R C Malcolm became President of Edinburgh Photographic Society for one
year, beginning June 1910. He gave his Presidential Address to
the Society on 12 October. The subject he chose was
"The Development of the Photographer".
Here are some brief extracts from the Address. It follows the
progress of an amateur photographer "from the immature
snap-shooting phase to the advanced pictorial stage".
The heading, 'Seven Ages of the Photographer' was suggested
by Amateur Photographer.
'Seven Ages of the Photographer'
First, the Raw Beginner
"The photographer snaps assiduously at everything
with his small cheap camera to obtain a permanent record of pleasant
If his exposures have been made with reasonable
intelligence and he has his plates or films developed for him, the
chances are that there will be a large proportion of quite successful or
creditable results that will delight, or at least satisfy him.
The novelty may soon wear off and the beginner's
photographic career come to an inglorious end."
Then the Learner
"He wants to know all about developing and
printing. He studies handbooks and reads the photographic
His object is still the same - records, souvenirs,
portraits of his friends, "sunny memories", etc. Individuality still
enters little or not at all into his pictures. Effects are not
sought after. The desire for such comes later. But the value
of this period of honest technical work is inestimable."
Then the Society Member
"At this period, our amateur, if he is wise, joins
a live photographic society and pursues his hobby with added zest.
He has entered an environment to mould and frame his artistic faculties
He will probably learn how to make enlargements and
realise that he can get something more than a mere record or
representation. His first step in pictorialism has been taken.
Now the Pictorialist
"Progress will be largely the result of influences
acting from without. At the meetings of his society he will hear
papers read and ideas with with which he may not wholly or at all
agree at the moment, but which will have their effect if it be only by
setting him a-thinking
He will have the opportunity of seeing the work of
his fellow members."
"At the photographic exhibitions, interest in his
hobby will lead him to inspect with a critical eye the pictures of those
who are recognised in the photographic world as the leading exponents of
Much will meet with his disapproval. What did
the judges see in that? The result of these questionings will open
up a path to understanding.
He appreciates the fact that a successful picture
has a meaning and that its excellence depends not on mere technique,
though that is an essential element."
The Serious Individual Worker
"His interest in subjects has been widened.
Bits that would have formerly been passed by unnoticed reveal
themselves in a new character and aspect, very little bits sometimes,
beneath the dignity of either himself or his camera at one time.
[He seeks] something that has moved him and by
which he would fain move others. It may be a simple play of light
and shade, the murky aspect of a smoke-laden town, the ripple of waves
on the sea shore or the infectious merriment of children at play -
no matter, it is an effect, not a place; a motif, not a mere hard
The Reversion to Technique
RC Malcolm ended by commenting on the recent trend
amongst some photographers to place too much weight on advances in
printing processes. He regarded this trend as retrograde and
"I do not think I overstate it when I say that it
is not technique with the legitimate object of producing a pleasant
pictorial result, but rather it is technique for its own sake, technique
for the purpose of exhibiting its author's power of manipulating his
Subject and technique must each play their own part
in arriving at a truly pictorial result.
Subject alone, lacking expression in its treatment is mere record;
treatment alone, without regard to the nature of the subject, is mere
manipulation: The proper combination of the two, beauty and conception
feelingly expressed, result in pleasurable harmony.
Fuller extracts from this address appears in Amateur
1 November 1910 [pp.429-430].
Thank you to Alan Wilson, Edinburgh,
for alerting me to this article in Amateur Photographer.