"I am currently in the process
of updating and expanding my
1981 biography of Thomas Keith to embrace the work of both his elder
brother, George Skene Keith, and his brother-in-law John Forbes White. I
live in hope that this will be published late next year (2013).
Travel to Palestine
George Skene Keith may have
been the first Briton to travel to the Holy Land with a camera, but
despite the assertions of the British Journal of Photography below*,
he was not the first photographer to take pictures in Palestine, Jordan
Fréderic Goupil-Fequet, who
visited in December 1839, only weeks after Daguerre’s announcement of
the process, was almost certainly the first.
Some confusion exists over
exactly when the Keith's first photographic journey took place. Editions
of Dr. Keith’s book from the late-1840s imply that it was during his
first, 1839, expedition sponsored by the Church of Scotland – of which
he was then still a minister – but, despite some quite convincing clues,
that seems highly unlikely.
However, a measure of caution
must be applied to recollections written even relatively few years after
the event. The idea that Dr. Keith might have been tutored on the
calotype as early as spring 1839 is impossible as the process was not
invented by Talbot until a year later.
Nor does any report of such
experiments with photography appear in the several editions published
between 1839 and 1847, but it is interesting to note, that he recalled
that ‘the mode of preparing which was a still a secret’.
If an 1839 date was to be
believed, it would have been Talbot’s earlier Photogenic Drawing process
– and as that was so slow as to be wholly impractical, failure would
have been unavoidable.
are they now?
"I've already exhausted every
line of enquiry that I can think of in attempts to trace George Skene
Keith’s daguerreotypes, but have not been able to trace them.
George Skene Keith
showed a number of them to a meeting of the Edinburgh Photographic
Society in late-1876 and later exhibited them at the
EPS Exhibition which
ran from December 1876 into early 1877.
The 'British Journal of
The EPS 1876 Exhibition
‘Dr. George Keith showed
a number of daguerreotypes taken in 1844 – the first photography
done in the Holy Land – together with electrotypes and engravings
taken from them to illustrate a work – The Fulfilment of Prophecy
– published shortly after the above period.’
British Journal of Photography, 1876
Prof. John Hannavy: November 28, 2012