Lauder, James Stack (‘Jacques Lafayette’) (1853–1923), portrait photographer, born 22 January 1853, was one of ten children (six sons and four daughters) of Edmond (sometimes Edmund) Stanley Lauder (c.1824–91) and his wife, Sarah Harding Lauder (née Stack, c.1828–1913). They lived at 42 Blessington Street, Dublin. The Lauder family came from Tisaran, near Banagher, King's Co. (Offaly); Edmond Lauder was buried there in 1891. His wife was from Parsonstown, King's Co.; she died in 1913 and was buried in St Fintan's, Sutton, Co. Dublin.
Edmond Lauder went to Dublin in the early 1850s and in partnership set up a photographic studio, which traded as Lauder Brothers; during that decade the firm expanded because a new cheaper photograph on glass (ambrotype) was beginning to replace the earlier daguerreotype. From 1860 a further photographic revolution occurred with the introduction of a relatively inexpensive photograph on paper called the ‘carte-de-visite’. Lauder Brothers eventually had three photographic studios in Dublin, at 45 Sackville Street lower, and 22 and 32 Westmoreland Street, all located on what was known as the ‘photographic mile’, from Sackville Street through Westmoreland Street to Grafton Street, where the best photographic studios were to be found.
In the 1870s James Lauder had the opportunity to study art and painting in France and Germany, but soon discovered that he did not have the talent to be a successful painter, and was forced to earn his living in a Berlin photographic studio. He returned to Dublin and in 1880 set up a photographic studio of his own at 30 Westmoreland Street, in association with his brother Edmond Stanley Lauder junior, who had a confectionery business at that address. This new studio was to be different: it was a ‘maison de photographie Française’ and Lauder, under the name Monsieur Jacques Lafayette ‘late of Paris’, was in attendance.
By 1882 Lafayette had built a huge reputation as a portrait photographer among the landed and governing classes. In May 1882 Lafayette published a letter received from the Viceregal Lodge, Dublin, in which the lord lieutenant, Earl Cowper (qv), and Lady Cowper expressed approval of his work.
Lafayette became better known by sending work to London, Paris, and other cities. From 1884 he showed photographs at the annual exhibition of the Royal Photographic Society in London; in that year the judges spoke of his ‘excellent portraits of high quality’, for which he was awarded a medal. In the following year the judges found that in the professional portraiture section ‘the finest undoubtedly is that of Lafayette of Dublin’; again, he was a medal winner. In 1889, at the Paris exhibition, Lafayette had the satisfaction of securing a gold medal. His reputation grew and in 1887 he received the supreme honour – he was invited to photograph Queen Victoria in her jubilee year and was granted a royal warrant as ‘Her Majesty's photographer in Dublin’. He continued to receive royal commissions, photographing members of the royal family: the prince of Wales, the princesses Louise and Maud, and Prince Albert Victor (1889), Prince George of Wales and the duke of Clarence (1891), the duke of York, Princess Victoria Mary of Teck, and the princess of Wales (1893). His photograph of the princess of Wales in the robes of a doctor of music, taken in Dublin in 1885, sold 60,000 copies, producing a turnover of at least £1,500 from one negative. Lafayette photographed royalty at Osborne, Windsor, Buckingham Palace and Marlborough House. He found it easy to work with members of the royal family because they would do almost anything to help the photographer. There was one exception, which irritated Lafayette: royalty would not come to his studio and therefore he had to rely on natural light at the royal palaces.
He also developed a name for a type of illustration photography which ranged over a number of subjects: classical, romantic, pastoral, and flirtatious encounters, characterised by young women in classical dress making votive offerings, young women floating through the sky singly or in pairs, swashbuckling men wooing coy maidens, and photographs in rural settings showing love lost or won. Lafayette had been criticised by exhibition judges for over-retouching negatives, and this fault is sometimes so noticeable in his work in this genre that the finished pictures, though pleasing to the eye, have lost their distinctive photographic quality. The Westmoreland Street studio had a variety of props which were used in these photographs: foliage, tables, chairs, baskets, and delfware. On the top floor of his studio Lafayette regularly painted scenery backdrops to be used in this genre. The public were curious about ‘An evening zephyr’, a photograph in which a young woman with loose-flowing clothes appeared to be floating in the sky over a city. The explanation was simple: in a rooftop studio in Westmoreland Street she was photographed lying on a sheet of plate glass with a painted scene of a city viewed from above placed underneath the glass and lit; the camera was then poised aloft in the studio roof to obtain the photograph.
Lauder's business thrived, and branches were opened in Glasgow and Manchester by 1891. His brother George Lauder was photographer in the Glasgow branch. Lafayette was innovative. He introduced electrical lighting and by 1891 sunlight was ‘practically supplanted’ in his Dublin studio; to counteract the flare caused by fog being lit by studio lights, Lafayette fitted his studios with air-conditioning systems which produced a clear atmosphere. Lafayette was ambitious. In January 1895 he and his brother Edmond agreed to dissolve their partnerships in three photographic studios in which they had interests – Lauder Brothers, Stanley's photographic studio in Dublin, which the group had acquired, and Lafayette photographic studios with branches in Dublin, Glasgow, and Manchester. James Lauder was now free to concentrate on expanding the firm of Lafayette. He left Dublin for London where in 1897 he set up another Lafayette branch.
James Lauder originally lived next door to his parents in Blessington Street, but moved to Dalkey, Co. Dublin, first, in 1887, to Sunnyside, Vico Road, and then, in 1890, to Glencairn House, Harbour Road. In London he married Annie, the daughter of an artist, Felix Pierre Dinnette. James Lauder died at Bruges, Belgium, 20 August 1923, aged seventy. Edmond Stanley Lauder junior, who had been involved in the Lafayette studio from 1880 to 1895, resided at Carramore, Burrow Road, Sutton, Co. Dublin. In 1895, five months after the partnerships were dissolved, he died at the young age of thirty-five and was buried in St Fintan's, Sutton. He was survived by his wife, Mary, and three daughters. In the year he died he had been developing a housing estate on Burrow Road. His assets at death were valued at about £18,000.
The firm of Lafayette continued to thrive in the early twentieth century, publishing in 1908 photographs of the catholic bishops of Ireland which were presented by the Irish hierarchy to Pope Pius X, and taking portraits of British political leaders and Indian maharajas in the London studio. Lafayette's work was published in popular periodicals such as Country Life. For a number of reasons, including changing styles in studio photography and the popularisation of photography through sales of roll-film cameras, the business went into decline and was eventually sold off in the early 1950s.
Lauder's Lane, off Burrow Road, Sutton, was named after Edmond Stanley Lauder junior, and a photographic firm in Dublin bearing the name Lafayette traces its lineage back to the original firm. Substantial holdings of Lafayette glass negatives are in the Victoria and Albert Museum and in the National Portrait Gallery, London; Lafayette photographs are also in the Royal Collection at Windsor Castle.