Alfred H Wall

A Few Thoughts about

Photographic Societies

Alfred H Wall was Honorary Secretary of the South London Photographic Society in 1863.  In his opening address to the Society, he put forward his views on how a photographic society should be run. 

He spoke about the varied nature of photographic society meetings, and gave some insight as to how photographic society meetings of the mid-1800s might have differed from today's meetings:

Photographic Societies  -  Range of Subjects

"The range of subjects that come under the attention for discussion thereat are such as, until the introduction of photography, were seldom associated together. 

The rules of art, the laws of chemistry, the principles of optics, and the secrets of certain mechanical crafts seem in the non-photographic mind to possess so little in common, that strangers wonder when they her each or all of these dissimilar subjects blending in a discussion following some paper on one or other of the processes of photography.   ...

Now they appear like societies of fine-art students, enthusiastically dwelling upon aesthetics;  and anon you could imagine them congregations of unpretending cabinet-makers, every man with a six foot rule in his trousers pocket, and a big square lead pencil in that of his waistcoat.  Again they show like learned chemists, investigating the hidden mysteries of nature ... [or] grave opticians, ready at the shortest notice to chalk you in white lines upon a black board any number of eye-confusing diagrams ..."

A H Wall went on to speak of the importance of obtaining high quality papers for meetings, perhaps encouraging these through the award of medals, and the importance of exhibitions

He finished his comments by appealing for professional photographers to pay more attention to photography as a fine art, rather than undercut each other on prices.

Professional Photographers  -  Prices Charged

"... the advertisement columns of the daily papers, almost every week show an increasing number of those photographers who are bent upon underselling their rivals.  The 'carte' portraits, the 'postage stamp' portraits, and the fifty reproduced portraits for half a crown, readily suggest themselves.

Establishments commanding higher prices have in vain stood out against the rage for cheapness, and one by one have lowered their flag of high prices.

Clever operators receiving high salaries are engaged in the production of  low priced pictures, and although the rapidity with which they are compelled to do their work "to make it pay" does not enable them to do full justice to their abilities, they certainly turned out photographs fully equal to those produced by the generality of "higher priced" establishments. ...

Where then is this race for cheapness to end?


[British Journal of Photography: 15 October1863, pp.407-409]



Alfred H Wall

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