This past week, Special Collections helped host the bi-annual meeting of The Calotype Society, a modern day take on the original photographic exchange circles that sprung up here in Scotland during the early days of photography. As part of this meeting the group of calotypists were given a brief peek at some of the early photographic collections dating back to the 1840’s and 50’s, a time when the calotype was regularly practiced on the streets of St Andrews.
Having a chance to view and examine the works of Hill & Adamson, Dr John Adamson, William Henry Fox Talbot, Hugh Lyon Playfair, Andrew Govan, Thomas Rodger as well as Isabella and Henry King, they expressed great excitement in not only seeing original works, but also comparing the earlier physical objects to their modern day experiments.
Calotypes are the earliest paper negative process and all had to be handmade by the photographer. The earliest practitioners were also experimenting extensively and regularly changing their formulas, which altered the colour, density, contrast and overall feel of their negatives and prints. Our visitors were taking notes on the slightest signs of chemical staining, spots, paper composition of individual prints.
Additionally, the style in which albums were constructed and organized are of particular interest, as the Society is looking at creating a version of one of these albums with their own prints in homage to the calotypists who came before them.
Photographic Collections Manager