People change their names for many reasons. One might speculate at length as to why basketmaker James Byron Clayton (1826-1880) abandoned his family name when opening a photographic studio in Nottingham in 1857. The simplest argument, and probably the closest to the truth, is that described by Bernard and Pauline Heathcote in their booklet, Pioneers of Photography in Nottinghamshire .
His younger brother Walter Clayton (1833-1893) had already upstaged him by opening a studio in Greyhound Street, Nottingham a year earlier. Perhaps it was to distinguish himself in a rapidly growing market with numerous competitors, and his baptismal middle name, Byron, seemed to have a little more cachet. Whatever the purpose, he dropped the Clayton and simply became James Byron, photographer of Ram Yard, Long Row East.
When his son Joseph Clayton (1847-1923), in turn, entered the profession in 1867, taking over a studio in Blackfriars Street, London, he too styled himself in the fashion of an artist photographer. With lofty ambitions, his first carte de visite mounts were ordered from the printers with the name Byron Clayton, supplemented by the description, "Parliamentary & Portrait Photographer," perhaps more aspirational than by actual appointment.
Joseph Byron Clayton, c.1875-1876
Image courtesy of Heathcote & Heathcote (2001) 
Sadly, Joseph's sojourn in London was short one. After a run-in with the constabulary and a brief spell of incarceration, he returned to Nottingham and entered business with his father around 1870, an arrangement which continued until the latter's retirement in 1876. In 1873 and 1874 Joseph also operated the oddly named Magnet Studio in Leicester jointly with his uncle Walter, although the partnership did not last for long.
James Byron Clayton died in 1880, shortly after which Joseph opened a new Nottingham studio in Bridlesmith Gate. He must have done sufficient business to be able to order a sequence of fresh card mount designs, such as the one displayed above with a Georgian flavour. By early 1886, however, the business was in significant financial difficulty, and a further move to Smithy Row was insufficient to stave off bankruptcy proceedings.
The Byron family, Nottingham, 1888
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 126.96.36.199 
In the summer of 1888 Joseph Byron decided to make a new start. He, his wife Julia (née Lewin) and their eldest daughter travelled to New York in September, with their remaining four children following a month later, accompanied by Julia's mother.
A scene from Fred R. Hamlin's production of "The Wizard of Oz" at the Majestic Theatre, 1903
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 41.420.748 
Initially Joseph Byron practised as a freelance press photographer for the Illustrated American and other clients, but in 1889 he made a foray into theatrical photography. According to David Shields :
Sarony studio's control of the theatrical portrait trade prompted Byron to make sittings a secondary concern, concentrating instead on production stills. He was one of the pioneers in the creation of stage images that could be used in programs, memorial brochures, and magazines ... The most artistic of the early 'stage picture' photographers, Joseph Byron attempted to capture the dynamic of stage action from unusual angles at moments of acute emotional impact.
Portrait, Ethel Barrymore, c.1902 - "More regal than royalty."
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 188.8.131.5203 
He was not averse to taking formal portraits at sittings when the opportunity arose, such as this drawing room sitting of Ethel Barrymore taken at around the time she gave out what would become her most famous line, "That's all there is, there isn't any more."
The New York Times Building under construction
1 Times Square, c.1903
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 184.108.40.20687 
Eventually his wife Julia and several of their children, including son Percy, all became involved in the photographic business. The Museum of the City of New York has an extensive collection of prints and glass plate negatives by the Byron Company, with over 24,000 images online . The breadth of Byron's prolific output in the 1890s and early 1900s demonstrates his willingness to search for clients and subjects in all parts of the metropolis. This photograph, typical of his many architectural views, provides an unusual early view of the Times Building under construction in Times Square.
Children, Playing on streets, 1908
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 220.127.116.1171 
His street views were a little more lively, and he might just as easily capture a gaggle of kids playing on a street corner in a run-down neighbourhood (image above), as a party of friends out for a thrill on the pleasure rides at Coney Island.
Miss Jackson, Bath Beach, New York, 1898
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 18.104.22.1681 
It seems likely that some of his work consisted of on the spot commissions, such as this delightful shot of a Miss Jackson trying out an early bathing costume at Bath Beach, for which one assumes he must have entered the water himself.
Thomas A. Edison, 1904
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 22.214.171.12465 
Although he is perhaps best remembered for his New York cityscape views and theatrical compositions, his business was incredibly varied. He was apparently just as happy to visit Thomas Alva Edison's laboratory (above) as he was to stand in the street outside Lazarus Levy's clothing store on East Broadway (below).
30 East Broadway. A crowd of children in front of L. Levy, Manufacturer of Clothing, 1898
Gelatin silver print by J. Byron, Ref. 126.96.36.19941 
His son Percy Byron followed him into the practice, but in 1906 moved to Edmonton, Alberta where he established a photographic business with his brother-in-law Gustave May. The Byron-May partnership experienced a significant downturn in business during the Great War, and Percy returned to New York. He rejoined his father, and spearheaded a new specialisation into ship photography.
Joseph and Julia Byron, 1904
Gelatin silver print by the Byron Company, Ref. 188.8.131.52 
Joseph Byron died in 1923, after which Percy took over the Byron Company and continued to run it successfully until the middle of the Second World War, when business once again declined, and the company was finally wound up in October 1942 . Percy Byron died on 10 June 1959.
My profile of the Byron-Clayton family in Nottingham and London, prior to Joseph's emigration to New York, is supplemented with a gallery containing numerous examples of their portrait work.
This article is a submission to Sepia Saturday 78. For further serendipitous finds from the sepia archives, it's well worth a visit.
 Heathcote, Bernard & Pauline (2001) Pioneers of Photography in Nottingham, 1841-1910, Nottinghamshire County Council, 62p.
 Byron Company Collection, Museum of the City of New York web site.
 Simmons, Peter (1999) Gotham Comes of Age: New York Through the Lens of the Byron Company, 1892 - 1942, Pomegranate Communications, 216p. ISBN 0764909061. Partially available online from Google Books.
 Joseph Byron, on Broadway Photographs: Art Photography and the American Stage, 1900-1930.
 Payne, Brett (2011) James Byron Clayton (1826-1880) & Joseph Byron Clayton (1847-1923) of Nottingham.