Contemporary Calotypists visit Special Collections to View Early Calotypes and Photographic Prints

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.

Members of The Calotype Society looking at some mounted early prints from the collection.

Members of The Calotype Society looking at some mounted early prints from the collection.

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.

Calotype negative taken in 1843 by Dr John Adamson of St Andrews Castle (ALB-8-87).

Calotype negative taken in 1843 by Dr John Adamson of St Andrews Castle (ALB-8-87).

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.

Enjoying the view of Andrew Govan, St Andrews chemist during the 1840’s.

Enjoying the view of Andrew Govan, St Andrews chemist during the 1840’s.

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.

Contemporary calotype negative of Blackfriars Chapel in St Andrews by Rob Douglas.

Contemporary calotype negative of Blackfriars Chapel in St Andrews by Rob Douglas.

Rachel Nordstrom

Photographic Collections Manager

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