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William Crooke

Princes  Street Studio

William Crooke’s studio  -  1911

William Crooke's studio  -  Princes Street

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Services.


©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Services.

Comments in the British Journal of Photography

William Crooke was one of Scotland’s most prominent professional photographers.  He had an opulent portrait studio with carved old oak panels and two fireplaces at 103 Princes Street, as seen in the two photographs below:    [BJP:14 April 1911]

A reporter from the British Journal of Photography visited William Crooke's studio during the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom, held in Edinburgh in 1892.

The journal sent a special representative to meet William Crooke in his studio about thirty years later, in 1911, when the photos above were taken.  The journal reported:

"The studio is situated in Princes Street.  From the windows of the Reception Room, a beautiful view is obtained of Edinburgh Castle, that "'dream of masonry and living rock'  and across the Princes Street Gardens to where the smoky homes of the Old Town look down on the magnificent thoroughfare of the Northern capital.

The studios leading off the reception rooms are spacious and convenient, and contain many original features that owe their origin to Mr Crooke's experience and artistic taste.

On the walls we see prints that have done their part in maintaining the Crooke fame.  There is a majesty about all the pictures from these studios that is so prevailing that it might well be termed the dominant note in the scheme of Crooke's harmony.

Even childhood, when photographed by Mr Crooke, assumes an aristocratic miein;  one can hardly imagine him photographing a slum child and retaining the slum atmosphere.

Comments in The Practical Photographer

A correspondent in the journal, The Practical Photographer in 1892, also commented on William Crooke's studio  and other Edinburgh studios of the time.

William Crooke was described by the correspondent as "The Boss of the Walk" (the Walk being Princes Street).  He wrote:

"Taking a stroll west the other day we observed a magnificent carved doorway being erected in connection with Mr Crooke's studio.  It has a glass domed top and glass panels and the name 'Crooke' in embossed brass on the lower panel. 

The whole affair is most artistic in taste and very pleasing to the eye; as usual, the work exhibited is tip top."



Where did William Crook photograph his Portraits?

I have been asked the following question by somebody who contacted me concerning a photograph of his great-grandmother.

"I have Carte de Visite of my great-grandmother, taken in either 1889, 1890, or 1891, which bears the stamp of William Crooke ("W. Crooke, 103 Princes Street, Edinburgh"). 

What I'm trying to determine is where the photograph was made, in order to pinpoint where my great-grandmother lived at the time. (She was age 13 or 14, and I'm wondering if she may have been a pupil at a boarding school in Edinburgh.) 

The photograph was made in a studio - no props are visible, just a white background (it's a head-and-shoulders portrait). 

My question is, since it bears Crooke's address stamp, what is the likelihood that the portrait was made OUTSIDE of Edinburgh, or at another location? 

To the best of your knowledge, did the Edinburgh photographers of the period travel to cities in England to do standard portraiture? 

 Would he have travelled to another city in order to take portraits, or have visited an English school with that purpose?  Or did he ONLY make standard portraits in his own studio in Edinburgh? 

I'd love to prove that my grandmother was nowhere but in Edinburgh when the photo was taken.

Any help you could provide would be greatly appreciated!"


My Comments

A  few of  the early photographers travelled to take photographs away from their studios, or perhaps had a branch studio elsewhere, but so far as I am aware, most did not. 

I cannot be certain in the case of William Crooke.  He certainly travelled to meet other photographers, e.g. in the USA.

However, he had one of the most prestigious studios in Edinburgh, based at  103 Princes Street for over 30 years from 1883, and I expect it is from there that he would have taken most of his portraits.

The description of the portrait above, with its white background and no props visible matches the other William Crook cartes de visite that I have seen from this period.

It seems to have been the fashion in the 1880s and 1890s not to show props in such cartes de visite, even when the photographers had many props at their disposal.

If you have any views on this subject, or in particular any evidence of William Crooke having travelled out of Edinburgh to take such portraits around 1890, can you please e-mail me, then I will pass on your message.    Thank you.

-  Peter Stubbs


William Crooke

William Crooke - Photographed by Walter Barnett



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