Scottish Photography

13 Feb 2013
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Most people know that television, telephones and penicillin were invented by Scots, but did you also know the first colour photograph was taken in Scotland?

Appropriately enough, Scottish inventor James Clerk Maxwell took a picture of tartan ribbon when he tested his colour photography theory back in 1861. Using red, blue and green filters he successfully took a full colour picture, although the results were said to be a little disappointing!

A history of breakthroughs

This wasn't the first time a Scot had pioneered new photographic techniques. In 1842, just three years after the very first photographs were taken in France and England, a Scottish medic and university lecturer took the first calotype portrait in Scotland. Calotype was the first photographic process to use a negative image to produce more than one print.

Throughout the 1800s Scottish photographers pushed the art of photography to new technical and creative limits. Thomas Annan famously recorded the slums of Glasgow in what is considered to be the first use of photography as social record. Meanwhile other Scots took their skills abroad to record major events such as the American Civil War and the Crimean War.

From invention to artform

The twentieth century saw the creation of Scotland's first photographic gallery and both the Glasgow School of Art and Edinburgh College of Art established Fine Art Photography departments. St Andrews University, home of photographic pioneers Sir David Brewster and the Adamson brothers, became an internationally renowned centre for the history of photography.

Famous photographs & photographers

There have been many famous Scottish photographers and equally as many photographers from elsewhere who have photographed Scotland, inspired by it's landscapes and people. Take Paul Strand for example, an American photographer whose pictures of the community on the island of South Uist in 1954 went on sale for up to £18,000 in 2006.

Harry Benson, a native Scot photographed some of the most famous people in the World including the Beatles, every US President from Dwight D Eisenhower to Barack Obama, Martin Luther King junior in Mississippi in 1966 and covered the aftermath and devastation of both 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. His lens captured the cruel story of the first American to be killed in Bosnia and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Awarded with a CBE in 2009, Benson's career spanned over five decades and its fair to say he captured the essence of the times he photographed.

And new Scottish photographers come forward all the time along with many enthusiastic amateurs who come to Scotland to take their own pictures of the famous lochs, highlands and monuments which make our country such a wonderful location for artists of all kinds.

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