John & Family GIBSON

Born in 1827 in the Aran Islands, Galway, Ireland where his Scillonian father, James, was stationed as a Coastguard, John and his mother returned to St Mary's on his father's death in 1840, opening a store in Hugh Town. From time to time John took a berth at sea, as he had done before his father's death, and did not marry his wife Sarah Gendall until 1855. Their sons Alexander Gendall and Herbert John were born in 1857 and 1861, and around 1860 the Gibsons moved to Penzance. 

John Gibson perhaps acquired his first camera sometime in the five years prior to the move to Penzance; between sea voyages he taught himself to use it, perhaps building his experience by taking portraits. The Richards family, Penzance photographers over several generations, knew the Gibsons, and the present Mr Richards is certain that John Gibson, after he came to Penzance in 1860, was in some fashion apprenticed to Robert Preston.

Despite a gap in their ages (Preston was younger by eleven years) the two men had much in common. In about 1865, John and Sarah Gibson returned to Scilly where they opened a general shop, and by 1870 their son John was firmly in business as a photographer in Penzance. In 1879 this was exchanged for a branch in the centre of the town, at No 10 Market Jew Street; not far from Preston's own establishment at No 23, it became a great attraction for visitors.

See Frank GIBSON (1929-2012).


Professional artist photographers

works and access

Access to work: Morrab Library, Penzance; on-line

Penlee House Gallery & Museum (photographic collection)


2011: 'The Marvellous Everyday', Penlee House



misc further info



Hardie (2009) Artists in Newlyn nd West Cornwall (p307-8)

Hind (1907) Days in Cornwall

Morrab Library, Penzance

J Rice (2011) Curator's selection:  'The Marvellous Everyday' Exh Cat

Thomas Views and Likenesses

Times Register, (31 July 2012):  'Frank Gibson, Cornish photographer whose landscapes and sea pictures reflect his love of the Isles of Scilly and his artistry as a printer of film'