first annual exhibition opened in December 1856, and was widely reported in the
Press. Several quotes appear below.
photos were exhibited, including a wide variety of processes - glass, waxed
paper, collodion, albumen and daguerreotypes, calotypes.
77 calotypes by Hill & Adamson.
Photolithographs of Venice by MacPherson of Rome
22 collodion photos of deer stalking by Vice President Horatio Ross
Portraits by Claudet of London
Portraits by James Valentine of Dundee
Portraits by Rodger of St Andrews
Portraits by Moffat and by Tunny of Edinburgh
Daguerreotypes by Ross & Thomson of Edinburgh
Collodion landscapes by Fenton of the Photographic Society, London
Landscapes by George Washington Wilson, Aberdeen
National Library of Scotland has a catalogue of the 1st PSS Exhibition.
The exhibition attracted 8,000 visitors, and made a profit of £23 9s
11½d, thought the Council declared profit was not their objective. Their
main objects in instituting exhibitions were:
to aid in increasing the public taste for Art
to afford the Members an opportunity of contrasting their own works with those
of their fellow Members, and of photographers at a distance.
exhibition was held at 60 Hanover Street, next door to the premises of George
Waterston, stationer, and very close to the Merchants’ Hall used by EPS to
stage its International Photographic Exhibitions in the 1980s and 1990s.
was paid for the use of 60 George Street, and 600 posters were distributed
around the City advertising the exhibition.
were made for a good space to be kept for pictures by Corporal Meek of the
Sappers, entered by Prince Albert, the society's Patron,
PSS Exhibition remained open to the public for several weeks.
10am to 5pm
7pm to 9pm
6d or 3 for 1/-
charges were reduced over the New Year holiday period in order to help the PSS
compete with rival attractions – such as, in 1856:
- The Art Manufacturers’
in the New National Galleries - “After
dusk, the Galleries will be brilliantly lighted by gas
- tapestries, wood carvings,
mouldings, &c.” Admission
1/-: children 6d.
at the Zoo”
– splendid tigers, African lions, leopards, elephants &c. Admission
6d: Children 3d - Half price charges for the holiday period
of the photographs exhibited in the 1st PSS Exhibition were sold, some to PSS.
Photographic Society of Scotland had originally intended to make copies of the
painting 'Pitlessie Fair',
by Sir David Wilkie, the only one of his works that had not been made available
to the public through the medium of the engraver. But the society had not
been able to produce satisfactory copies. So, instead,
the Council purchased a selection of works from the 1st PSS Exhibition for
distribution to all members who had paid their subscription for the year
beginning March 1857.
on the 1st PSS Exhibition
"Another Exhibition has opened to
delight our pleasure-loving Auld Reekieites who are noted as dillettántí and
Fine-Art rhapsodists. Photography already appears scarcely less marvellous
than the electric telegraph"
[Caledonian Mercury 22 December 1856]
delightful art, whose products are shown in this collection, has made amazing
progress within the past year; and nowhere, we venture to affirm, has
improvement been more conspicuous and praiseworthy than in Scotland.”
Express, 3 Jan 1857]
is a most extraordinary
exhibition; and we suspect that very few persons, if any, who have not visited
it can have the most remote idea of the immense progress which Photography (or
Sun Painting, as some term it) has made during the last few years."
Edinburgh Evening Reporter & Scottish Record - Dec 31, 1856]
must break off here for want of space, but will only add, for the benefit of our
friends now bent on enjoying themselves during this festive season, that should
they be induced by anything we or others have said, to spend their shilling or
sixpence on a visit to the Edinburgh Photographic Society’s Exhibition, we
feel confident that when, the season of festivity past, they sit down quietly,
to reckon over their expenses, there will be no one shilling or sixpence of
their extravagances which they will be less inclined to wish unspent.
Mercury - Jan 2 1857]
but not all of the press comment was favourable. The Daily Express, in
particular was critical of attempts by photographers to make their work look
more like art.
altogether that they should aim to produce good photographs, photographers have
vulgarly striven to produce photographs that would be as like paintings – oil
or water colour – as possible."
have no hesitation in denouncing this as mere pandering to uncultivated tastes
and in no respect a thing to be desired. As
we understand it, a painting is one thing and a photograph another, and each has
its beauties, its peculiarities and its distinguishing features, separating it
widely and most distinctly from the other.”
[Daily Express: 6 Jan 1857]
The Caledonian Mercury made interesting comments
on photography and painting
are almost all now extensive collectors of photographs, and many of them are
themselves among our best photographers, some of them being contributors to this
Mercury - Jan 2 1857]
same article went on to say:
mere mechanical photographer may make an occasional tolerable hit, which the bad
painter can hardly do, but, to produce systematically such pictures as a very
considerable proportion of those on the Hanover Street room walls, a man must be
gifted with no small portion of those gifts which ought to enter into the
composition of a Royal Academician.
of course, the sun does the larger share of the work, and must carry off the
larger share of the praise.
photographer’s failures and blunders are never so insulting to nature as the
painter’s… the coloured monstrosities as we occasionally see in our painting
2 January 1857]
of the photographs was regarded as an even greater crime.
The article continued:
many of these [exhibits] the photographers seem perfectly to understand the
bounds and beauties of their art, but in others … we have the most outrageous
attempt at colouring conceivable in one or two cases, and singular it is that in
this, as in everything else, Glasgow asserts for herself the pre-eminence in
vulgarity.” [Daily Express: 6
A notorious instance of colouring mania
is to be found in the full-length portrait of a lady in a riding-habit.
… We have merely the statement in the catalogue that it is by the
“collodion” process; for we defy any one to say whether it is a photograph
[Daily Express: 6
in the Press
A poem appeared in
Courant describing the society’s exhibition at 60 Hanover Street ended:
“ Old Sol had scarcely spoken thus, when forth I went straightway
To his Great
Exhibition-Room, my shilling there to pay;
And scarcely had I
passed the door, and laid my money down
When I exclaimed 'A shilling’s worth! Why this is worth a crown.'
He really is a painter!
His own account is true.
I only wish we saw him
here far oft’ner than we do.”
[The Courant 22 January 1857]
few days later, The
Daily Scotsman, on 31 Jan 1857, told its readers of the marvels to be seen at the
Exhibition. It published a poem,
of the Sun'.
is an extract:
But even such a favoured street acquires a new renown,
And gives a
brighter lustre to that corner of the town.
When day by day
both grave and gay are thither seen to run
With eager anxious
haste to seek the Temple of the Sun.”
[The Daily Scotsman: 31 January 1857]