Arthur James Melhuish was born to Samuel and Charlotte Castle Melhuish in London in 1829. His father died in 1843, and three years later his mother married Blackheath sketch artist John Buchanan Smith, which may have inspired his artistic inclinations. After a failed attempt as a pawnbroker, Mr. Melhuish turned his attentions to photographic experimentation. In 1853, he married Caroline Powell, with whom he would have four daughters and three sons. Mr. Melhuish supported his growing family as a portrait painter, photographer, and photographic equipment designer. With collaborator Joseph Spencer, he designed and patented the first roll film holder that utilized sensitized paper, which was introduced to the Royal Photographic Society (RPS) in 1856, and received considerable attention when Frank Haes used it for his photographs of the London Zoo. That same year, Mr. Melhuish became a member of the RPS, and by 1857 opened his first studio in Blackheath. While operating his solo photography business, Mr. Melhuish formed several other buusiness partnerships that included ventures in publishing and color photography.
In 1859, Mr. Melhuish received two patents for his metal camera designs. The metal body was initially constructed in brass and later aluminum, with the camera top, bottom, and sides soldered together. The slides were fitted into the sides of the camera body, which allowed for image adjustment. The operator could manipulate the metal sliding bar to capture stereoscopic views at a 200-degree angle. Although initially greeted with considerable skepticism by purists who would not use anything but their tried-and-true wooden cameras, the advantages of metal cameras quickly became obvious. A mahogany camera weighed 18 lbs. whereas a brass camera weighed 12 lbs., and an aluminum camera weighed a mere 3 lbs. The lightweight metal camera was a practical choice for the traveling photographer, and its durability allowed it to withstand dramatic climate and temperature changes. Because metal reflects the heat of the sun, metal cameras were particularly useful in hot climates because its wet plates can be preserved for up to ten minutes in a metal slide, as opposed to one minute in its wooden counterpart. Furthermore, with its tight fit and metal slide shutter drawing downwards, the metal camera protects the plate from excessive light penetration.
Mr. Melhuish's years of experimentation also provided him with insights into the importance of silver in processing. He once explained that washing off silver chloride from plates enabled the photographer to protect them from the "abominable yellow" discoloration that tainted many outdoor photographs, and that adding silver to the toning bath prevented further darkening after light exposure. Mr. Melhuish was an active member of the Amateur Photographic Association for more than two decades, and his respected professional status enabled him to frequently interact with the British royal family, who were longtime photography aficionados, and exchange ideas with noted chemists and scientists. In 1873, Mr. Melhuish was named official royal photographer of the Shah of Persia during his tour of London. His studio moved to various locations over the years, and was renamed Melhuish and Gale in 1894 to reflect his final partnership with fellow photographer James Gale. A frequent contributor to several industry publications, Mr. Melhuish also co-founded, with Alfred Wilcox, the Church of England Pulpit and Ecclesiastical Review, and served as a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society and as an Honorary Fellow of Royal Meteorological Society. A. J. Melhuish died in London on November 1, 1895.
2007 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 919-920.
2007 Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 by Roger Taylor (New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art), pp. 348, 372.
2015 King Edward VII as Lord of the Isles (URL: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw252631/King-Edward-VII-as-Lord-of-the-Isles?LinkID=mp69324&role=art&rNo=13).
2015 Nasser al-Din, Shah of Persia with an Attendant (URL: http://www.npg.org.uk/collections/search/portrait/mw199693/Nasser-al-Din-Shah-of-Persia-with-an-attendant).
1861 Patents for Inventions: Abridgements of Specifications Relating to Photography (London: George E. Eyre and William Spottiswoode), pp. 144-145.
1860 Photographic News for Amateur Photographers, Vol. III (London: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin, La Belle Sauvage Yard, E. C.), pp. 216, 289-290.
1860 Photographic Notes, Vol. V (London: Sampson Low, Son, & Co.), pp. 30-31.
1896 Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, Vol. XXII (London: Edward Stanford), p. 111.
2015 The Young Master and His Shetland Pony, 1881 (URL: http://www.artnet.com/WebServices/images/ll00330lldS09GFgGYECiCfDrCWvaHBOcKxbE/arthur-james-melhuish-the-young-master-and-his-shetland-pony.jpg).
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