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A Brief History of

Edinburgh
Photographic Society

EPS Syllabuses  - 1923, 1925, 1934

An article to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of EPS

Please scroll down this page or click on a link below.

Part 1

1861 to 1899

Part 2

1900 to 2011

1.  Background

2.  Founding of EPS

3.  Lectures

4.  Excursions

5.  Membership

6.  Premises

7.  Exhibitions

8.  Groups and Meetings

9.  Members

10.  Premises

11.  Photographic Collection

12.  Exhibitions

13.  Poems

Part 1

1861 to 1899

1.

Background

1861

In 1861, Abraham Lincoln was elected President of the USA.  This was the year that the American Civil War began.  In Edinburgh this was the year that the One o’ Clock gun was set up at Edinburgh Castle and the foundation stone was laid for the Royal Scottish Museum in Chamber Street.  It was also the year that Edinburgh Photographic Society was founded.

Discovery of Photography

Photography had been practiced since 1839, when William Henry Fox Talbot (in England) and Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre (in Paris) had announced their discoveries.

William Henry Fox Talbot

Photograph by John Moffat, Edinburgh, 1864

Photograph of Talbot taken by John Moffat in 1864

©  Reproduced from the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television collection,
by courtesy of the Science and Society Picture Library. 
  Click here for link to web site.

However, it was not until The Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace, London, in 1851 that photography had caught the imagination of the wider public and photographic societies began to be established, first in Leeds (1852), then London (1853), Liverpool (1853), Manchester (1855) then the Photographic Society of Scotland (PSS) in Edinburgh (1856).

Photographic Society of Scotland

The PSS was founded under the patronage of Prince Albert. The physicist, Sir David Brewster (1781-1868) was President,   PSS provided lectures, demonstrations, outings and exhibitions.  Its members included both professional and amateur photographers.

Sir David Brewster

Sir David Brewster  -  a calotype by Hill & Adamson

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Services

However, despite its early success, not all members were happy with the PSS.  Some found the meetings to be too formal, allowing little scope for discussion. 

Others objected to a decision to reject  the photograph ‘Two Ways of Life’ by the Swedish fine art photographer, Oscar G Rejlander, from the 1857 PSS Exhibition because it included semi-nude female figures.

Two Ways of Life  -  O G Rejlander

Two Ways of Life  -  Oscar Gustav Rejlander

©  The Royal Photographic Society, Bath, England.  web site http://www.rps.org.

Rejlander considered his photo to be fine art.  The Daily Express argued that the exhibition should have accepted it. ‘The picture was exhibited at the Art Treasures Exhibition in Manchester.  Sir David Brewster has a copy of the photo and The Prince Consort has three copies of it.’

2.

Founding of EPS

Founding Members

Those dissatisfied with the PSS began to meet informally in Edinburgh, and on 20 February 1861, in a small room behind J Traill Taylor’s watchmaker’s shop at 81 South Bridge, they formally established Edinburgh Photographic Society.

J Traill Taylor went on to become the society’s first Secretary.  Three years later, he moved to London to become editor of the British Journal of Photography, a post that he held until his death in 1895 (except for seven years spent in the USA).

J Traill Taylor

Portrait of John Traill Taylor  -  1859

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

James Valentine (1815-79), whose company in Dundee produced photographic views of Scotland, and later postcards, was another founding member,

James Valentine

©  Reproduced by courtesy of St Andrews University Library

as was Archibald Burns (c.1831-80), landscape photographer, whose studio was at Rock House, formerly the home of Edinburgh calotypists, Hill & Adamson.

Rock House

Rock House studio  -  1870s

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh City Libraries and Information Services

Honorary EPS Members

In 1862, EPS elected six honorary members:

-  Sir William Henry Fox Talbot,  inventor and pioneer of photography

-  Sir David Brewster, Physicist, Principal of St Andrews University

-  James Sinclair, Earl of Caithness, photographer and exhibitor from London.

-  Professor Piazzi Smyth, photographer and Astronomer Royal for Scotland.

-  Dr Lyon Playfair, Professor of Chemistry at Edinburgh University

-  George Shadbolt, Editor of the British Journal of Photography.

