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The Photography of Tempest Anderson – By Stuart Ogilvy, Assistant Curator of Natural Science Collections & Curatorial Services

Since July 2017 volunteers have been helping to digitise a Tempest Anderson collection of glass slides, ranging from the 1880s to 1913 (so some have become a bit grubby!).

Tempest Anderson travelled the world studying and photographing volcanoes, but he also took photos of anything that interested him.

There are spectacular pictures of glaciers (European Alps), geysers (New Zealand and Yellowstone) and erupting volcanoes (Hawaii). However, my personal favourites include those that depict local country people and their everyday lives, such as family groups posing outside their houses or men, and sometimes women, at work.

You can see how dramatically times have changed from his photos of cities. Seattle, for example, in 1900 has wide streets, empty but for some horse drawn carts. Tall chimneys create dark clouds of smoke over the whole area.

The photographic collection includes approximately 3,500 separate images. The photographs are mostly quarter plate (a photographic plate measuring 3 and ¼ inches by 4 and ¼ inches) positives and negatives with a small number of celluloid (a transparent plastic formerly used for making films) negatives.

The photographs were taken using cameras and lenses made by Tempest Anderson himself. He also developed one of the earliest panoramic cameras which he used in Iceland. He gave many lectures using the “magic lantern” slides an early form of slide viewer.

He was a well-travelled man, visiting many volcanic regions of the world and meeting the indigenous peoples of far-away communities.

By 1900 he had visited and photographed most of the European volcanoes as well. He visited the USA and travelled in Central America, particularly Mexico and Guatemala. He also photographed volcanoes in the Far East, New Zealand and Hawaii.

It was in 1902 that he made his greatest contribution to science. The Royal Society asked him to accompany Dr Flett of the Geological Survey to study the recent eruptions of Mont Pelée in Martinique and La Soufriére in St Vincent. Whilst there he observed and photographed nuée ardente eruptions (turbulent, fast moving clouds of hot gas and ash) and was the first person to figure out how they worked by comparing them to avalanches he had witnessed in the Alps.

Tempest Anderson died in 1913 in the Red Sea on the way back from the Phillipines and is buried at Suez, Egypt.

To find out more about the life of Tempest Anderson, visit: Tempest Anderson – Explorer and Surgeon.

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