As New Brunswick’s leading 19th-century photographer, Taylor displayed a strong interest in scientific matters from an early age. This, combined with his artistic inclinations, would contribute significantly to his professional success. He first trained in the 1850s under itinerant daguerreotypist David Lawrence at his Fredericton studio. According to family tradition, Taylor also received artistic instruction from Mrs. Cooksley, the wife of an officer in the 22nd Foot stationed in Fredericton in the late 1860s. Taylor achieved his initial photographic accomplishments using the collodion or wet-plate process he learned during his apprenticeship. He later transitioned to the less complicated gelatine dry plates when they became commercially available in the 1880s. With his father’s help, Taylor constructed his early equipment and continued to use homemade cameras throughout his career.
Taylor’s talents were recognized early on. In 1863, Arthur Hamilton Gordon, New Brunswick’s last colonial lieutenant governor, commissioned him to document various provincial locations. Taylor’s credibility, as well as the relatively new photographic process, was bolstered by Gordon’s letter of introduction. Taylor maintained a close relationship with the Maliseet people of the Saint John River valley, such as Gabriel Acquin, throughout his career, leveraging their skills and knowledge of the region to navigate challenging terrain.
Despite his talent, George Taylor faced financial difficulties like many 19th-century photographers. During the 1871 census, he, his wife, and two young daughters lived with his widowed father in their family home. In the early 1870s, Taylor advertised the sale of his negatives several times, and some were bought and sold under other publishers’ names. His work gained wider recognition through the Canadian Illustrated News (Montreal). Studio portraiture was not a significant part of his career, as evidenced by the small percentage of his surviving work. His last photographic venture is generally considered to be a 1906 trip to the head of the Tobique River.
As the century drew to a close, Taylor began to focus on painting. His paintings, typically depicting 19th-century New Brunswick woodland activities, are characterized by attention to detail, disregard for linear or aerial perspective, and anatomical awkwardness in the figures. Although Taylor may have viewed painting as a higher form of art, it is his photography that truly showcases his artistic prowess. His exceptional sense of composition and technical expertise combined to capture his subjects with precision, sensitivity, and thoroughness. Taylor’s work, whether centered on landscape, architecture, or intimate family gatherings, masterfully illuminates the essence of late-19th-century New Brunswick.
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