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  Joseph Cundall, Photographer

Joseph Cundall was born in Norwich, England on September 22, 1818. He was the second of five children born to Benjamin and Eliza (Gilman) Cundall. He received his early art instruction in Ipswich as a painter, and by age 16 was working as a printer for publisher and bookseller Charles Tilt. Mr. Cundall dabbled in the new medium of photography, with his calotype experiments dating back to the 1840s. He and fellow photographic enthusiasts Robert Hunt and Hugh Welch Diamond formed the Calotype Club. The name was later changed to the Photographic Club, and within a few years its members included such notables as Frederick Scott Archer, Peter Fry, and Sir William Newton. This informal group later evolved into the illustrious Royal Photographic Society (RPS). He was married twice, first to Sarah Ranson in 1845; and then a few years after her death in 1868, he wed Emily Anne Thompson.

By 1852, Mr. Cundall was working as both an author and photographer at 168 New Bond Street in London, and later that year exhibited his works for the first time at the Society of Arts. At around this time, it is believed he met Robert Howlett, with whom he entered into a brief professional partnership. Although his association with Mr. Howlett is the most famous, Mr. Cundall teamed with other notable photographers throughout his long career, including George Downes and Philip H. Delamotte. Throughout the rest of the decade, he exhibited under various names, including Cundall & Howlett, Cundall, Howlett & Downes, and Cundall & Downes. His emphasis shifted from straight portraiture to documenting works of art to architectural photography. In August 1871, Mr. Cundall was commissioned to photograph the magnificent tapestries housed in Bayeux (a commune located in Normandy, France).

In addition to his photographic endeavors, Mr. Cundall maintained a prolific publishing business on the side. He published Mr. Delamotte’s The Practice of Photography and Progress of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham, as well as his own technical text, The Photographic Primer. He was also a successful publisher of children’s books and fairytales, most notably Goldilocks and the Three Bears. However, Mr. Cundall’s photographic experimentation never wavered, and after 1870, he began using the carbon (autotype) process exclusively. In 1872, he entered into his final partnership with Lewis Baldwin Fleming, exhibiting as Cundall & Fleming.

Joseph Cundall continued as both photographer and publisher until his death in London on January 10, 1895, at the age of 76. Samples of his work are presently housed at numerous locations, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and Edinburgh’s National Galleries of Scotland.

1986 Amateurs, Photography, and the Mid-Victorian Imagination by Grace Seiberling (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press), pp. 125-126.

1898 The Bayeux Tapestry: A History and Description by Frank Rede Fowke (London: George Bell & Sons), pp. 16-17.

2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 354.

2018 Fountains Abbey: Interior of the Choir (URL:

2018 Hampton Court from the Thames, Boat with Figure (URL:

2018 Highlanders (URL:

The RPS: Our History by Dr. Michael Pritchard, FRPS (URL:

2018 Sproughton Lock, 1856 (URL:

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