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Frank Pelham Moffat FRPS

Elder son of John Moffat

Frank Pelham Moffat  -  Photograph published in 'The Photogram'  -  1895

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

The photograph of Frank Pelham Moffat, above, is a detail from a photograph
of EPS Council Members, taken by FP Moffat, himself.

Frank Pelham Moffat (1854-1912)  was son of John Moffat.  He was a well known portrait painter who based his portraits on small photographs, drawn in charcoal and finished in oil.    [ST].  

He studied photography in France, and joined his father’s business in 1875.

When Frank P Moffat won 1st Prize in the 'Cadett' International Prize Competition in1895, he was reported to be trading as John Moffat, 125 Princes-street, Edinburgh  [The Photogram, Sept 1895, p.211]

Some records show Frank Pelham Moffat's date of birth as being 1853

However, his descendant, John Moffat, and The Photogram (1895, p.211)quotes the date 1854.

The 1881 census described FP Moffat as 'aged 27, living with his father'. 


Experiments in Photography

Frank Pelham Moffat experimented widely with his photography:

"He was probably the first professional photographer in Scotland to discard the wet plate process.     [BJP11,p219].  

"He later took up colour photography, but found this not to be a commercial success.  His process was 'Portraits by three colour carbon'.”    [BJP11,p219] 

He produced a series of mezzotint style prints of the Orkney Islands.

At an Edinburgh Photographic Society Meeting, held on 3 February 1897, F P Moffat spoke in favour of the gelatino-chloride matt paper, and described his own use of it.


Edinburgh Photographic Society

Frank Pelham Moffat gave many lectures to EPS:

-  1880:   "Gelatine Plates in the Studio" 

-  1897:   "Discussion and Plates - Rapid and Instantaneous" 

-  1897:   "Discussion on Printing Papers: Gelatino-Chloride" 

-  1897:   "A Few Thoughts on Photography in Colour" 

-  1900:   "Portraiture at Home" 

-  1902:   "A Summer Holiday in Orkney"

-  1904:   "The Convention at Perth"

Frank Pelham Moffat became:

-  President of EPS, 1896-7

-  President of  Professional Photographers’ Association, 1911-12.

He took the photograph of EPS Office Bearers that was reproduced on the back of the Menu for the EPS 3rd Annual Dinner in 1903.

EPS Council  -  1903 ©

He was Secretary of the EPS Golf Club in 1903.


Professional Photographers' Association

Frank Pelham Moffat was President of the Professional Photograhers' Association in 1911.  He hosted the Association's Annual Dinner on 18 May 1911.  George E Brown, editor of the British Journal of Photography looked back on the ten years since the Association's foundation and said:

"Photographers at that time, and during the period which had elapsed,  has been harassed in various ways - by the 'soap' and 'cigarette' enlargements, by the introduction of the picture postcard which had done incalculable harm in giving a false impression of the cost of a photographic portrait, and by the fraudulent canvasser with his 'free' enlargements."

In the face of these challenges, the Association had continued to thrive.  FP Moffat reported that in the past two years, its membership had increased by over 300.

[BJP:  2 Jun 1911]


Moffat's Studio

The journal, The Photogram, in 1895, gives an interesting account of Frank Pelham Moffat's early involvement in his father's studio:

"The late John Moffat of Edinburgh was recognised as one of our leaders in the earlier days, and his son has not lowered the standard of the business.

Born in 1854, the year after his father began business, Mr FP Moffat was placed for a few years in a merchant's office to learn business habits before joining his father in 1875 at the age of 21.

He took to photography with enthusiasm, read everything obtainable upon the subject, and dipped into the practical mysteries of the silver bath, of which he took charge until its banishment in 1879.

He learnt what art was taught at the Edinburgh school of design, and imbibed further art training from his father's friends amongst the painters and sculptors, and especially from his father in law, Mr John Rhind ARSA, the subject in 'The Master's Hand'.

In 1883-84, John Moffat gradually retired from the active control of the business, and by his death in March 1894, his son was left sole owner.

He insists on being the operator at every sitting, for he believes 'if you want a thing done well, attend to it yourself'.

He has recently installed one of Adamson's electric lamps, and we shall be interested to see some results of the use of the new power."

In 1894, Frank Pelham Moffat took over the Moffat business following his father’s death.  In 1895, he enlarged and improved the studio at 125 Princes Street.

Electric incandescent light was installed for portraiture, but later this was discarded in favour of the arc lamp.    [BJP11, p219]



Frank Pelham Moffat died in 1914, probably of pneumonia, after catching “a bad chill” while photographing the opening of the Usher Hall in Edinburgh.    [JM]

The Meeting of Edinburgh Photographic Society on 1 April 1914 at which he was due to deliver a lecture on Child Photography was cancelled.


Frank Pelham Moffat's obituary appeared in the Transactions of the  Edinburgh Photographic Society, written by A E  (presumably A E Moffat).  Frank Pelham Moffat was described as having died suddenly of heart failure after little more than a fortnight's illness.

He had been the senior partner in the photographic firm, John Moffat of Princes Street, taking over from his father.  He was elected President of the Professional Photographers' Association of Great Britain and, twice, President of Edinburgh Photographic Society where he was remembered for the support and advice he gave to others.

Frank Pelham Moffat enjoyed both portrait and landscape photography.  He had been awarded the highest awards at Royal Photographic Society and Edinburgh Photographic Society Exhibitions and the Page Prize of £100.

[Transactions of Edinburgh Photographic Society;  April 1914,  pp. 10-11]


Frank Pelham Moffat's funeral took place at Morningside Cemetery, attended by many members of Edinburgh Photographic Society and members of the Professional Photographers' Association, a society of which he was Secretary for seven years.

[Transactions of Edinburgh Photographic Society;  April 1914,  p.12]


Photographs by Frank Pelham Moffat