All Members Welcome

EPS welcomed all into its membership. Secretary, George H Slight, said in 1867:

 ‘In a good working society, there should be a thorough admixture of different classes of the community among the members, such as professionals, working amateurs of all ranks, and others calling themselves amateurs who may have only  a general hankering after photographic pursuits.’ 

He said this last class was not to be despised.  He referred to them as ‘ornamental members, useful from their position and influence in giving a certain status to a society, and in assisting to augment the funds.’

Professional photographers, as well as amateurs, continued to support the society.  EPS Presidents during the 19th century included  John Lessels, Frank P Moffat, John Moffat, Alex Ayton and James Patrick.  All were prominent professional photographers in Edinburgh. 

 

3.

Lectures

Wednesday Meetings

In the 1860s, photography involved a lot of experimenting and learning from colleagues, rather than reading Amateur Photographer and camera manuals, so many of the society’s early lectures were instructional.

Lecture titles included:

-   My First Photographic Trip to the Country and what befell me

-   A New Tent for Photographic Purposes mounted on a Wheelbarrow

-  The Velocipede as an adjunct to Landscape Photography

-  Some Recent Explosions and their causes in connection with the Oxyhydrogen Light

-  The Beer and Albumen Process

-  Repairing Broken Negatives

Popular Meetings

EPS also held a few 'Popular Meetings' each year.  These were open to the public, sometimes with up to 1,000 attending.  Before the days of cinema and television, viewing slides at an EPS Popular Meeting could provide an evening's entertainment.

EPS Popular Meeting Ticket  -  1880-81

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Subjects of popular lectures included:

-  ‘Magic Lantern Slide’ tours of Russia, Italy, Egypt, India, Japan

-  Views of Scotland, some accompanied by poetry readings and song.

 

4.

Excursions

1870s

Cadzow Forrest

Here is a photograph taken at one of the EPS Outings in the 1870s.  Note the EPS members dressed it top hats!

EPS Outing to Cadzow Forest - 1877.

EPS Outing to Cadzow Forest (close-up)  -  1877

©  This photograph is included with  National Galleries of Scotland permission.   See Copyright Conditions

EPS organized photographic excursions to the country by wagonette, train, steamer, canal barge and cycle.  The society’s annual picnic was a popular event in the 1870s and 1880s.  All the photographic establishments in the city closed for the day.

1870s

Almond Dell

Here is a report of the 1883 picnic at Almond Dell, possibly taken from the British Journal of Photography:

“A party of 109 travelled on a decorated barge with a couple of violins, ‘cello and piano, dances and song.  On the outward journey, there was a solo singing competition with seven lady competitors, the prize being a 10” x 8” portrait in carbon of the winner.

The bachelors won the tug of war between the married and single.  There was music and dancing for 3-4 hours on the barge for the return journey.”

Note the price on these tickets for one of the EPS Annual Excursions to Almond Dell by barge:  Gentlemen 7/6, Ladies 5/-, to encourage the ladies to attend.

Tickets for EPS 1883 Outing to Almond Dell

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Annual Picnics in other years also included sports.  Some of Edinburgh’s better known photographers won prizes for the High Leap, 150 Yard Race, Barrow Race, Hopping Race and Running Backwards Race!

1890s

The Photographic Convention of the UK held its Annual Conference in a different location around Britain each year.  The convention lasted for a few days and included a wide range of lectures and tours.

EPS extended an invitation to the Photographic Convention to hold its 1892 Conference in Edinburgh.  The event appeared to have been very successful. Accounts of the week’s events and a photograph of all the participants appeared in the British Journal of Photography.

Here is the photo.  It was taken in Princes Street Gardens by EPS Professional Photographer, Alex Ayton, who became EPS President in 1894.

Photographic Convention of the UK  -1892

Photograph of delegates to the Photographic Convention of the United Kingdom held in Dublin in 1894

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

 

5.

Membership

Five Shillings

The annual EPS membership fee had remained at five shillings (25 pence) from 1861 up to 1892.  It then increased to 10s 6d (half a guinea) to include use of darkrooms and other facilities in the newly acquired premises.

EPS Membership Cards  -  1884-85

EPS Membership Cards  -  1884-85

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Membership of the society expanded.  There were 162 members by 1870 and 374 by 1880. The availability of hand-held cameras and dry plates in the 1890s encouraged more people to take up photography and join EPS.  By 1900, EPS had 509 members.

