Henry William Taunt was born to working class parents in St. Ebbe's Church, Oxford, UK, on June 14, 1842 (some sources say May 14, 1842). At the age of 14, he became a general utility apprentice for photographer Edward Bracher. Three years later, he took a fateful boat trip along the River Thames, which began his lifelong fascination with the waterway. In 1863, Mr. Taunt married Miriam Jeffrey, but continued to enjoy the reputation of being a ladies' man, often seen in the company of women other than his wife. Five years after his marriage, he opened his first studio at 33 Cornmarket Street, and not surprisingly, specialized in the Thames and its surrounding landscape. His photographs distinguished themselves for their technical precision and their masterful aestheticism. Mr. Taunt's thoughtful lens captured the beauty and mystery of the river unlike any other photographer of the time. The first edition of his text New Map of the River Thames was published to great acclaim in 1872. Each of the river's 33 maps was painstakingly colored in blue by hand. The widespread popularity of the volume led to a surge in map books, brochures, and postcards featuring the Thames, and inspired humorist Jerome K. Jerome's novel, Three Men in a Boat.
To accommodate his growing business, Mr. Taunt moved his gallery from Cornmarket to a larger building on 9-10 Broad Street in 1874. Always happiest on the water, Mr. Taunt would occasionally move his operations onto his houseboat to be closer to his greatest source of inspiration. He was also active in his church, St Mary Magdalen, playing organ and leading the choir. Mr. Taunt was equally involved in civic affairs, campaigning vigorously for clean urban water and bitterly opposing electric trams. In 1889, he leased Canterbury House (dubbed 'Rivera' as an homage to the river that was an integral part of his personal and professional lives), which also became his primary photographic and printing headquarters. Still riding the wave of success, Mr. Taunt received the honor of being elected as a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. However, the following year, his professional fortunes took a nosedive when he was forced into bankruptcy when a verbal agreement on his Broad Street lease was reneged.
Working out of several locales, Mr. Taunt continued photographing and writing about the countryside of Southern England until the outbreak of World War I. Now in his mid-70s, the photographer was slowing down, often relying on his chief assistant, Randolph Adams, to take many of the later photographs that bear his name. By the 1920s, he had amassed an impressive inventory of 60,000 glass plate negatives, and had published more than 50 regional histories and travel guides. Henry W. Taunt died in Oxford on November 4, 1922 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery. The efforts of Oxford librarian E. E. Skuce saved thousands of precious negatives and prints from being destroyed. Many of his prints can be found at the Centre for Oxfordshire Studies while his glass negatives are housed in the National Monuments Record Centre in Swindon. These include his glass plate negatives of St. John the Baptist Church, taken in the late 1880s. On January 10, 2008, Oxfordshire County Council Chairman Liz Brighouse unveiled a plaque commemorating Canterbury House and its most famous occupant.
2015 H.W. Taunt of Oxford on his Houseboat, Oxford, Oxfordshire (URL: http://www.luminous-lint.com/app/image/56153604067515692800).
2015 Henry TAUNT (1842–1922) (URL: http://www.oxfordshireblueplaques.org.uk/plaques/taunt.html).
2014 Henry Taunt, A O F (URL: http://viewfinder.historicengland.org.uk/search/reference.aspx?uid=48261&index=7116&mainQuery=henry%20w%20taunt&searchType=all&form=home).
2007 Henry Taunt: Rags-to-Riches and Bankruptcy (URL: intheboatshed.net/wp-content/uploads/2007/09/the-photographers.rtf).
1872 A New Map of the River Thames from Oxford to London by Henry Taunt (Oxford, UK: Henry W. Taunt), p. 24.
1994 The Photographic Experience 1839-1914 by Heinz K. Henisch and Bridget A. Henisch (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press), p. 220.
1998 Positive Pleasures: Early Photography and Humor by Heinz K. Henisch and Bridget A. Henisch (University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University Press), p. 73.
2007 The River Thames Revisited: In the Footsteps of Henry Taunt by Graham Diprose and Jeff Robins (London: Frances Lincoln Limited), pp. 7, 13.
2014 St John the Baptist's Church, Inglesham, Wiltshire (URL: http://viewfinder.historicengland.org.uk/search/reference.aspx?uid=51607&index=336&mainQuery=Henry%20William%20Taunt&searchType=all&form=home).
2006 South-West England by Rosemary Cramp (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press), p. 217.
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