A master photogravure printer and a leading pictorialist photographer at the turn of the twentieth century. Annan produced most of his own work as well as that of others in the photogravure process, which he learned from its inventor, Karel Klíč.
Annan was the son of photographer Thomas Annan, known for his early documentation of the slums of Glasgow. He joined his father’s business at a young age and began assisting in studio portraiture and photographic reproductions of artwork. T. & R. Annan and Sons of Glasgow soon became Britain’s foremost gravure printing establishments. In 1883, he and his father traveled to Vienna to study with Klíč.
Annan became popular as a professional portrait photographer, but he also produced personal work, primarily portraits and genre scenes. In 1894 he was elected to The Linked Ring, England’s most prestigious group of creative photographers. A few years later Annan published a limited-edition portfolio of his work, Venice And Lombardy: A Series Of Original Photogravures. He exhibited widely at such venues as the London Salon, the 1901 Glasgow International Exhibition, Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession galleries, the Paris Salon, and the 1910 International Exhibition Of Pictorial Photography at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo. In 1900 Annan gave a solo retrospective at the Royal Photographic Society, which subsequently awarded him an honorary fellowship.
Unlike other photographers, Annan supplied his own photogravures for Camera Notes (1898–1903), the top photographic periodical in the United States at the time. Shortly thereafter, when Alfred Stieglitz began publishing the even more sumptuous journal Camera Work, Annan continued to contribute his own work and gravures by other British photographers, such as George Davison. Stieglitz included twenty-five of Annan’s photogravures in the magazine and devoted the entire January 1914 (no. 45) issue to him.
Annan rediscovered the work of other photographers and oversaw the production of intaglio prints by contemporary artists. For instance, he printed from the negatives of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, inspiring renewed interest in their work and photographic partnership. At T. & R. Annan, he supervised the printing of etchings and engravings by such artists as Muirhead Bone and William Strang. Annan and Alfred Stieglitz were exact contemporaries with a shared commitment to high-quality gravure printing and photography as a fine art. For over twenty years, the two corresponded both personally and professionally.