George Washington Wilson

George Washington Wilson

George Washington Wilson (1823-1893)

The University of Aberdeen holds a collection of around 38,000 glass plate negatives taken by Wilson and his company GWW & Co spanning the length and breadth of the British Empire. The collection was donated by local photographer Archie Strachan in the 1950s.

George Washington Wilson was born in rural Aberdeenshire in 1823, his parents George and Elspet Wilson owned a farm and a croft which they lived and worked on. At the age of twelve Wilson was apprenticed to a local carpenter and completed this apprenticeship by the time he was 23. After that, he began to train as an artist in London and also spent some time in Paris before returning to Scotland in 1849 where he married his wife Maria and established himself as an art teacher and artist in Aberdeen.

He opened his portrait studio on Crown Street in 1852 and in 1854 he began what would grow to be a lifelong association with Queen Victoria having photographed Balmoral and the Royal Family. In 1861 Wilson was officially granted the title of Royal Photographer to Her Majesty and in 1873 he went into business with his three of his sons to create GWW & Co. By 1880 the company was one of the largest, if not the largest, publisher of topographic views in Britain. Wilson had won 27 prize medals for his photographs from all over the globe by the time he was 68.

Click here for access to the University of Aberdeen George Washington Wilson Collection

The Eye of the Camera

The pupil of the eye is a camera lens which embodies the mythological figure of Argus Panoptes whose name serves as the etymological root of the word ‘Panopticon.’ I have used a single lens Victorian camera in the pupil as an homage to early photography. The camera has been blended into the eye so that they appear as one; the iris takes the form of a globe which is my interpretation of a semi-global panopticon linking the University of Aberdeen’s Washington Wilson collection to my own work.

This exhibition was curated by Ashleigh Black, doctoral student in Film & Visual Culture at the University of Aberdeen.
George Washington Wilson