painter, professional photographer and decorator, was born in Scotland, probably at Montrose. In St Peter’s Anglican Church, Armidale, New South Wales, on 3 September 1856, he married Isabella Bowers, born at Dunmore, Maitland. Originally a sailor, Cunningham declared that he was a sawyer at the time of his marriage, but by June 1857 he was advertising that he was available for any kind of painting or ornamental work or paper-hanging. By August 1859 he was utilising his artistic talents as (possibly) Armidale’s first resident photographer, although until 1868 he continued to refer to himself as a painter (i.e. house painter) when registering his children’s births.
When the notorious bushranger 'Thunderbolt’ (Fred Ward) was shot near Uralla in May 1870, Cunningham advertised that he had 'taken and completed the only photographs of THUNDERBOLT, and Views of the Scene where he was shot; also, of the Horse shot by the Constable’. Prints were 2s each, including a carte-de-visite portrait of Senior Constable Alexander Walker who had shot the bushranger.
In February 1872 Cunningham, then working from a studio in Barney Street, Armidale, announced that he was 'taking views of Public or Private Buildings’ at 10s a dozen or a shilling each. This architectural interest seems to have been generated by advertisements of Friday 9 February and Wednesday 21 February 1872 (and perhaps on other occasions) by 'Artists belonging to the American and Australasian Photographic Company’ ( seeHenry Beaufoy Merlin ) who were going 'through the streets of Armidale taking views of the Churches, public buildings, shops, and in fact everything necessary to form an unbroken sketch of the town’. Cunningham joined the competition. On the latter date, 'from an early hour, our resident photographer and the artists of the A. and A. Company were driving about taking views of different buildings and places in the town. The sketches [sic] by both parties are very good. On Thursday Mr. Cunningham took the Teachers and Children of the Public School in a picture, there being in all 215 figures. He believes it will turn out very well’. Another photograph by Cunningham of the National School teachers and pupils, inscribed ’173 scholars’, is dated May 1865 – school photographs, then as now, being a staple part of the rural photographer’s business.
Armidale historians have had good reason to be grateful to both the 'resident photographer’ and his visitors for the excellent views of streets and individual buildings they left in 1872, an interesting series of cartes-de-visite. Cunningham also received portrait commissions from Armidale citizens among whom were Bishop Torregiani, Mayor Butler and Lieutenant Dodd. In 1855 the Armidale Express recorded a 'portrait in oils’ by Cunningham of Senior Sergeant Rafferty, and in 1888 he executed a 'fine portrait of the son of Mr. Elliot, holding a violin’.
Andrew and Isabella Cunningham had eight children between June 1857 and September 1874. The eldest, Andrew Peter, married in 1880 and subsequently also worked as an artist.