Presentation Prints

The annual membership fee also entitled for each member to a copy of a Presentation Print every year.  Presentation Prints were specially printed, sometimes by the original photographer, for each EPS member from one of the photos exhibited in the previous year’s International Exhibition.

Photos by Henry Peach Robinson, George Washington Wilson, James Craig Annan, James Patrick and other highly respected photographers were chosen as Presentation Prints for EPS Members.  I wonder how many of these prints have survived today.

PSS had previously had a similar scheme of providing Presentation Prints to its members.

'Somebody's Coming'

Silver Medal winning print by HP Robinson in PSS Exhibition 1864
subsequently selected as a Presentation Print by PSS

Photograph by HP Robinson - Winner of a Silver Medal in the Photographic Society of Scotland's 8th Annual Exhibition

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Edinburgh Photographic Club

Edinburgh Photographic Club (EPC) was established in 1881, with membership limited to 40.  Membership was by invitation to some of the more experienced and distinguished members of EPS.

The aim, initially, was to act as an upper chamber to discuss the more advanced chemical and physical aspects of photography, but in later years the manufacturers of photographic materials took over this role and EPC became more of a social club.

EPC survived for 67 years and is now commemorated by one of the EPS trophies, the EPC Memorial Shield.

 

6.

Premises

Rented Rooms

EPS held its meetings at:

-   Queen Street Hall, 6 Queen Street (1861-62)

-  National Bible Society Rooms, 5  St Andrew Square (1863-1885)

-  Dowell's Rooms, 20 George Street (1885-1892).

38 North Castle Street

Then, in 1892, EPS acquired its own premises at 38 North Castle Street. These premises cost £920 and consisted of ten rooms on three floors, fitted with a library, an enlarging room, and darkrooms with ruby lights for plates and yellow lights for bromide work.

EPS Members set about cleaning the premises, spending £1 5s 10d on brushes and other materials for cleaning.  Here is the bill for the materials:

EPS Receipt for Brushes (detail)  -  1892

1 long brush

1 small brush

2 black sh brushes

1 dusting brush

1 scrubbing brush

1 pail

1 shovel

   Brunswick Black

   Polishing Paste

   Shammy Leather

1 Doz. Dusters

   Floor Cloths

3 Bars Soap

1 St Soda

   Black Lead

            ?

1 Tin B Soap

   Ballam for ? Grate

3s 0d

1s 3d

2s 6d

9d 

1s 0d

1s 3d

1s 6d

1s 0d

9d

6d

3s 0d

1s 6d

2s 6d

1s 0d

9d

1s 2d

  5d

2s 0d

________
£1  5s 10d

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

The premises at 38 North Castle Street were across the road from No 39, a house that Sir Walter Scott had occupied for many years until he was struck by financial disaster in 1826.

 

7.

Exhibitions

The First Exhibition

EPS Exhibitions have been held annually since 1861.  The first exhibition was staged when the society was only six weeks old.  It attracted some of Britain’s best known photographers, including Fenton, Bedford, Mudd, Rodger, Silvy, and Bison.

EPS Exhibitions continued annually during the 19th century, but two in particular stand out.  Both were held at the Royal Scottish Academy, Princes Street.

Royal Scottish Academy

Photo by GW Wilson

Looking to the south down Hanover Street towards the Royal Scottish Academy - by GW Wilson

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce, please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

Royal Scottish Academy

1876

A major EPS exhibition was held in 1876, occupying the whole Royal Scottish Academy at the foot of the Mound.  Six hundred guests were invited to the opening.  The society reported:

"Copies of a circular had been posted to nearly every photographer in Britain, America, India and the colonies, while the continent had also, so far as practicable, been attended to."

The British Journal of Photography reported

"Nearly every civilised country was more or less adequately represented in the exhibition’.  The exhibition included apparatus, chemicals, books and over 3,000 photos."

Royal Scottish Academy

1890

In this exhibition, there were 1,500 photos on display, including examples of silver prints, carbon, platinum, bromide, Aristotype, Kallitype, Diazotype, vitrified enamel and other processes.

Exhibits included early Daguerreotypes, calotypes by Talbot and by Hill & Adamson, and copies of ‘Sun Pictures of Scotland’, ’Pencil of Nature’ and ‘Photographic Drawings’, all by Talbot.

