French photographerCamille Silvy (1834-1910) rose like a comet to the pinnacle of portrait photography in 1860s London. Patronised by Queen Victoria almost from his arrival in the metropolis in 1857, his daybooks show that in the decade of his pomp, he photographed just about everybody who could lay claim to a place in the fashionable society of his era.
Silvy’s route to this dominant position was based on his genius at making photographic cartes de visite of style and elegance in exquisite taste. But he was also an “art” photographer of great skill and discernment, whose famous River Scene (1858) remains one of the key works of 19th century photography.
That Silvy was an artist of the lens in an era when the new medium was establishing itself is self-evident. This was richly demonstrated by the superb exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (NPG) in 2010, curated by the leading authority on Silvy, Mark Haworth-Booth.