Active 1851 – 1870s (died 1879)
366 – At the Peats, Glenfinlas, Valentine, c.1870
Like many of the early photographers, James Valentine first trained as an artist and engraver before moving into photography. He apparently travelled to Paris to learn the new technology, before opening a Dundee studio in 1851. By the 1860s, he was employing around 50 people.
His son, William Dobson Valentine, was sent to train with the important English photographer, Francis Frith, and on his return became a major driving force in the continued expansion of the Valentine family enterprise.
In 1867, Valentine received a royal warrant and could call himself Photographer to the Queen, something Wilson always claimed, but an honour he did not officially receive until 1873.
Although Valentine published over one thousand stereoviews of Scotland, his work was overshadowed by Wilson’s and it was even cruelly suggested that he sought out the imprints of Wilson’s tripod to take similar shots of famous viewpoints.
Valentine was able to differentiate himself both geographically, by photographing regions ignored by Wilson, such as his local Dundee area, and also by his choice of subject matter. His remarkable scenes of mundane everyday life in the Highlands are among the most fascinating of any early stereoviews. These carefully staged documentary compositions of the locals cutting peats or washing clothes capture a lost way of life.
The Valentines had the last laugh. The Valentine company outlived that of Wilson by a century. It astutely moved into postcards and became a successful publisher.