Sunshine and Shadow
PhotographerHenry Abercrombie Roome
VolumeSunshine and Shadow
Henry Abercrombie Roome
The English amateur photographer Henry Abercrombie Roome (1857-1935) was born in Bombay, son of Dr. Henry Roome of Parkhurst, Isle of Wight. (1.) After attending Epson College in Surrey from 1871-1874, he went on to Edinburgh University for his medical education, (2.) and in 1879 was appointed house surgeon to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford. (3.)
In the early 1880’s, Roome had become interested in photography, and by 1884 was a member of the Postal Photographic Society and exhibiting work as a member of the Royal Photographic Society in their salons. (4.)
His views of Lake Como, Venice, and a study of a elderly Italian peasant woman exhibited as platinum prints in the 1886 RPS annual were later included with views taken in Switzerland and other locales for his 1892 compilation folio Sunshine & Shadow.
Published in London by Sampson Low, Marston and Company, the work features 19 plates produced as hand-pulled photogravures by English copperplate engraver and future Linked Ring Brotherhood member Walter Colls.
The Prefatory Note to the volume signed by Roome states:
I publish this book as a handy souvenir for my friends of pictures which have had the good fortune, when printed in platinotype, to give them pleasure in the past.
I entrusted my plates to the hands of Mr. Walter L. Colls, of Barnes, who has reproduced them by the photo-etching process. I tender him my hearty thanks for the careful and able manner in which he has performed his task.
H. A. R.
As it turns out, Colls had already exhibited negatives made by Roome as photo-etchings (hand-pulled photogravures) several years earlier in the 1890 annual RPS exhibition, along with two plates by English photographer Julia Margaret Cameron that would soon be reproduced in the English folio series Sun Artists a year later. (5.)
A widower later in life who had been married to the former Flora McCrae, (b. December 16, 1855 in Guernsey) Roome was the father of two sons, Henry Delacombe Roome (b. 1882) and Gerald McCrea Roome. (b. 1885) (6.) By 1887 he had moved to the former British colony of Tasmania off the southern Australia coast and became active in the Tasmanian Northern Camera Club beginning in 1889. (7.) While living there, Roome continued in his professional capacity as medical officer of Westbury. (8.)
Roome’s photographic vision preserved in the form of this volume, accompanied by poetic verse from well-known English authors including Lord Byron, Lewis Morris, George Eliot, William Wordsworth as well as others, was dedicated to his wife. The first plate in the pagination, a portrait titled Mother and Child, (unidentified subjects) includes two Lord Byron poems, and he provides the following dedication:
I Dedicate These Reminiscences of Days
Made Happy to Me
Henry Roome returned to England at an unknown date and settled in the London suburb of East Sheen, where he died on September 13, 1935. (9.)
1. Roome’s dates are March 9, 1857 - Sept. 13, 1935. His mother was Marion Charlotte Roome.
2. HENRY ABERCROMBIE ROOME (1857-1935). M.B., C.M.: online resource: Index of Old Epsomian Biographies between 1855 and 1889. Roome’s paired degrees M.B. & C.M. were for Bachelor of Medicine and Master of Surgery.
3. Medical News: Appointments: The Students’ Journal and Hospital Gazette: London: Jan. 4, 1879: p. 7. The Epsomian Biographies resource states Roome had gone into general practice in Harlesy Street, London.
4. online resource: Exhibitor: H.A. Roome: 1884-1886: Exhibitions of the Royal Photographic Society 1870-1915. Roome lived at Fluellen House in Guildford at the time.
5. Reproductions in Copperplate: (Photo. Etching from nature, Negatives by Dr. H.A. Roome): #525. Also: #524: “Kiss of Peace.” after Mrs. Cameron & #526: Sir John Herschell.: online resource: 1890 [Thirty-fifth] Photographic Society of Great Britain Exhibition : Walter E. Colls (sic)
6. FamilySearch.org website accessed June, 2013.
7. In 1890, Roome is listed as vice-president of the club but had become president by 1891: see: The International Annual of Anthony’s Photographic Bulletin: New York: vol. 4: 1891: p. 458. Roome’s arrival in Tasmania based on (erroneous) marriage record to Flora in Westbury: source: Archives Office of Tasmania:TASP record# 438588
8. Death notice for Roome in The Examiner newspaper: Launceston, Tasmania: December 28, 1935. Dr. Stanley Molesworth Roome, Henry’s brother who sometimes practiced medicine with him in Westbury, Tasmania, had died there in March of 1892. (Launceston Examiner)
Original copy for this entry posted to Facebook on June 20, 2013:
For want of a better aesthetic, the work of English photographer Henry Abercrombie Roome (1857-1935) strikes me as being Pre-Naturalistic, if I can suggest such a description. Sharply in focus but executed with an eye emphasizing the mood of deep shadows and highlights, his photographs in the appropriately-named folio “Sunshine and Shadow” just posted never betray his wanderlust. A surgeon by training and son of the British foreign service, his career eventually took him to Tasmania whose remote location did not hinder an ability to stay connected with English roots and technological developments relating to fine photographic printing. Photographs first taken by Roome around 1885 or later and exhibited as platinum prints in the Royal Photographic Society salons are given new life in “Sunshine and Shadow” by his acquaintance with Walter Colls. This 1892 commission for the London copperplate engraver who taught Peter Henry Emerson the art and craft of photogravure printing is a significant achievement and valuable legacy for Coll’s legacy and Roome’s vision.