Musical entertainment was provided by the String Band of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, and there were Exhibition Lectures, some illustrated by popular limelight views

The exhibition received a lot of favourable press comment.  The Practical Photographer described it as "the finest by a long way that has yet appeared in Scotland".

Part 2

1900 to 2011

8.

Groups and Meetings

EPS Sports Groups

Some groups within the society declined; others started and flourished.

The EPS Camera Cycling Corps (estd 1898) survived for only a couple of years, as did the EPS Golf Club (estd 1903).

EPS Popular Meetings

There was no longer a demand for Popular Meetings showing lantern slides once the cinematograph had arrived.  The final Popular Meeting  on 15 March 1901. It comprised:

 slides from EPS members shown  by lime-light

intervals for concert and music

a cinematograph of an International Rugby Match played at Blackheath on the previous Saturday

-  a cinematograph of the funeral of Queen Victoria who had died on 22 Jan 1901.

EPS Survey Group

The EPS Survey Group had been established in 1899.  It worked steadily towards its objective of creating a record of Edinburgh past and present.  Photos were taken of many of the streets and buildings in the Old Town.

In 1904, the Survey Group staged an exhibition of 50 paintings, 107 engravings and 359 photos.  Unfortunately, Survey Group activities were curtailed by the outbreak of war in 1914.

However the photos have survived.  Some are now in the Scottish National Gallery Collection, some in the Edinburgh City Library Collection and some in the RCAHMS Collection.

Other EPS Groups

Other EPS Groups were created during the 20th century: 

Portfolio (1916)

Pictorial (1923)

Cine (1927)

Bromoil (1928)

Colour (now re-named Creative) (1955)

Studio (1955)

Colour Printing (1967)

Creative (1973)

Nature (1975)

Audio-visual (1987)

Digital Imaging (1997).

Here is a photograph of a Beginners' Portfolio Group Outing to Edinburgh Zoo, around 1964

Beginners' Portfolio Group - c.1964

Edinburgh Photographic Society - Beginners' Portfolio Group Outing to Edinburgh Zoo

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to  Edinburgh Photographic Society

Wednesday Meetings

Wednesday evening has remained the night for the main EPS Meeting.  This is a tradition that began in 1861.

During the black-outs of World War II, EPS meetings were still held on Wednesdays, but were held monthly, on the Wednesday nearest to the full moon!

 

9.

Members

Early 1900s

The tradition of holding an Annual Dinner to entertain the judges for the EPS Annual Exhibition was revived in 1902.  This tradition continues today.

Here are the front and back covers of the menu for the 1902 Annual Dinner:

EPS Dinner Menu (front)  -  1902            EPS Dinner Menu (back)  -  1902
©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

The cost, excluding wine, for seven courses was five shillings (25p) excluding wine.  There were seven courses.   Here is the programme for the evening.  It includes a good selection of toasts and replies.

1902 Dinner

EPS Dinner Programme   -  1902

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Here are the EPS Office Bearers the following year.

Office Bearers  -  1903

EPS Council  -  1903

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Some Prominent Photographers

Too many photographers to mention have played important roles in EPS over the years.

 Amateur photographer, Archibald MacLucas, created some memorable child portraits.  Here is a two of his photos of his son, Norman.

Newspaper Seller - 1

Photograph by AH MacLucas of his son Norman - paper seller 1

©  Reproduced by courtesy of the MacLucas family

Newspaper Seller - 2

Photograph by AH MacLucas of his son Norman-  Paper Seller 2

©  Reproduced by courtesy of the MacLucas family

Latterly, Archibald MacLucas became known as ‘The Grand Old Man of EPS’, having been EPS President in 1917-18 and 1941-46, and EPS Vice President in 1954.

Individual Styles

Photographers who have demonstrated their skills in the darkroom include:

 Marion Boran who produced some memorable colour prints from black and white negatives

Jim McDougal who experimented with derivative work long before the days of Photoshop

John Robb who delicately retouched his slides using food colouring and was always happy to provide encouragement and advice.

Other photographers, including two long serving EPS Office Bearers, have had their own areas of interest and expertise.

