Richard Lowe of Cheltenham

John is currently engaged on a project researching the life and work of Richard Lowe, an enigmatic figure from the early days of photography. A daguerreotype photographer of considerable talent, much of his life and work seems lost in the mists of time. What little is widely known of him is fascinating and begs further investigation. In 1850 he re-opened one of Cheltenham's oldest studios in The Promenade – it had originally been opened as The Cheltenham Photographic Institution in 1841, and had had a succession of owners and managers before Lowe took over. By 1856 he had built up a significant reputation as a daguerreotypist and colourist. And then one day the studio failed to open. In early November 1856, just one week after his last advertisement appeared in The Cheltenham Examiner, the newspaper reported that Lowe had left the town, having first run up considerable debts with many local traders. He was believed to have made his way to Liverpool, from whence, presumably, he returned to his native America. He was never heard of again!

Thomas Keith and John Forbes White

Drygrange Old Bridge, c.1853. Attributed to Thomas Keith. Modern digital print from original waxed paper negative.

More than thirty years have passed since John Hannavy's biography of Thomas Keith, Thomas Keith's Scotland, was published by Canongate, and the time is right to revisit Keith's work and that of his brother-in-law John Forbes White. The precise authorship of a significant number of images produced by the two men is uncertain - they often worked together, shared each other's cameras and, unhelpfully, did not always sign or initial their work. This new project sets out to review the holdings of all the major collections of Keith and White's work in Britain, the USA and Canada, and carry out a detail re-examination of the surviving prints and negatives with a view to compiling an electronic catalogue raisonée. 

John Hannavy was awarded a Fellowship from the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin, to travel to America to study the collection of images by Thomas Keith and his brother-in-law John Forbes White, now part of the University's Gernsheim Collection. Sadly, the Fellowship had to be declined and the planned trip temporarily abandoned, but thanks to the cooperation of the University authorities, it has been possible to access this important body of material on-line, leading to more accurate attribution of these important images. This has been an invaluable addition to John's research programme towards a new revised and expanded monograph on the two photographers, building on his 1981 book, and incorporating much of the addition research gathered in the intervening thirty years. The Victorian Photographs of Thomas Keith and John Forbes White, seeks to help authenticate attribution of the surviving images, and sets out to place the work of the two men in context with the work of other amateurs working in Scotland in the 1850s.


The Victorian Photographs of Dr. Thomas Keith and John Forbes White is still available from John Hannavy Publishing, the remaining hardback copies now reduced to half price, just £10.00 + P&P

To order a copy, use the Contacts page.


Published by PiXZ/Halsgrove in October 2017, price £9.99, is  Edwardian Railways in Postcards a celebration both of the railways themselves and of the art of the postcard photographers, colourists and publishers. Click on the book cover, below to log on to where you can see all of John Hannavy's currently available books. 

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All images and text © John Hannavy