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PSS - 8th Exhibition

February 1864


Another Open Photographic Competition

The 8th PSS Exhibition, like the 7th, was an Open Photographic Competition.  This enabled the entries to be displayed in The New Hall,117 George Street.  This was the Hall next to the Hall where PSS held their regular monthly meetings.  The press wrote:

"The competitive exhibition this season was the means of bringing together a number of beautiful prints sent from every art of the country - a proof that a medal from this Society is valued as one of he highest awards a photographer can attain."    

The PSS Council reported, after the exhibition closed:

"The competitive exhibition this season was the means of bringing together a number of beautiful prints sent from every art of the country - a proof that a medal from this Society is valued as one of he highest awards a photographer can attain.

The Exhibition was open for one month to the public free of charge, and it must be gratifying to the Society that the Exhibition was well attended and that many regrets were expressed when the Exhibition closed." 
[Report from PSS Council for the year to May 1864]

Medals awarded

John Moffat

Silver Medal for the Best Portrait: 

 Mr George Harvey

Henry Peach Robinson

Silver Medal for the Best Group [printed form a single negative] 

Somebody’s Coming

Thomas Rodger

Bronze Medal [runner up] for the Best Group [printed form a single negative]

Colonel & Mrs Maitland Dougal

Henry Peach Robinson

Silver Medal for the Best Landscape

Deer Park, Stoneleigh

F Bedford

Bronze Medal [runner up] for the Best Landscape

View of Warwick Castle

HP Robinson was extremely grateful for his PSS Medals.  He wrote:

"The Photographic Society of Scotland, having awarded a medal to me for the fifth time is the greatest honor I have ever received for which I return my best thanks."

"... if the Medals I have would produce a ton of Nitrate of Silver each, I would not convert them."    [Letter:  HP Robinson to PSS - 18 February 1864] 

HP Robinson's print Somebody's Coming, was selected as the Society's  Presentation Print.  100 copies of this print were ordered from HP Robinson at a cost of 3/6 each.  These were distributed, one to each PSS Member.

The judges also praised other photographs in the exhibition:

"Some of the landscapes by Messrs Annon, Gillis, Mudd and Thomson are deserving of special commendation  

Two groups by Mr Barratt of Torquay were greatly admired, while of portraits they consider one of Professor Syme by Mr Moffat and one of John Steel Esq. by Messrs McGlashan & Walker scarcely in any way inferior to that of Mr Harvey.  Mr Dallas has also sent some excellent portraits; but they are of a smaller size than those already mentioned, and where anything like an  equality exists in point of execution the larger print will generally have the advantage.

 [Judges' Prize Committee Report - March 1864]. 

Composition Prints - controversy

Much controversy arose at this exhibition at the Silver Medal being awarded to a composition print - i.e. one made from more than one negative.

Francis Bedford, himself the winner of  Bronze Medal for his Landscapes, wrote:

"I have much pleasure in acknowledging the receipt of the Medal which has just reached me.  Had I been aware before-hand that the Silver medal would be awarded for a composition landscape, I could have made up and sent in a View of Jerusalem from two negatives which would, I think, have been interesting, but I was under the impression that such photographs were ineligible for prizes. 

 I need not remind you that a landscape taken upon one plate compares rather disadvantageously with another taken from two negatives, embracing respectively a much larger angle of view.  
 [Letter:  Francis Bedford to PSS  25/2/864]

The judges agreed that it had been their intention to exclude composition prints from the awards, but in fact their rules excluded composition pictures from the Landscapes category but not from the Groups category.

HP Robinson read the rules carefully.  Referring to one of his landscapes, he wrote:

"Autumn being from several negatives is of course excluded by your new rules for competition.  I send it thinking you might like to see it."

[Letter:  HP Robinson to PSS - 14 January 1864] 

However, he entered a composition print for the Group category.  He was concerned to hear that others had objected to his composition photograph winning a Silver Medal.  He wrote several lengthy letters to PSS defending his right to enter a composition picture.   He wrote:

"I am sorry the other exhibitors should be annoyed.  They must have been asleep not to have read the Advertisement as I did, and I must say that very few of them are capable of taking advantage of it.  To make an absolutely invisible join down the middle of a landscape is difficult to accomplish."