-  It was portrait photography for Gracie Alison, EPS Secretary, 1946-85.  She was the first woman and the first Scottish photographer to be elected to the London Salon, and is now commemorated in the annual EPS Memorial Lecture.  In the photo below  EPS President, George Paterson, presents a gold watch to Gracie 1964, on the occasion of her appointment as Honorary EPS President.

Presentation to Gracie Alison - 1964

EPS President, George Paterson, makes a presentation of a gold watch to  to Grace Alison - 1964

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Here is one of Gracie's portraits.  She was awarded the EPS Forbes Adam Cup in the 1949 Members' Exhibition for this portrait.

Portrait by Gracie Alison - 1949

Portrait by Gracie Alison  -  for which she was awarded the Forbes Adam Cup in the Edinburgh Photographic Society Members' Exhibition  i n 1949.

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Gracie Alison

-  It was landscape photography for George Cruickshank who was EPS President, 1957-60, and EPS Treasurer for the remainder of the period, 1947-88.

-  Sandy Cleland, EPS President, 1985-88, an International Photographic Exhibition competitor, organizer and selector and a prominent member of the Royal Photographic Society has shared his nature photography with the society

Philip Caplan has shown some of his creative colour prints,  Douglas May has produced panels of contemporary work and Eric Bower has given audio-visual shows and shared his expertise on using Photoshop.

Many Members have gained reputations around Scotland and further afield through having  their work accepted and winning awards in International Exhibitions.  These include Sandy Cleland,  Karen Berry, Doug Hamilton, Sue Hill, Eric Bower, Tom Gardner, Neil Scott, Peter Patterson and Richard Bingham.

Many others have provided stalwart support to the society over the years.  John Ruickbie has resolved many problems with the fabric of the premises.  Sue Goode has helped to ensure the smooth running of the prestigious EPS International Exhibition.  Both are now Honorary Members of EPS.

 

10.

Premises

38 North Castle Street

EPS premises at 38 North Castle Street served the society well, but in later years there were demands for larger premises, preferably with fewer steps to climb.  Or, as one member wrote, in verse:

"My grievance noo ye’ll quickly guess,

I fein would see our E.P.S.

In rooms mair flash, no just sae high,

Wi mair o’ foreground, and less sky."

Shared Premises

So, in 1925, EPS sold 38 North Castle Street and entered into an arrangement with the Royal Scottish Society of Arts (RSSA) for shared use of their premises at 117 George Street. 

The Large Hall, 117 George Street   

117 George Street

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

The RSSA then moved to 16 Royal Terrace in 1929 and remained there until 1952.

16 Royal Terrace 

16 Royal Terrace  -  Rooms used by EPS

©  Reproduced by courtesy of
  Edinburgh Photographic Society

While at 16 Royal Terrace, EPS shared these premises and shared its Journal with the other societies:

-  Edinburgh Association of Science & Art

-  Edinburgh Electrical Society

-  Electrical Association for Women

-  Edinburgh & District Radio Society.

Unfortunately, the RSSA was forced to sell 16 Royal Terrace in 1952, so EPS shared the Edinburgh Cine Club’s premises at Fettes Row for two years before acquiring their own home at 68 Great King Street.

68 Great King Street

In 1954, thanks to interest-free loans of £1,055 from members and donations of £120, the society  was able to acquire its present premises at 68 Great King Street for £1,650, and spent a further £480 on plumbing, painting, electrical work, and refurbishment.  Much of this work was carried out by a band of 50 volunteers and the new premises were formally opened in October 1955.

Work at 68 Great King Street was undertaken by members at regular intervals over the next 50 years.

Decorating 68 Great ing Street

68 Great King Street  -   EPS Peremises  -  decorating

©   peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

However, recent decoration and refurbishment has been carried out professionally, culminating in a major refurbishment of the interior of the building in 2009-10.

This 1958 report gives some idea of the work being undertaken at the time:

“Finally, a source of peril has been removed.  Intrepid members who ventured to open that sinister little door marked ‘Danger’ in the darkroom flat, will have found that it plunged directly into Stygian blackness of a sub-basement.  The council, in their mercy, have now stretched the funds to the wiring of this, so 'Let there be light'.”

Celebrations

Here are some of the EPS Members at 68 Great King Street, with the plaster bust of D O Hill in the background, celebrating the EPS 125th Anniversary in 1986.

