Ancient St Andrews photographs in U.S exhibition

Thursday 3 April 2003

Nineteenth century prints from the University of St Andrews photographic collection are on display at a major exhibition in Connecticut this week.

The event – Northern Light: Photographs by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson from the University of St Andrews – will be held at Wesleyan University’s Davison Art Centre from 1 April until 25 May 2003.

In 1839, the invention of photography was first announced in France by Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre, who called his images Daguerreotypes. Only a few weeks later, across the Channel in England, William Henry Fox Talbot announced the invention of a calotype, a different photographic process.

St Andrews played a pivotal role in the early history of photography. Sir David Brewster, Principal of the United Colleges, and other university and townsfolk experimented with Talbot’s process of photo-sensitising sheets of paper. A paper negative laid upon another sensitised sheet and then exposed to sunlight yielded a positive image, which Talbot called a calotype. The pictorial nature of the calotype, its softness and tonal qualities, captivated artists previously working in a variety of media.

St Andrews-born Robert Adamson (1821-1848) demonstrated great proficiency in using the calotype process and, in 1843, moved to Edinburgh to establish a calotype studio. There he met the painter David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and the two young Scots began a remarkable artistic partnership. Although they worked together for only four and a half years, they were extraordinarily prolific, having produced a total of some 3,000 calotypes.

Most of the calotypes on display are from Hill and Adamson’s 1846 album – A Series of Calotype Views of St Andrews. The album includes views of the Cathedral, St Rule’s Tower, the Castle, St Salvator’s Collegiate Church and the remains of Blackfriars Church. Other photographs depict the harbour, in which the masts of sloops mingle with the tower of St Rule’s and the turrets of the Cathedral. Two others illustrate shadowed pictures of the Pends, the remains of the entrance gateway to the Cathedral area. Also on view are photographs by Hill and Adamson which were published in Alfred Stieglitz’s magazine Camera Work, as well as works by such later pictorialist photographers as George Seeley, Alvin Langdon Coburn and Herbert French.

Events connected with the exhibition include a gallery talk by Dr Norman Reid, Keeper of Manuscripts at the University of St Andrews on 4 April 2003 and a lecture by Professor Graham Smith of the University of St Andrews School of Art History on 16 April 2003. The exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly catalogue written by Norman Reid, Graham Smith and Stephanie Wiles, Curator of the Davison Art Center.

For more information, please telephone the Davison Art Center on (860) 685-2500 or visit the website –


A collection of digital images available from Claire Grainger – contact details below.

Further information available from Stephanie Wiles, Curator, Davison Art Center on telephone (860) 685- 2966 or email [email protected].

Issued by Beattie Media on behalf of the University of St Andrews For more information please contact: Claire Grainger on 01334 462530, 07730 415 015 or email cg24@st- View University press releases on- line at Ref: northernlight/standrews/chg/4april2 003

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