EPS Wednesday Meetings - Overview


Achievements to date:

By the 1880s, dry plates were widely used.  John McKean in 1882 gave a lecture:

-   The Modern Photographer: His Power and Appliances

He said:  

"We have seen and heard much of what has been done in the progressive art of photography, in this the gelatine era of its existence, the unlimited rapidity of the modern dry plate, and its application to almost every branch of science. Amongst the mysterious orbs of heaven and the rolling clouds, from Alpine heights to the deepest caverns of the earth, the camera is capable of revealing to the eye of man a mighty store of knowledge."

There was still a place for "do it yourself".

John McKean described the advantages of the Dry Plate:

1st  its simplicity of preparation:  

2nd its extreme rapidity and 

3rd its certainty and convenience in the studio and field.   

He recommended that members should make their own Dry Plates, and went on to give a practical demonstration. The simplicity of preparation he described involved the use of:

"silver nitrate, ammonia bromide, ammonia chloride, ammonia liquor, Nelson’s No 2 gelatine, potassium iodide and  distilled water.  The ingredients should be mixed as directed, first heated in two bottles and a jam pot over a fire or Bunsen burner to 140o shuttering out all actinic light from the room, then at a later stage boiled or “cooked” for 30 minutes"

John McKean finished his lecture and demonstration saying: 

"I know that I have been treading on the toes of commercial plate-makers, but I do it in the interest of the photographic profession;   indeed I question the application of the word 'photographer' to those who do not make their own plates  -  artist if you will, but no more like our fathers in this respect than I to Hercules”.

Looking back

Another glimpse at the state of development of  photography was given by William Forgan in December 1886.  Opening annual viewing of members’ work, with about 260 pictures and other exhibits on display, he delivered  a lecture entitled:

-  The Century of Photography

The Century in question was the 19th Century, which he described as:

 "a Century of the invention and almost perfection of photography."

Mr Forgan looked back to 1829:

"when the first attempts were made to produce an image by chemical means."

Within his own recollection, he spoke of the time when Daguerre was the only process. 

"The more rapid and easier manipulated collodian then came, and the daguerreotype disappeared.  Now, collodion has to give way to the still more rapid gelatine."

Looking forward

The same year, Andrew Pringle, gave his lecture:


He encouraged members to strive towards improvements and new processes and to share their experiences with other members.

"Our Edinburgh Society has for long been pre-eminent for its numbers, for its pecuniary stability, not to say superfluity  -  for the value of its researches, for the pleasantness of its social reunions, and for the amicability of the intercourse between man and man; but I would fain see our Society come to the front as a propagating agent of new work, as foster-mother to progression, as the Society of the future."

After suggesting possible areas for improvement, including better supports for the emulsion in negative making, and a simple and speedy way of fixing a camera on its stand Mr Pringle ended his lecture with the words:  

“Noo ye’ll be for gaun tae yer beds.”


Throughout the 1880s, the Society retained its interest in Photography and Art, with titles such as:

-   Recreation in Art

-   Photography and Art 

-   An Early Taste for art and its training:  the importance of this to the beginners in photography

Practical Photography

The main subject of lectures throughout the decade was processing the photograph - both the chemical and practical aspects of the work.  There was discussion of mercury intensifiers, potash developers, ferric reducers, ammonia, pyrogallic acid, dry plates, stripping film, gelatine emulsion, paper negatives and several talks on lantern slides.

Equipment discussed included:

-   Pinhole photography

-   The construction of camera bellows (with demonstration)

-   A  flexible window for the dark tent

-  The “photographoscope” - a new apparatus for exhibiting photographs.

 There were lectures on:

-  micro-photography



As well as lectures on equipment, there were also displays of equipment and photographs at many of the EPS meetings.  Here are some of the items that were exhibited during the 1884-85 Season.

-   “Ye Phantom Shutter”

-   Sturrock’s patent washing apparatus

-   McKeller’s patent camera

-   Terras’ vignetting frame

-   Xarious exposure shutters and view finders

-   A machine for coating paper with emulsion

-   Paper negatives with prints and enlargements from them

-   Specimens of prints on new gelatine paper

-   Mr Shadbrooke’s photographs from a balloon.


Travel featured at several of the Society’s meetings -There were lectures on:

-   Rome, Spain, Norway, Tangiers

-   Maine to California.

Closer to home were:

-   Canterbury, Melrose Abbey

-   Where to go with a Camera in and about Edinburgh

 and, in 1886, the first of several lectures on:

-   Where to go with a Camera in and about Edinburgh

Mr McKean spoke of his meeting with an artist in oil:  

I sprang from my saddle, and there within a mile o’ Edinburgh toon, we indulged in an animated discussion on art versus photography and cycling versus railway ….. Lighting my lamp, I mounted the iron steed once more, and after heating up my friend the artist in a gentle trot for half-a-mile, I left him at the first lamp-post, with the full conviction that photography and cycling after all were too fast for him.”


Closer to home, Dr. A Hunter gave a lecture in 1885 entitled:

Where to go in with a Camera in and about Edinburgh

Dr. Hunter gave a 20 minute talk, starting with nineteen suggestions for photography, some explained in great detail.  One of his suggestions was:

"A good oval vignette may be taken from the end of Rutland Street near the front of the Caledonian Station at about eleven o’clock, with a number of people about, and cabs waiting for the trains."

 He ended with the reading of a his poem on Edinburgh:

 -  “Auld Caledonia’s Queen”


Portraiture continued to be a popular subject for lectures - but not yet natural history.  Only one lecture in the 1880s dealt with animals:

Some Experiences in Animal Photography (1882)

In this lecture, Charles Reid of Wishaw described his experiences in photographing elephants during a recent visit of Wombwell’s Menagerie to the town, and on another occasion photographing  a huge travelling bear performing in the street.

… and Other Titles

In 1882, William Dougall’s lecture had one of the longest titles ever delivered to EPS:

-   On Photography as a Handmaid to Medical, Surgical and Other Sciences, and as a Pleasant Recreation for a Cultivated Mind

Four years later Hugh Brebner chose a title of similar length:

-   Light and Shade, and the action of certain Ferric Salts used in conjunction with Ferric Hyposulphite in reducing Over-Density


EPS Wednesday Meetings - Index