Talbot and Daguerre
The year 1839 marks the start of
photography, as we know it today. Both Daguerre
(1787-1851) and Talbot
(1800-1877) had been experimenting independently for several years on
their different photographic processes when Daguerre announced his
discovery to the world in Paris on 7 January 1839.
This prompted William Henry Fox Talbot
to display the results of his negative/positive process to the Royal
Institution in London (the same organization as today presents the BBC
Christmas Lectures) on 25 January 1839. He then presented a Paper
to the Royal Society on 31 January 1839, describing his process as
Talbot sent examples of his work in
early February 1839 to Sir David Brewster, who was later to become the
first President of the Photographic Society of Scotland (PSS) and an
Honorary Member of Edinburgh Photographic Society (EPS).
The announcements by Talbot and Daguerre were made
about eighteen months into the reign of Queen Victoria, and about eighteen
months before she married Prince Albert. Both Queen Victoria and Prince Albert became keen enthusiasts of
photography and collectors of photographs. Prince Albert became the first Patron of PSS.
He died in the year that EPS was established.
Early Photography in Edinburgh
The discovery of photography created immediate
interest amongst the citizens of Edinburgh. In 1839, papers on the subject were read at Meetings of
Society of Arts for Scotland, and James Howie held a daguerreotype
exhibition. Soon afterwards,
he opened Scotland’s first daguerreotype studio at his premises in
Exhibition of Arts,
Exhibition of Arts, Manufacturers and Practical Science
was held at Assembly Halls, George Street, from 24 Dec 1839
until 7 Jan 1840.
photographs (or photogenic drawings) by Talbot were exhibited, together
with a Photogenic Camera made by Mr Davidson, who would soon be
making cameras for Robert Adamson.
Exhibition attracted over 50,000 visitors.
[Larry L Schaaf: Studies in
Photography 1998, p27]
by Daguerre were also exhibited in Edinburgh in December 1839
these exhibited at the same exhibition?
Early Edinburgh Photographers
Davidson played a prominent part in the early development of
photography in Edinburgh, both as an early photographer and as a
maker of photographic equipment from 1839 onwards, including
equipment for Hill & Adamson a few years later.
Mungo Ponton reported to Edinburgh on some
discoveries in photography, from 1839 onwards.
- Hill & Adamson
Octavius Hill may have been introduced to the calotype process by his
friend, Hugh Miller, before setting up in partnership with Robert
Adamson who had recently set up a calotype business at Rock House,
Edinburgh in 1843. Hugh Miller published an article on the calotype
process in his paper, The Witness, on 12 July 1843.
& Adamson established their studio at
House, Calton Hill in 1843, and created over five thousand prints from
their calotype negatives over the next four years. There work is
well documented elsewhere, so I have made only passing reference to it on
this web site.
Several other professional photographers set up business in
Street in the 1840s.
In the early 1840s
a group of amateur photographers, mainly from the legal profession, visited Sir
David Brewster in St Andrews to discover how to use Talbot’s Calotype
Process. They returned to Edinburgh, and, around 1843, formed The Edinburgh Calotype
was, perhaps, the earliest photographic society in the world.
In 1851, the wet collodion process was announced.
At that time photography was becoming more popular and more widely
A few photographic
societies were established in Britain.
of the first, in 1856 was Photographic Society of
Outing - 1856
1861, Edinburgh Photographic Society was
Both the PSS and EPS held Annual Exhibitions.
Early exhibitions attracted entries from some of the most renowned
photographers in Britain.
Both societies held meetings for their own
members, and Popular Meetings which brought photography to the wider public
in Edinburgh, and no doubt attracted a few more Members to the societies.
Edinburgh Photographic Society offered practical
meetings with less formality than PSS. Membership grew rapidly.
The annual subscription was set at five shillings, and remained at
that level for over thirty years.