Posted by: smartyy638 | November 27, 2014

Royal Photographic Society: a Brief History

I was recently forwarded an article about an amazing exhibition beginning December 2nd at the Science Museum in London. It features several of the photographers that we have been studying in class: Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll), and Roger Fenton, one of the world’s first war photographers. The exhibit is titled “Drawn by Light: The Royal Photographic Society Collection” and contains over 200 photographs from the collection of the world’s oldest photographic society. If you’re interested in more about the exhibit, check out the two links below:

Drawn by Light exhibit 

BBC “Drawn by Light” press release

Royal Photographic Society

As far as I can recall, we have not explicitly discussed the Royal Photographic Society in class. Seeing as it contains work from many of our favorite Victorian photographer pals, I figured a brief intro about the world’s oldest formally organized collection of photography might be interesting!

The Royal Photographic Society was founded in 1853 for the ‘promotion of the art and science of photography.’ It originated from the Edinburgh Calotype Club in 1843, a group that consisted of twelve or so “gentlemen amateur” photographers so that they could discuss technique, the science of the camera, and photography as art. Several members of the Calotype Club then formed a Calotype Society in London, eventually becoming the Royal Photographic Society. The society was formed smack dab in the middle of the so-called “Golden Age” of British photography. Among it’s founding members were Frederick Scott Archer, the chemist, Hugh Welch Diamond, an early British psychiatrist and pioneer of psychiatric photography, and Sir William Newton, a well-known miniature painter. The society was staunchly supported by Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert. Now in its 161st year, the Royal Photographic Society has expanded to include contemporary photographers such as Donavon Wylie, Terry O’Neill, and Martin Carr. This group is responsible for much of the circulation of early photography, specifically war and prison photography.

If you’d like to know more, definitely check out their website. RPS

Side note: Why can’t we casually go to London and see this exhibit and then check out the Photographer’s Gallery?? If any of you have been before, I envy you.


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