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by Alec Farmer

Thanks to technology we now have the world at our feet, and the ability to capture almost anything and store it in our packs and pockets.

But it wasn't always so easy, as not so long ago exposure times took up to an hour and the camera was unable to leave the safety of home.

But there were a group of pioneers who dedicated themselves to its potential, and our own small island has been home to two giants in the development of photography: David Brewster and James Maxwell.

imageExample of an 18th Century Kaleidoscope 

David Brewster was an expert in optics who had invented the kaleidoscope.

In 1840 he went on to help invent the Calotype; a photographic process that brought the exposure time down from an hour to a couple of minutes.

Soon he was joined in Edinburgh by a number of scientists and artists who formed the Edinburgh Calotype Club: one of the first photographic clubs on the planet.

DP142477Hill and Adamson - 'The Deer Stalker' 

The most prolific of those members of that club were Hill and Adamson, who scoured Scotland from 1843 - 1848, taking photographs of people and places that only a few years earlier would have otherwise been lost in time.

James Craig Annan's The Dark Mountains James Craig Annan - 'The Dark Mountains'

Then there was James Craig Annan, considered one of the first to utilise photography as an art.

The shorter exposure allowed him to capture people in faraway places that otherwise could only have been captured with a great memory, pencil and paint.

In the next 4 years, the members of the club released over 4,000 calotypes of various people and places throughout Scotland. 

First ever colour photograph in the history of photography - A tartan ribbonJames Maxwell - First Colour Photograph

Then in 1955 came James Maxwell. A man with many hats, he brought together our understanding of electricity, magnetism and light as waves which travelled at the speed of light.

He also produced the world's first ever colour photograph - a tartan ribbon - by taking it through three different filters; red, green and blue. The foundation of all colour photography.

Talk about legacy.

Alec Farmer
Alec Farmer

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