The Calotype was one of the earliest methods of producing what we now call the photograph. It was discovered by William Henry Fox Talbot at his home in Lacock Abbey Wiltshire during September 1840. The word Calotype means beautiful impression, and indeed it has been described as the most beautiful photographic process of the 19th century. It was produced on fine writing paper and gave a negative image – one where the tones are inverted. It shone all too briefly, by the late 1850s the practitioners of the day seeking sharper images turned to glass negatives, then to film the method that dominated the 20th century. The Calotype itself was sometimes exhibited alongside the positive print.
Talbot invented the word Calotype several months before he discovered the process!
He patented the process in February 1841, charging a hefty fee for its professional use and effectively restricting it’s use to a few wealthy practitioners. Crucially he was persuaded by his good friend Sir David Brewster the principal of the University here at St Andrews to exempt Scotland from the Patent. Early practitioners were Sir David, The University Provost Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair, and Dr John Adamson. Adamson taught the process to his younger brother Robert. Initially, they all struggled with the process but by the Autumn of 1842, the brothers had mastered the temperamental chemistry. Cutting their teeth on the streets, farms, harbours, beaches and coves of St Andrews. If the Calotype was born in Lacock its nursery was here in St Andrews. By 1843 Robert had set up a studio at Rock House on Calton Hill in Edinburgh where he was introduced to the artist David Octavius Hill by Sir David. There they forged one of the most dazzling partnerships in the history of photography. The Library here at St Andrews preserves many of these beautiful early images.
Using the methods and Chemistry described by Dr John Adamson combined with Victorian lenses, Robert Douglas the “21st-century Calotypist” brings you Calotype Views of St Andrews harking back to the infancy of photography before the art became industrialised. These were produced during the course of several visits to St Andrews each image taking many hours to produce. They are the result of much research, effort and passion. For more information about Rob Douglas visit www.papershadowsandlight.com
[Photo Credit: © Rob Douglas]
Where? Café In The Square, 4 Church St, St Andrews KY16 9NN