Williamson, James 1855 - 1933


(1855-1933), film-maker and camera manufacturer

James Williamson was born on the 8th November 1855 at Pathhead, Dysart, near Kirkcaldy, Fife. He began his career as a chemist in 1877 in Eastry, Kent, before moving to Hove Sussex in 1886. He took a keen interest in photography and optical entertainments as a Kodak agent.

Williamson began making films in 1896. He created films that were simple but radical for their time; representing the shift within film acting from pictorialism to naturalism. By 1902 the Williamson Kinematographic Company opened its first purpose-built film production studio and film processing works at Cambridge Grove, off Wilbury Road, Hove. Williamson was now a professional ‘animated photographer’ and no longer a high street chemist. Williamson's dramas and comedies were sold and exhibited across Europe and America. In 1910, the company refocused and moved to London, where it concentrated on the development of aircraft cameras and scientific instruments, the best known of which are probably their ‘Eagle’ aircraft cameras. Williamson Manufacturing was a major supplier to the RAF during both world wars, before later moving into film processing, particularly x-ray film processing. Williamson apparatus acquired an excellent reputation, and was used throughout the world.

His last years were spent in his neo-Tudor mansion at Mortlake, Surrey, where he would conduct experiments with colour photography. Williamson died on 18 August 1933 at his home.