This small photograph of a seated woman is the work of a Victorian photographer called Thomas Boxell, who – at the time this photograph was taken in the late 1870s – was operating out of a studio in Pickering, Yorkshire. The story of Thomas Boxell is typical of so many of the semi-itinerant studio photographers of the Victorian portrait era: pioneers of a new art and industry who moved from town to town to increasingly spread the wonders of photography to more and more people. Their professional equipment – camera, backdrops, lighting – was reasonably portable and therefore such photographers would often move their business to take advantage of new markets.
Thomas Boxell was born in Brighton in 1847, the son of a tailor. Within three years of his birth, the family were resident in the Brighton Workhouse, but two of his uncles had become photographers in Brighton, and eventually Thomas was able to get a job with them and learn his trade. During the 1860s and 1870s he moved around the country making a living as a studio photographer – including periods in both Halifax and Pickering – before settling in the Yorkshire seaside resort of Scarborough. His photographic business was eventually taken over by two of his sons, and, on retirement, Thomas moved to live with his daughter in Whitby, where he died in 1939.