James Dear and his wife were both from Montrose, Scotland. Before he became a photographer, Dear was a ship's carpenter. In 1851 his wife and child were lodging with a shipwright's family in Northfleet, Kent, while James was presumably at sea.
In 1861 the family lived in Woolston, Southampton. James was still a ship's carpenter and his wife was running a general shop. Their address was near the Woolston Villa of Dr Richard Leach Maddox,(see entry for Dr Richard Leach Maddox).
The census for 1871 listed Dear as a ‘Fancy Bazaar Keeper’ in Victoria Road. Dear advertised as a photographer at Victoria Terrace Woolston in the 1871 Cox's directory. The cartes de visite shown here are on high quality card, and advertised that Dear was taking portraits at the Royal Victoria Military Hospital in Netley, as well as at his premises in Victoria Terrace.
In 1881 the census listed Dear as 'a photographer out of work', and it seems he retired around this time. By 1891 he had moved to Milton Road in Southampton, where he died in 1900.