James Shivas was born in March 1836 near Stuartfield, the son of a shoemaker.
While working in Aberdeen he was so impressed by a display of photographic prints that he bought his first camera and set about mastering the techniques of the collodion process.
In 1857 he had temporary studios in Peterhead in Narrow Lane, before moving to larger premises in Jamaica Street. He then entered for a while into a short-lived partnership with James Henderson in Broad Street. Although he was listed in the 1861 Census as living with his father in Stuartfield, Shivas was still working out of temporary studios in Broad Street in Peterhead.
In 1863 Shivas established his first permanent studio in Broad Street in Peterhead. While portrait photography continued to be his main source of income he continued his work on landscape photography, producing souvenir views of the Peterhead area.
In March 1866 Shivas bought the studio in Queen Street and the stock of glass plate negatives of Joseph Collier (who had hitherto been Peterhead’s principal photographer). The departure of Collier left Shivas as Peterhead’s leading photographer, a position that Shivas maintained for the rest his life. By the 1890s Shivas’s landscape views were available in pictorial booklets and on postcards.
James Shivas died in January 1930. Over the years he had produced a veritable photographic archive of Peterhead and district.