 Alfred, Lord Tennyson (URL: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portraitLarge/mw06251/Alfred-Lord-Tennyson?LinkID=mp15232&role=art&rNo=0).
1991 Creative Photography: Aesthetic Trends, 1839-1960 by Helmut Gernsheim (New York: Dover Publications, Inc.), p. 44.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 956-958.
2017 The Forgotten Photographs Project (URL: http://www.forgottenphotosproject.com/coveney-931.html).
2007 Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 by Roger Taylor (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art), p. 351.
1866 The Photographic News, Vol. X (London: Thomas Piper), pp. 266-167.
2008 Realism, Photography and Nineteenth-Century Fiction by Daniel A. Novak (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), pp. 42-43.
2017 Railway Photography (URL: http://www.nrm.org.uk/railwaystories/railwayarticles/railwayphotography).
2017 Three Studies (URL: http://www.artnet.com/artists/james-mudd/three-studies-circa-1860-3-xQKw5gPfhH7oKug_xaGlHA2).
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