EPS 125th Anniversary

A Group of EPS Members dressed to celebrate the occasion of the 130th Anniversary of the Founding of Edinburgh Photographic Society  -  February 1991

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Sue Hill, EPS

 

11.

Photographic Collection

1861

By 1980, the society had built up a large valuable collection of photos and equipment.  At one time there were plans to create an EPS Museum, but this never materialised.

Storage conditions for prints at the premises were not ideal, and three floods from burst pipes in the flat above during 1979 and 1980 did not help the situation.

So, in 1987, many of the photos were donated to the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.  This collection of photos included many calotypes from the Hill & Adamson partnership 1843-47.  Just one of the Hill & Adamson photos has remained in the possession of EPS.  Here it is:

D O Hill

DO Hill  

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

In 1990, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery staged an exhibition based on the Hill & Adamson calotypes donated to the gallery by EPS.

 

12.

Exhibition

Medals

Here is a similar medal that was awarded to J Russel for his autochrome image, exhibited in the EPS Members' Exhibition, 1914.

Medal awarded to J Russel for his Autochrome image, exhibited in the EPS Members' Exhibition, 1914

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce,  please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

This is the style of medal now being awarded by EPS.  It is based on an old die from the 19th century.

EPS Bronze Medal (front)  -  1990s ©    EPS Bronze Medal  -  1920s ©

©  Reproduced with acknowledgement to Edinburgh Photogrpahic Society

Here is one, in silver.  It was awarded to JB Johnson in the EPS Open Exhibition, 1896.

The back of a Silver Medal awarded by Edinburgh Photographic Society to J B Johnstone in 1896 ©    The front of a Silver Medal awarded by Edinburgh Photographic Society to J B Johnstone in 1896 ©

© David Likar, Australia

 

Catalogues

EPS International Exhibitions and Members’ Exhibitions of Photography have continued to be held annually.

1920s Catalogue

EPS Exhibition Catalogues  -  1928, 1929

©  Reproduced by courtesy of Edinburgh Photographic Society

Since 1949, the International Exhibition has been held in August, during the Edinburgh Festival.  Venues have included YMCA Exhibition Hall, then St Cuthbert’s Hall, then Merchant’s Hall, then since 1996, EPS premises at 68 Great King Street.  Here are the covers of some of the recent exhibition catalogues.

Recent Catalogue Covers

©  All catalogues above to 2007::  Edinburgh Photographic Society

Recent Exhibitions

The number of International Print Exhibitions around the world has reduced in recent years, as some societies have had difficulty in finding the resources to stage them.  However, our exhibition continues to be staged and remains highly regarded.  Only a small percentage of entries is accepted each year, so gaining an acceptance is regarded as an achievement.

EPS International Exhibition at Merchants' Hall - 1995

EPS Exhibition  -   Merchant Hall, Hanover Street  -  1995

©  Copyright: For permission to reproduce, please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

Since the 1950s, EPS International Exhibitions have attracted entries from 130 countries, typically between 1,200 and 4,000 entries pa, from which about 200 have been selected and exhibited.

Entries from Around the World

EPS Exhibition Map  -  1990s

©   please contact peter.stubbs@edinphoto.org.uk

 

13.

Poems

PSS

When the Photographic Society of Scotland held its first exhibition in Edinburgh in 1856-7, there was still a novelty in viewing photos.  The press enthused abut the exhibition, describing photos as ‘paintings made by the sun, 'Old Sol’.   

The Courant newspaper published this poem about the exhibition:

       APOLLO AGAINST THE ARTISTS

"I also am a painter!" was said, as all men know

And said by no mean artist, three centuries ago.

But lo! An artist greater far among us now appears;

For after shining quietly on for twice three thousand years

Old Sol takes up his parable, and says - "I've now on view

Some pictures that, perhaps, may show that I'm an artist too."

"If any man shall doubt the fact, let him proceed straightway

To my Great Exhibition-Room and there his shilling pay.

I think I there may promise him his shilling's worth and more

In Portraits such as mortal eye ne'er looked upon before;

In Temples and in Palaces - in scenes by land and sea -

For nothing that I shine upon can come amiss to me!"

