Professional Photographers

Robert Kemp Thomson

Robert Kemp Thomson joined Edinburgh Photographic Society during the 1890-91 session.

He was one of many photographers who were based at 54 Cockburn Street.  He was there from 1888 to 1898.  Here is a full list of all the photographers I have found based at that address:

Myles,  J


Wright,  Charles


Cowan,  William


Annan,  John


Stirrat,  R, & Co.


Borley,  William Maule


Cockburn Photo Company


Thomson,  Robert Kemp


Low,  Claude


Kilgour,  George


Photo Illustrations (Scotland) Ltd.




Here is one of Robert Kemp Thomson's  advertisements from 1895:

Artist, photographer

Any picture copied, enlarged or reduced to any size

 and finished in oil, water colour or crayon 

Copies can always be obtained





Alexander Keith

Alexander Keith wrote:

Robert Kemp Thomson

Alexander Keith
Plate Polisher

"My grandfather, Alexander Keith, may have worked as a plate polisher for RK Thomson at 54 Cockburn St.  I have been trying to find out if there are any records of this studio at all."

Cockburn Hotel

"I notice that Kemp Thomson was head of house at the Cockburn Hotel where Alexander's wife Jessie worked as a maid.  We suspect Alexander worked there too prior to getting  involved in photography."

Frederick Davidson

"Alexander also shared a room with Frederick Davidson, another Edinburgh photographer."

Alexander Keith:  April 9, 2010




Alexander Keith

Alexander Keith added:

Robert Kemp Thomson

1901 Census

"At the time of the 1901 census, Robert Kemp Thomson  was at 6 Balgreen Wigtown then aged 37.  His date of birth is given as 1864 and his occupation photographer."


"Robert Kemp Thomson died at 6 Bank Street, Wigtown, in 1929."

Meikle Kemp

"I don't know if you knew this.   Robert Kemp Thomson was grandson of Meikle Kemp who designed the Scott monument."

Engravings  -  The Scott Monument

54 Cockburn Street

"The premises at 54 Cockburn street were shared by Thomas Keith and an eye hospital in the 19th century."

Alexander Keith:  April 14+15, 2010




Lynne McCubbin

Ayrshire, Scotland

Thank you to Lynne McCubbin who wrote:

Robert Kemp Thomson


"Robert Kemp Thomson opened a photographer's studio in Wigtown when he left Edinburgh.

It appeared in the Wigtown Directory of 1912."

Lynne McCubbin, Ayrshire, Scotland:  September 2, 2010




Lynne McCubbin

Ayrshire, Scotland

Thank you to Lynne McCubbin who wrote:

Robert Kemp Thomson


"Robert died in 1929 Wigtown.  He had a son of the same name who died 1931.  His son worked in a creamery, so looks like the artistic/creative side was not continued!"

Lynne McCubbin, Ayrshire, Scotland:  September 7, 2010




Ron Cosens

Robert Kemp Thomson

Thank you to Ron Cosens for letting me see a copy of a carte de visite by Robert Kemp Thomson, with the address 11 Bread Street, Edinburgh on the back.

This is not an address that I have ever seen before in connection with RK Thomson, or any other Edinburgh photographer, so I don't know when that cabinet print might have been taken.

Acknowledgement:  Ron Cosens:  April 12, 2015



Jayne Shrimpton

Thank you to Jayne Shrimpton, a professional dress historian and picture specialist for helping to date Ron Cosen's carte de visite by RK Thomson that has the studio address of 11 Bread Street..

Robert Kemp Thomson

Date of the Carte de Visite

"This is a little tricky, mainly due to the short head and shoulders view, but also because the bodice arrangement with side button fastening is unusual.

It's definitely early/mid-1880s, from the tight fit of the bodice and the small pie crust frill at the neck: the bodice doesn't display the contrasting panels/plastron front/mock waistcoat effect of the late-1880s. Therefore my best estimate is c.1880-86. That should cover the year of this portrait and so it appears to pre-date Thomson's activities at the Cockburn Street address.

Jayne Shrimpton:  April 12, 2015




Ron Cosens

Thank you to Ron Cosens who wrote:

Robert Kemp Thomson

Date of the Carte de Visite

"The carte de visite referred to above has gold chamfered edges.

Based on an analysis of the many dated cartes de visite in my own collection, I've found that it's rare to get a mount with gold chamfered edges before 1881."

Jayne Shrimpton:  April 12, 2015


It seems reasonable to assume that some time during the period 1881-86, Robert Kemp Thomson had a photographic studio at 11 Bread Street, Edinburgh, in which he took the carte de visite that is now in Ron Cosens' collection.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh:  April 14, 2014




Peter Stubbs


Thank you to Ron Cosens who wrote:

1891 Census

The 1891 Census listed the following as resident at 54 Cockburn Street:

-  Robert K Thomson,  head, M aged 27, photographer, born Edinburgh

-  Helen G Thomson, wife, aged 23, born Aberdeen

-  Robert K Thomson,  son aged 2, born Edinburgh

-  Alexander I Thomson, son, aged 4 months, born Edinburgh

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh,  2015




Derek Murray

Grantham, Lincolnshire, England

Derek Murray wrote:

1891 Census

"I noticed several references to Robert Kemp Thomson on the Edinphoto website and wondered if you could post a request for possible information or further updates.

R K Thomson was a member of Edinburgh Photographic Society in the   late-19th century, operating at 54 Cockburn Street.   He was married to one of my mother's Aunts (Helen nee Forbes)

I was wondering where I could get information on the premises (valuation rolls do not enlighten) as apart from a studio, his wife, 3 children and live-in niece (Catherine) lived there.  It sounds quite large !.

I assume that his contact with Edinburgh Photographic Society ended when he moved to Wigtown.

Derek Murray, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England:  25 April 2017

Reply to Derek

If you think you may be able to help Derek find more information about:

-   Robert Kemp Thomson

-   his family or

-   the premises that he worked from at 54 Cockburn Street,

please email me to let me know, then I'll pass on Derek's email address to you.

      Thank you.

Peter Stubbs, Edinburgh,  26 April 2017


Robert Kemp Thomson

Carte de Visite

Here are the front and back of a carte de visite from the studio of RK Thomson, produced during the period 1888-98.  

Cartes de visite are small photographs mounted on card measuring about 3.5 ins x 2.25 ins.

The front of a carte de visite by Robert Kemp Thomson

  Copyright: For permission to reproduce,
 please contact

The back of a carte de visite by Robert Kemp Thomson

  Copyright: For permission to reproduce,
 please contact

RK Thomson clearly took a pride in the way he presented his work.  Artwork on the back of cards such as those shown here.  This artwork  is typical of the period.  The backs of cartes de visite from  earlier in the 19th  century being much simpler, often showing just the photographer's name and address.

Robert Kemp Thomson

Cabinet Prints

Please click here to see enlargements of a Cabinet Print from the studio of RK Thomson.

RK Thomson  -  Cabinet Print - front    RK Thomson  -  Cabinet Print  -  back

  Copyright: For permission to reproduce,
 please contact


Click here to view the Cabinet Print above.




A & D Thomson

John Thomson

Laurence S Thomson

Norman Thomson

Peter Thomson

Robert Kemp Thomson

RK Thomson & Co

Thomson Brothers

Cabinet Print

Carte de Visite

Tribute to John

Postcard Portrait