A Franciscan, Venice Annan, James Craig  (Scottish, 1864-1946)

In 1884 James Craig Annan explained that to capture the Franciscan he arranged and waited ‘fully’ half an hour with the whole composition arranged and without making an exposure, before the old gentleman in brown habit came along, and he is unaware of the great service he did me.

This version was printed from a split negative. Close inspection proves that Annan notched together two negatives. The joint is hidden in the stone wall. Why Annan ‘composited’ an ‘instantanous’ image seems contradictory, but in fact it offers insight into his multi-stage process revealing his propensity to thoroughly work the plate.
The making of the negative is the first stage. While this initial operation requires great promptitude of action, the subsequent manipulation may be prolonged into a long-drawn-out pleasure. [1]. It is my guess that the background figures were either not present or not in an acceptable position when Annan made the exposure of the monk and that he made a second exposure of the background activity from the same perspective in order to fully realize his intention.

A Franciscan, Venice also has a progressive design element. In one version the wall above the monk is blank. In another ‘Franciscan of II Redentore’ appears where one might expect the name of the street. The name plate for the monk is telling us that he comes from the II Redentore church.

‘Sometimes you have the feeling that here are all the makings of a picture – except for just one thing that seems to be missing. But what one thing? Perhaps someone suddenly walks into your range of view. You follow his progress through the view-finder. You wait and wait and then you finally press the button.’ Cartier-Bresson 1952

Reproduced / Exhibited

Stieglitz, Alfred, Richard Whelan, and Sarah Greenough. Stieglitz on Photography: His Selected Essays and Notes. New York, NY: Aperture Foundation, 2000. p. 168

Buchanan, William. J. Craig Annan: Selected Texts and Bibliography. Oxford: Clio Press, 1994. fig. 9.

Buchanan, William, and J C. Annan. The Art of the Photographer: J. Craig Annan, 1864-1946. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1992. Fig. 10.

Harker, Margaret F. The Linked Ring: The Secession Movement in Photography in Britain, 1892-1910. London: Heinemann, 1979. pl 9.2

Jeffrey, Ian. Photography: A Concise History. London: Thames and Hudson, 1981. no. 52

Naef, Weston J. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. New York: Viking Press, 1978. no. 22.


[1] Buchanan, William. J. Craig Annan: Selected Texts and Bibliography. Oxford: Clio Press, 1994. fig. 9. P. 8 and p 83