G.W. Wilson & Co., Ltd

G.W. Wilson & Co., Ltd



George Washington Wilson (1823–1893) was a pioneering Scottish photographer. He originally studied art in Edinburgh and London, before returning to his native city of Aberdeen in 1849.

Here he established a business as a portrait miniaturist catering to the wealthy families of the North East of Scotland. After some years of mediocre success, Wilson ventured into portrait photography. He eventually was contracted to photograph the Royal Family while documenting the building of Balmoral Castle in 1854-1855, establishing himself as one of Scotland’s premier photographers.

Pioneering the development of techniques for photography outside of the studio and the mass production of photographic prints, he moved increasingly from portraiture to landscape photography in the 1860s. He also produced stereoscopic pictures whose main characteristic was that exposures were very short. By 1864 he claimed to have sold over half a million prints.

In 1888 he had handed over the business to his sons, Charles, Louis and John Hay Wilson. The firm employed 40 staff and was one of the largest publishers of photographic prints in the world, competing with James Valentine, who was also a prolific photographer, with a large company in Dundee. The business survived until 1908, when it was wound up at auction.


  • Keith Harrop
  • Geoff Brakspear