He concluded this letter:

"Cartes de visite are my business.

  Compositions my pleasure."

[Letter:  HP Robinson to PSS - 25 February 1864] 

Exhibition Entrants

The following all sent photographs to the 8th PSS Exhibition.  There may also have been others.

Thomas Annan


-  Ravenscraig Castle

-  Cora Castle

-  Glasscadden

-  Melrose

-  Fern

-  A Dell without a Name

-  Scottish Peasantry

-  Willows by the Water Courses

The print, Willows by the Water Courses, was printed from two negatives.  Thomas Annan wrote:

"I suppose that will prevent it from competing, but I think it one of my most picturesque subjects, and as much a good picture as anything I have got." Thomas Annan:  Letter to PSS 18/1/1864].

Francis Bedford


-  18 framed photographs

Robert Bell


-  1 small group

Thomas Brownrigg

Mayborough, Ireland

-  6 collodion landscapes - 12 x 10 ins each

JB Cartlidge

Leith Walk

-  3 frames of cartes de visite

Mr Church


-  8 prints in glazed frame

JT (?) Croal

86 George Street, Edinburgh

This address should probably be:  80 George Street, Edinburgh.

-  1 frame of portraits


-  1 frame of cartes de visite

-  1 frame of portraits

Rev. DTK Drummond


-  views

John Lamb


-  6 frames of portraits

"These were taken in a glass house which I have erected on the Sutton principle."
 [letter:  John Lamb to PSS - 5 December 1863]

James Grant MacAndrew


-  6 landscapes

-  8 portraits

J Moffat

-  frames of prints

T Ovenden


-  4 groups of gentlemen cadets

-  The Drill Sergeant of the Royal Military Academy 

J Ovenden was an amateur.  He wrote:

"Taken on half plate with Voillander's whole plate lens. Time of exposure 20 to 30 seconds.  Developed with iron and intensified with Pyro.  The collodion is a mixture of various makes." 
[letters: T Ovenden to PSS - 9 and14 January 1864]

Archibald Robertson


-  7 framed views of groups and views

HP Robinson

-  8 framed photographs 

-  Autumn

-  Somebody’s Coming

-  May Gatherers

-  A Portrait

-  A Study

-  Deer Park, Stoneleigh

-  Warwick Castle

-  Ruined Bridge, Warwick

Somebody's Coming

Photograph by Henry Peach Robinson  -  Somebody's Coming ©

HP Robinson also referred to his collection of photos of other photographers.  Has this collection survived?  He wrote to PSS Secretary, TB Johnson:

"I am much obliged for your portrait.  I am making a collection of portraits of photographers and should be glad to exchange with any of your Edinburgh Artists.

I enclose a couple of my own, all I have printed at present.  If any of your friends would like to exchange, I should be glad to hear from them."   
[letter:  HP Robinson to TB Johnson - 24 February 1864]

Thomas Ross


-  4 frames of

Colonel Edwin (?) Smith


Framed photographs

- 3 upon china

-  1 upon ivory

J Thomson


S Thomson


-  1 frame of 4 photos - 12 ins x 10 ins

-  1 frame of 3 photos - 12 ins x 10 ins

-  1 frame of 9 photos - smaller size

-  6 portraits of HRH the Prince of Wales and the Princess at AL..(?) Castle

"All by the wet collodion process.  The Co... (?) Falls had an exposure of 10 minutes with a wet plate on a dull day"

[letter: S Thomson to PSS]

James Tulley


-  2 frames of groups

"12 ins x 16 ins untouched, taken on Ross wholeplate lenses made by the old Gentleman."   
[letter: James Tulley to PSS]

Thank you to Sarah Mitchell, who is related to James Tulley for telling me:

"James Tulley was quite an interesting character. He had a business in Sheffield.  He was an early music hall artist, and had another photography business in London where he used the alias of Napoleon Syrus."



Other Photographs in Exhibitions


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