Alex Hamilton was born in April 1900 near Slamannan, a village just south of Falkirk in central Scotland. He was the third in a family of ten. Before long, the family moved to Motherwell and after leaving school Alex worked first at Colville's steelworks and later for the local electric company. Away from work, he immersed himself in classic and contemporary writers; among the latter, he took a particular interest in the works of Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, and George Bernard Shaw. He also spent many days exploring the hills and byways of Lanarkshire, Stirlingshire and Argyll. He learned to play the violin, joined an amateur string quartet, and for a time was a member of a cinema orchestra until it was made redundant by the "talkies."

Alex's interest in photography grew during the thirties and he joined the Motherwell Camera Club, through which he also met his future wife, Margaret. It was not long before his work gained wider recognition. He became an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and most of the photographs in this feature were widely exhibited in the UK and abroad during the 1940's and 1950's. Some were included in published collections, including the American Annual of Photography and a volume called The World's Best Photographs.

It was as the result of an exhibition at the Royal Photographic Society in London that his career took a new turn. In 1946, J. Arthur Dixon, a postcard and greeting card publisher, asked him to join the firm as a staff photographer and, in 1956, to set up the company's operation based in Inverness. After retiring at 70, he continued to take photographs and was in demand as a judge at photographic competitions. He also took up watercolour painting, a pastime which he pursued until his death in August 1990.

Alex's son Alastair contributes the following commentary:

My father did nearly all of his work with a Zeiss Ikon 2-1/4 square camera, which I have by me as I write this. It has a Carl Zeiss Jena Tessar lens, 1:3.5 and f=7.5 cm. All in all, it's a bit battered—he used it for about four decades and was never one for keeping up with fashion or the latest technology. If he was satisfied with the quality of the lens, that really was all that mattered. When I was quite small, I used to watch him at work in the darkroom; everything was pretty much judged by experience. He would work away with differential shading to get just the tones he wanted, but he seldom seemed to use test-strips and there was no timer—he just counted out loud! His colour work was always in transparency format, either 35mm slides (shot on an ancient Agfa Silette), or—for postcard use—3-1/4 x 2-1/4 roll film (various cameras) or (for preference) 5 x 4 Ektachromes taken with an MPP provided by J. Arthur Dixon. On the whole, I think his first love was always monochrome because he felt it offered the most creative possibilities; but whatever he did, he was always very concerned with composition.

Many thanks to Alastair Hamilton for permission to use his father's images.
Copyrights for all photography are owned by the estate of Alex H. Hamilton.
For more information, contact Alastair at: alastair.hamilton@zetnet.co.uk.
To see his own photography, go to: http://www.users.zetnet.co.uk/ahamilton/index.htm

“Self-portrait”
(taken while on holiday in the Lake District)

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