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Andrew Paterson - International Award Winning Photographer

by Adrian Harvey

Andrew Paterson was born in the Merkinch area of Inverness in 1877 into a sea-faring family as one of six children. His father drowned when Andrew was two years old which caused some difficulty for the family. In 1890, Andrew left Merkinch Public School to become a baker. It was not a profession he kept up, for seven years later, at the age of 20 and despite poor eyesight, he opened his own photographic studio in Church Street. From that time, which included a move to new studio premises in Academy Street in 1903, Andrew Paterson became an internationally renowned and multi-award winning artist-photographer and portraitist. He also experimented with early colour photography (1908) and made a silent movie (1912).

His services were sought over several decades by many leading political, literary and commercial figures of the day. In 1935 the Glasgow Daily Record wrote that his "name is known wherever the camera is regarded as a serious medium of expression in portraiture."

Andrew Patterson, portrait photo Image provided by Andrew Paterson Collection/ Adrian Harvey

Portrait of Andrew Paterson

Paterson won in total 23 awards and diplomas, both national and international, for his work and gave many exhibitions both at home and abroad. The award list includes 22 Highest Honours for Portraiture, including The Salon, Royal Photographic Society London, Brussels, Glasgow, Dundee, Bolton, Croydon, Southampton, Southsea, Frome, Hove, Wigan, Newbury, and Nottingham. The earliest is Paris 1902, only five years after starting his business. In 1920, he won an Edinburgh Photographic Society award, the only Scottish photographer to gain such a distinction in the annual open exhibition that year.

The Daily Record noted that "his portraits have been regarded as setting new standards of excellence in the expression of character." Paterson used to great effect a technique that was virtually new at the time. By using a soft focus lens combined with subtle lighting effects, he was able to eliminate blemishes and erase wrinkles in order to create a more flattering portrait. His sitters included such luminaries of the 1920s-1930s as George Bernard Shaw, Osgood Mackenzie, Compton Mackenzie, Cunninghame Graham, James Maxton, Lord Lovat, Josephine Tey, Neil Gunn and Hugh MacDiarmid.

Andrew Paterson died in 1948.

Want to find out more? Visit the Scottish Highlander Photo Archive.

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