"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]

A few days later, the Daily Scotsman printed another poem about the exhibition:

                          TEMPLE OF THE SUN

A street must always some respect from loyal subjects claim

Which from the House of Hanover derives its honoured name.

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 Temple of the Sun!" (you say) "why, what may these words mean?

"We're surely not fire worshippers nor have we ever been;

"We do not, like the Magi, feed the ever-flaming pyre,

"Although we all delight to stir a jolly Christmas fire;

"We all revere the weather clear, the worthy god of day,

"But not in an idolatrous or heathen sort of way!"

All this, no doubt, may be most true, but come along with me,

And in the street of Hanover, you’ll see what you shall see;

We need not quarrel about words, not take the pedant's tone,

But only come along with me and you at once will own

There ne'er have been such marvels seen, in either street or square

As Phœbus shows his worshippers at number Sixty there.

Daily Scotsman:  Jan 31, 1857

EPS

Poems and songs continued to feature in EPS Bulletins and Journals for the next 150 years, some of the most memorable being poems in Scots by former EPS Secretary, Douglas Fraser and songs in the style of Gilbert & Sullivan by EPS Member, KoKo.

We finish with a couple written by EPS members:

          CAPTAIN OF THE EPS

"When I was a lad with a smile so sweet

I took a little walk along Great King Street

I moved the chairs and I swept the floor

And I polished up the handle on the big front door.

I polished up the handle with such finesse

That now I am the captain of the E P S.

I went again and they said to me

You’re just the sort of fellow who can make the tea

I made the tea, no-one asked for more,

It tasted like you’ve never tasted tea before.

I poured that tea like a good hostess

And now I am the captain of the E P S.

I went once more and a voice said “You”

We’ve got another little job for you to do

If they come late, you let them in

The ringing of the bell, it makes an awful din.

I opened the door with such success

That now I am the captain of the E P S.

I entered a print, I entered a slide

And when I heard the judge I had to go outside.

You could trim this here, you could burn this in

But I think you’d better put it in the refuse bin.”

He thought my pictures were quite useless

That’s why they made me captain of the E P S

So if you make tea, and sweep the floor,

And polish up the handle on the big front door -

If you do this and you do that

And stay behind for tea and have a little chat,

If you take pictures without success

Then you all may be captains of the EPS

“Ko-ko”

Sung by Brian Covell at the President’s Evening, 1990
at the end of his term of office as EPS President

                EDINBURGH PHOTOGRAPHIC SOCIETY

"With mingled feelings I recall those days when forth I hied,

A novice, with my half-plate in a satchel  by my side;

Resolved on “taking” somebody, or something, you may guess,

But lackaday!  I knew not then the good old EPS.

To drive the crowd of urchins back, who gather quite in force

Upset one, and the dark side I forgot to draw, of course;

And ofttimes two exposures on one plate (which is excess)

Produced effects more wonderful than charming, I confess.

Sometimes the cap I would forget still firm upon the hood,

While I with air of one who knows, (but inward trembling) stood;

And, watch in hand, the rubber ball, most deftly I would press,

Then came a glad expectant dream - words cannot here express

’Twas in the darkroom, vivid thoughts of latent gems would rise

And phantom landscapes oft beguiled one’s weary, watchful eyes;

Till roused by some home critic -“What a horrid splashy mess!

Why don’t you learn from others - Go and join the EPS.”

On progress bent, with firm resolve, and by a friend proposed,

I proudly was admitted mem. con. (that is, unopposed);

Now, while I live, I surely that auspicious day shall bless,

When I became a member of the good old EPS.

Here genial, kindred spirits one can meet with by the way

And all his wrongs have righted, and made clear as an X-ray;

Those little peccadilloes need no longer now distress,

For everything goes smiling when you join the EPS.

So now, I sally fort, rare gems to gather as I go,

And e’en have ventured to exhibit at the Photo Show;

Success has crowned my efforts.  If you’ll call at my address,

You there can see my trophy - Bronze Medallion EPS.

 Karr Bonne, 1902

 

Edinburgh Photographic Society History

Poems

Dinners

Group Meetings

Members

Literature

Popular Meetings

Premises

Excursions

Wednesday Meetings

History

Finances

Exhibitions

For news of EPS today, please click here to view the EPS web site

__________________

 

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