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William Louis Henry Skeen

(died 1903), Photographer, of W.L.H. Skeen and Co

Artist associated with 1 portrait
William Louis Henry Skeen was a commercial photographer active in Ceylon between 1860 and 1903. Skeen's father, William Skeen, started in Ceylon as the first officially appointed Government printer in 1849. In 1860, he purchased the existing photographic studio of J. Parting in Colombo for his son, William Louis Henry Skeen. The firm of W.L.H. Skeen & Co. had become the most successful photography company in Ceylon by the 1870s and continued on under a number of different managers until about 1920.

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Julia Margaret Cameron, by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron (later The Cameron Studio), printed by  William Louis Henry Skeen - NPG x128761

Julia Margaret Cameron

by Henry Herschel Hay Cameron (later The Cameron Studio), printed by William Louis Henry Skeen
albumen cabinet card, circa 1873
NPG x128761


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Angie Skene

30 October 2020, 21:09

William Skeen was born in Clerkenwell in July 1847. He studied at the London School of Photography. His father was a government printer in Colombo between 1849 and 1872 when he died in Columbo. The firm of Skeen and Co began trading as S Slinn & Co until 1869 (William's grandmother was named Sarah Slinn). The studio operated firstly as S. Slinn & Co and was managed by Samuel Slinn Skeen (William's uncle) and John Edward Wilshaw. William's father, also named William published "Adam's Peak" about the island of Sri Lanka. Skeen's younger brothers, George Justin Athelstan (1852–1906) was the Ceylon Government Printer (1881–1906) and Frederick Albert Edward (1861–1929) assisted his brother at W.L.H. Skeen & Co until 1887, when he went to Burma (now Myanmar) establishing the photographic firm of Watts and Skeen in Rangoon. Frederick returned to Ceylon after the death of William in 1903 and changed the company name to F. Skeen and Co.. Frederick left Ceylon in 1914 and the studio closed in the early 1920s.

The photo company was appointed to work for the Duke of Edinburgh during his 1870 tour. Among the photographic subject the captured were elephant kraals.[2]

Skeen Jr.'s illustrations were used for two books that his father wrote: The Knuckles and Other Poems (1868) and Adam's Peak (1870).[2][3] The studio also published J.W.W. Birch's photographs of Polonnaruwa as well as views of Indian cities. A branch studio was also opened in Kandy, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) in 1891.[3]

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