Tenison, Edward King (1805–78), pioneer photographer, landed gentleman, and MP, was born 21 January 1805, second son of Col. Thomas Tenison of Castle Tenison (later Kilronan Castle), Co. Roscommon, MP for Boyle 1792, and Lady Frances Anne King, daughter of Edward, 1st earl of Kingston. He was educated at Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge (BA 1827; MA 1845). He was elected MRIA in 1846.
Tenison took up photography in the 1840s, trying the daguerreotype process when it was announced, and other processes on paper and glass as they became available to amateurs: the calotype of William Henry Fox Talbot, the calotype of Edouard Baldus, the waxed paper of Gustave le Gray, and the wet-plate collodion process of Frederick Scott Archer. His preferred processes were Baldus's calotype and Le Gray's waxed paper. Tenison found that the slow paper processes did not suit the inclusion of a human figure in a scene but were ideal for architectural and scenic subjects, in which he was interested. Also, he found that one hundred sheets of sensitised paper, 16 in. x 10 in. (40 cm x 25 cm) in size, was as easily carried in a portfolio as two glass plates in a box. When amateur photography was organised into societies, Tenison joined the London Photographic Society in 1853 (its first year), and became a member of the Dublin Photographic Society, founded in 1854. In 1853 Tenison took photographs for the RIA, to show the feasibility of using photographs to illustrate a museum catalogue.
He photographed in Ireland, France, and Spain, and first showed his work at the Irish industrial exhibition of 1853. His photographs of Spain, taken on a tour in 1850–52, about the same time as John Shaw Smith (qv) was working in the Middle East, are the first taken abroad by an Irish person and publicly exhibited in Ireland. Tenison had some difficulty in producing detail in shadow areas in subject matter such as buildings, where there were contrasting areas of light and shade, but otherwise exhibition reviewers commented favourably on his work. Critics were particularly impressed with his photographs of the city of Toledo, Burgos cathedral, the church of San Pablo at Valladolid, the royal palace at Madrid, and the city of Cordoba. Early in 1854 Tenison had five photographs taken in Spain accepted for the first exhibition of the London Photographic Society. These exhibits were made from waxed-paper negatives. The following year Tenison had ten acceptances in the second exhibition of the London Photographic Society, all his photographs being of castles, churches, and monasteries in Normandy. A number of these photographs were taken in the neighbourhood of the town of Caen in which he probably stayed. He used both the calotype and waxed-paper processes in these exhibits.
His wife, Lady Louisa Tenison, an experienced traveller, described Tenison's photographic adventures and problems in Spain in her book Castile and Andalucia (1853). She was interested in sketching and in 1846 had published a book, Sketches in the East, which included sketches she had made at, for example, Philae, Luxor, Karnak, and Mount Sinai. She also sketched on the Spanish tour, sometimes recording scenes covered by Tenison's camera: Leon cathedral, the Escorial, and a view of the city of Toledo. The Tenisons were burdened by an immense amount of luggage because of the photographic apparatus and chemicals and, indeed, Lady Louisa spoke of being tormented by its bulk. She felt that their luggage made them look suspicious and whenever they arrived at a large town their boxes were inspected by officials. When they moved on to new locations, the darkroom had to be set up in their new accommodation. Photography outdoors drew crowds and curious children would ask whether the camera was a box for making music. Some townspeople became indignant if the streets were blocked by Tenison's camera, but others could be very helpful: a pharmacist allowed Tenison to set up his camera on a balcony so that he could photograph the local cathedral, and a sentry on duty at a public building did not object when Tenison brought his camera inside a protective railing to obtain a better view. In 1860 Tenison informed the members of the Photographic Society of Ireland (formerly the DPS) that he had almost given up photography.
There are a number of albums containing Tenison's work in the National Photographic Archive, Dublin, and some of his photographs are to be found in private collections. He was liberal MP for Leitrim. 1847–52 (but stood unsuccessfully for Roscommon in 1859 and Leitrim in 1865), and high sheriff for Roscommon and Leitrim, JP for Roscommon, Leitrim, and Sligo, and custos rotulorum of Roscommon (1856). He died on 19 June 1878.
He married (26 November 1838) Lady Louisa Mary Anne Anson (d. 27 August 1882), eldest daughter of the 1st earl of Lichfield; they had two daughters. The elder, Louisa Frances Mary (d. 1868) married the 12th Baron Dormer; the younger, Florence Margaret Christina (d. 1907), married the 8th earl of Kingston.