James Cox was the eldest child of a wealthy jute manufacturing family. He was an amateur painter and photographer. In 1880 he helped set up the Dundee and East of Scotland Photographic Association and was its first president. An exhibitor at the Royal Scottish Academy from 1884-6, Cox was a member of the consultative committee for the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1888. His best work is a series of photographs taken in the 1880s of the fishing villages of West Haven and Auchmithie. According to one contemporary, Cox owned the best equipped amateur studio he had ever seen.