EPS - 19th Century Exhibitions

EPS Exhibition  –  1861

EPS has held exhibitions annually since 1861.  The first exhibition was staged when the Society was less than six weeks old, and included more than seven hundred prints, or, as the report of the meeting states: choice specimens of photographic skill.  The Edinburgh photographers must have had good contacts to assemble an exhibition with work from so many prominent photographers of the time.  It was reported that:

“Among the various artists whose pictures adorned the rooms were the names of Fenton, Bedford, Mudd, Horatio Ross, Tunny, AY Herries, Piper, Rodger, Ramage, Silvy, Bisson, &c, &c…… Stereoscopes, binocular pictures &c. were spread over the table in great abundance.…”

EPS    Annual Exhibitions  –  from 1861

International Photographic Exhibitions became an important feature of EPS activities from 1861 onwards

Most of the early exhibitions were held in the premises rented by the Society for its meetings, at 5 St Andrew Square and 20 George Street.  Some of these early exhibitions had:

-  several categories of print for EPS Members

-  an Open Section which attracted entries from the UK and overseas

Prints for Sale

It was normal practice, as had been the case with earlier PSS exhibitions, for photographs in the exhibition to be offered for sale to the public.  In some cases the photograph in the exhibition was sold complete with frame.  

In other cases, the photographer agreed to supply copies of his exhibit, unframed.  The prices charged were set by the photographers and sometimes negotiated.  EPS took a percentage commission on all sales.  

Prints for EPS Members

Another attraction of joining EPS was the annual distribution of photographs to Members, at no charge other than their 5/- Membership fee.  In some years, the society used surplus funds to purchase photographs from the exhibition after its close, then distributed these to the Members.  

The allocation to Members was by ballot, so some Members received more valuable photographs than others, but each receives one photograph.  In other years, all Members received the same photograph, often of the photograph that won the main Medal in the competition, provided the author was prepared to supply a bulk order to EPS at an acceptable cost.

Entering prints in PSS and EPS exhibitions was not always an easy task.  Some Members took great pride in their work and gave precise instructions as to how their work should be handled and hung.

EPS Exhibitions – 1876 and 1890

Two of the Society’s exhibitions in the 19th century were on a much grander scale than the others.  Each was shown for about two months in the Royal Scottish Academy in Princes Street.  These were the exhibitions of 1876 and 1890.

The Council announced that the 1876 Exhibition was to be on a scale never before attempted by any Provincial Society.  A medal was designed, a die was cut for £12 10s 0d and thirty-three medals were awarded at the exhibition.  Prints were received from Austria, Prussia, USA, Germany, Holland, Canada, India, Hungary, Russia, France and Sweden.

One result of staging the 1876 Exhibition was that  many of the EPS Members decided to buy new photographic equipment.  The Scottish National Portrait Galley has a photograph of one of the EPS Outings with this equipment in 1877.

The 1890 Exhibition awarded even more medals than in 1876.  Over 1500 photographs were exhibited at the 1890 exhibition.   The 1890 catalogue was about eighty pages, and included a summary of progress in photography in the previous fifty years.  The catalogue cost 6d