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  C. G. H. Kinnear

Charles George Hood Kinnear was born on May 30, 1830 in Kinloch, Fife, Scotland. He was the second son born to Charles and Christian Jane Greenshields Kinnear. Charles Kinnear was from a prominent banking family and ensured his children would benefit from the finest private school educations. Trained as an architect, the junior Kinnear joined John Dick Peddie's office as a part-time employee in late 1853. His strong creative leadership at the company's drawing office Burn & Bryce led to a corporate partnership three years' later, with the business becoming known thereafter as Peddie & Kinnear. It is believed Mr. Kinnear's interest in photography began with David Bryce (of Burn & Bryce), who was an accomplished amateur photographer. They, along with fellow architect David MacGibbon and Sir David Brewster, formed the Photographic Society of Scotland, with Mr. Brewster as President and Mr. Kinnear as Secretary. Mr. Kinnear's photographic reputation grew with exhibitions throughout Scotland and several published industry journal articles.

In 1857, Mr. Kinnear was about to embark upon a photographic tour of the rugged northern France countryside and wanted to take along a durable and easily transportable folding camera. His camera design was brought to life by woodworker Robert Bell. This compact folding camera featured bellows that were fixed from the back and could be removed from the front. Because of their tapering, the folds of the bellows could collapse within the larger folds, and when they were detached, the lens board could be folded flat to the base of the camera. The box formation made Kinnear's camera ideal for travel. It measured 15-1/2 x 13x 3-1/2 inches when closed, weighed 13 lbs., and cost half the price of Royal Engineers Captain Fowkes" earlier straight bellows camera. After some basic refinements, the Kinnear design became the standard for plate cameras until the twentieth century.

Mr. Kinnear exhibited his waxed-paper architectural images throughout Western Europe from 1856 until 1864. However, business demands limited Mr. Kinnear's photographic output, leading one reviewer to observe, "We miss the fine architectural wax-paper studies of Mr. Kinnear, who is probably too much occupied with erecting building terra firma to find much time for delineating them on paper." By 1864, Mr. Kinner's final exhibition revealed the photographer had finally replaced his beloved waxed paper with dry-collodion plates. Ever the patriot, he joined the First Midlothian County Artillery Volunteer Brigade in 1859, achieving the rank of Colonel. Mr. Kinnear became Scotland's oldest artillery volunteer.

After his marriage to Jessie Jane Maxwell in 1868, Mr. Kinnear focused primarily upon his military duties and active participation in several photographic organizations including the Photographic Society of Scotland until its demise in 1873, as a founding member of the Edinburgh Photographic Exchange Club, and as a member of the Edinburgh Photographic Society. Sixty-three-year-old C. G. H. Kinnear died suddenly of heart failure on November 5, 1894. Although remembered today primarily for his innovative camera design, Mr. Kinnear achieved the greatest personal satisfaction as a photographer. The editor of The British Journal of Photography visited Mr. Kinnear shortly before his death, and would later write, "His love for photography had suffered no diminution... he was, if possible, still more attached to it than ever."

2001 Discovering Old Cameras 1839-1939 (Oxford, UK: Shire), p. 16.

2014 DSA Architect Biography Report: Charles George Hood Kinnear (URL:

008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), p. 799.

2007 Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art), p. 338.

1895 The Photogram, Vol. II (London: Dawbarn & Ward), p. 23.

2014 PSS Members (URL:

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2014-03-29 09:01:56

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