Vintage test print on Japan tissue.
" I made the photogravure reproductions for my own satisfaction as I thought I could get more artistic results than the carbon prints" James Craig Annan 1945
During the centennial of photography in 1939, the eminent photo historian, J. Dudley Johnston, well informed by generations of photographers around him, drew pointed attention to the fact that “so completely had [Hill’s] very existence been forgotten that on his death in 1870 not a single photographic journal even mentioned the fact”. Johnston continued that “it was only when Annan in the early nineties produced his beautiful series of photogravures from Hill’s original negatives that the photographic world knew of the existence of these little masterpieces.”
Annan learned the photogravure process directly from its inventor, Karl Klic, in 1883 when he was only nineteen. At the time, the family firm T.R. Annan & Sons had recently completed a commission by Andrew Elliot, nephew of D.O. Hill, to print a series of Hill and Adamson calotypes in carbon for a book Elliot was publishing (1).
After learning photogravure, James Craig thought that he could "get more artistic results" printing the Hill and Adamson calotypes in photogravure and began to make plates from the original calotype negatives. Finding the aesthetic of the photogravures, particularly the surface quality of the paper and color of the ink, closer to the original Hill and Adamson salt prints, Annan experimented printing the plates on different etching and engraving papers. Eventually he landed on Japanese tissue which traditional etchers used for its transparency and luminousness.
While Annan did not distribute or sell the Hill prints formally, he did share them with friends and colleagues – one of whom was Alfred Stieglitz in America. So impressed was Stieglitz with Annan’s photogravures, that he eventually included several, printed by Annan’s firm, in his esteemed journal, Camera Work. In the process of working together, Annan influenced Stieglitz to change the paper he was using for Camera Work gravures to the more luminous and delicate Japanese tissue he used for the Hill and Adamson plates.
In addition to Stieglitz, Annan lent the prints to exhibitions in Europe and America: to Hamburg in 1899; to Glasgow in 1901; to the Scottish Photographic Federation in Perth in 1904; to the ‘291’ Gallery in New York in 1906; to the Salon in London in 1909; and to Buffalo in 1910 thereby continuing to bring Hill and Adamson before a large audience.
Through the affectionate agency of Annan, the enthusiasm for Hill and Adamson’s work was transferred to the photographers of their time, especially the international Pictorialist movement, playing a significant role in both the rediscovery of Hill and Adamson as well as the promotion of photography as a fine art at the turn of the century.
This unique set of 41 test prints were acquired directly from the Annan family estate in 2014.
For more information https://photogravure.com/highlights/james-craig-annan/
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1 Calotypes by D.O.Hill and R. Adamson Illustrating an Early Stage in the Development of Photography; selected from his collection by Andrew Elliot.
Schwarz, Heinrich. David Octavius Hill, Master of Photography: With 80 Reproductions Made from Original Photos and Printed in Germany. London: G.G. Harrap, 1932. pl. 27
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Stevenson, Sara, and Alison Morrison-Low. Light from the Dark Room: A Celebration of Scottish Photography : a Scottish-Canadian Collaboration. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1995. pl. 107 (salt print)
J. Craig Annan. ‘Photography as a Means of Artistic Expression’. Camera Work, no. 32 (Oct. 1910), p. 21-24.
J. Dudley Johnston, “Pictorial Photography”, The Photographic 1. Dudley Johnston, “Pictorial Photography”, The Photographic Journal, April 1939, v. 79, p. 180.
Helmut Gernsheim. New Photo Vision, (London: Fountain Press, 1942. 64 pp. 32 illus.) [p. 15].
Hans P. Kraus Jr (Firm) Schaaf LJ. Sun Pictures. Catalog Eleven St. Andrews and Early Scottish Photography Including Hill & Adamson. New York: H.P. Kraus Jr. Fine Photographs; 2002.
Buchanan, William, and J C. Annan. The Art of the Photographer: J. Craig Annan, 1864-1946. Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland, 1992.
Naef, Weston J. The Collection of Alfred Stieglitz: Fifty Pioneers of Modern Photography. New York: Viking Press, 1978. No. 336
Stevenson, Sara. The Personal Art of David Octavius Hill. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2002.