Beattie was born in Scotland
and migrated to Tasmania with his parents. In 1878 he soon began to
work as a landscape photographer during expeditions to the bush, and
by 1882, he became a professional photographer. He was very skilled
in his craft and brought the visual image of Tasmania to the eyes
of the world. His works were made popular by being featured on postcards,
stamps, prints and lantern-slides. Beattie was also an antiquarian
and in the 1890s he established a museum of art and artefacts in Hobart.
He was appointed photographer to the colony in 1896 and worked to
support tourism. He died in Hobart after being declared 'the finest
landscape photographer of his age'.