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Cornelius Jabez Hughes

Acclaimed English photographer known as Cornelius Jabez Hughes was born "Cornelous Hughs" on July 20, 1819 to David and Elizabeth Hughs in the St. James district of Westminster. After initially studying phrenology, his career path forever shifted when he became the assistant of prominent London photographer John Jabez Edwin Mayall (1813-1901) at the Strand. He quickly became Mr. Mayall's chief daguerreotypist and later his secretary.

In 1847, Mr. Hughes relocated to Glasgow to open his own studio and promptly became a member of the Glasgow Photographic Society. After working as a daguerreotypist in Scotland for eight years, he returned to London to buy his former mentor Mayall's photographic studio. Unfortunately, this venture was unsuccessful, and so in 1859, he opened a photographic supply warehouse, which also proved unsatisfactory. Changing careers yet again, Mr. Hughes decided to become a full-time photographer upon the death of Isle of Wight-based photographer W. G. Lacy. Mr. Hughes purchased his studio in the Arcade, which he immediately renovated.

Later, he built and transferred his central operations to the Regina Studio he built on Union Street in the Isle of Wight town of Ryde, situated in close proximity to the residence of Queen Victoria. As a result, he did a great deal of photographic work for the royal family. He also took a famous series of photographs of the aging former Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli at Her Majesty's behest. During this time, Mr. Hughes also developed a carbon process noteworthy for its virtual elimination of silver printing. Although his business was thriving, Mr. Hughes suffered a huge personal loss when his only son and assistant Alfred Wright Hughes committed suicide on February 1, 1878. Following his son's death, Mr. Hughes immersed himself in work, and became associated with several organizations including the Photographic Society of London, the North London Photographic Association, the South London Photographic Society, the Photographic Club, the Solar Club, and the Ryde Literary Society.

Mr. Hughes also devoted considerable time to publishing articles on photography, and is perhaps best remembered today for his 1858 masterwork, The Principles and Practice of Photography Familiarly Explained. This how-to manual provided amateur photographers with expert advice that included doubling or tripling camera exposure when there is an easterly wind; avoiding the temptation to use wide-angle lenses when regular lenses will suffice; and never being satisfied with mediocre quality when better results can be achieved. In 1861, Mr. Hughes defined the three levels of photography as mechanical photography, art-photography, and high-art photography. Mechanical photography, he explained, is when an exact representation of objects is photographically reproduced. Art photography involves the artistic rearranging of objects for aesthetic purposes. High-art photography is, as its name implies, when the photographer is seeking a higher artistic purpose, perhaps for instructional purposes.

In later years, Mr. Hughes and his assistant Gustav Mullins became business partners and opened the Hughes & Mullins studio on 60 Union Street in 1883. Cornelius Jabez Hughes died at Ryde on August 11, 1884 at the age of 65. His burial was in the Abbey Park Cemetery in London. Hughes & Mullins remained in business until 1910.


Ref:
1884 The Photographic times: Volume 14 - Page 471

2010 British Literature: A Historical Overview, Vol. II (Buffalo, NY: Broadview Press), p. 70.

2008 Encyclopedia of Nineteenth-Century Photography, Vol. I (New York: Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group LLC), pp. 719-720.

2006 Photography: A Cultural History (London: Lawrence King Publishing Ltd.), p. 86.


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