James Downs

Department: English
Discipline: English

Project Summary

Ministers of 'the Black Art': the engagement of British clergymen with photography, 1839 to 1909

Supervisory Team

Prof. John Plunkett

Dr Aron Vinegar (2014-15)

Prof. James Ryan (2016-)

Wider Research Interests

Although my Ph.D project focuses on religious aspects of the history of photography, my research interests extend over a broader range of topics relating to film, photography and visual culture.

My book A Carnal Medium: fin-de-siècle essays on the photographic nude (Portsmouth: Callum James, 2012) is an edited collection of essays on nude photography originally published in the 1890s. 

In my spare time (!) I am working on a biography of Viennese-born actor Anton Walbrook [Adolf Wohlbrück] (1896-1967), a star of stage and screen in Germany before fleeing the Nazis in 1936 and beginning a distinguished career in Britain. He is perhaps best known for Powell and Pressburger films such as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) and The Red Shoes (1948.) My research on Walbrook has involved resarch visits to a number of archives, including in Vienna, being recorded in interview at the actor's grave in London, and curating the exhibition Anton Walbrook: Star and Enigma at the Bill Douglas Cinema Museum in 2013.  A conference paper delivered in London in December 2012 was published in Merck (ed.) The British Monarchy on Screen (Manchester University Press, 2017) - 'Walbrook's Royal Waltzes' examines his performance as Prince Albert in the films Victoria the Great (1937) and Sixty Glorious Years (1938.) 

Authored Publications/Reports

(March 2015) Beacons of Light, Towers of Darkness: Lighthouses in Movies, Lighthouse Digest, 24:2

(October 2013) Horatio Ross: a Scottish Pioneer, Photographica World, 145 (Autumn 2013)

(October 2013) Pugilist Parson: the strange tale of Radford of Lapford, Vintage Script, 11

(June 2013) Egyptology and Photography: two founding fathers, Ancient Egypt, Vol. 13, No.6, Issue 78

(2011) Shadows of the Truth: the Photography of James Graham (1808-69), Studies in Photography

(2008) Out of the Shadows: Iván Szabó (1822-58), a forgotten ‘photographic luminary, Studies in Photography

(August 2007) Some Macphails and Ardchattan, Clan Chattan Journal

(2006) The Delight of Their Existence’: the photography of Horatio Ross of Rossie (1801-86), Studies in Photography

Co-authored with Alasdair Roberts (2005) Dom Odo Blundell OSB (1868-1943): A Different Kind of Historian, The Innes Review: Journal of the Scottish Catholic Historical Association, 56:1

(October 2003) A Good Deal of Calotyping, Pluscarden Benedictines, 130