It was impossible to predict what impact James Craig Annan
-century experiments printing Hill and Adamson’s calotypes
in photogravure would have on the future of photography when he began. The documentation of this work is thin. We know that around 1880, Andrew Elliot commissioned the Annan family firm (T&R Annan) to make carbon prints
from Hill’s paper negatives for public sale. And we know that Thomas and James Craig learned the photogravure process from Karel Klíč
in 1883, only four years after it was invented. So it makes sense that, after learning the process, James Craig Annan understood the Hill and Adamson material could be better interpreted in photogravure. The surface quality alone was enough—like calotypes and salt prints, photogravures have a soft, matte surface.
Despite commercial restrictions limited by the firm’s contract with Elliot (which took nearly 50 years to finally complete), James Craig Annan began to experiment with Hill’s negatives in photogravure. A highly skilled technician, Annan was fastidious, in part because he was a perfectionist and, more importantly, because he felt a personal responsibility to Hill, a family friend and supporter of Annan’s artistic pursuits. Unfortunately, the exact details and timing of Annan’s efforts are lacking.
A photogravurist makes several choices when printing, including the color of the ink and the paper. Annan was certainly meticulous in selecting the most accurate materials for the Hill and Adamson works, as accurate representation of the original salt prints was paramount. Annan’s family firm’s reputation was based on their excellent reproductions of artwork, so much so that in 1889 T&R Annan was appointed the Photographers and Photographic Engravers to her Majesty in Glasgow.
Annan eventually produced a folio of 20 Hill and Adamson images
. Over the years, Annan lent Hill and Adamson photogravure prints to exhibitions in Europe and America: Hamburg in 1893 and 1899; Glasgow in 1901; the Scottish Photographic Federation in Perth in 1904; the ‘291’ Gallery in New York in 1906; the Salon in London in 1909; and Buffalo, New York in 1910. Further, by sending the prints to Stieglitz for Camera Work
in 1905, 1909 and 1912, Annan ultimately brought Hill and Adamson back into the attention of the public.
Annan, J. C., and William Buchanan. J. Craig Annan: Selected Texts and Bibliography. New York: G.K. Hall, 1994.
Annan, J.C. “David Octavius Hill, R.S.A., 1802–1870,”Camera Work, no. 11 (July 1905): 17.
Buchanan, The Art of the Photographer J. Craig Annan 1864–1946.
Gernsheim, New Photo Vision, London: Fountain Press, 1942.
Schaaf, Sun Pictures: Catalogue Eleven. New York: H.P. Kraus, Jr, 2002. Print.
McCauley, Anne. “Writing Photography’s History Before Newhall.” History of Photography. 21.2 (2015): 87-101.
Correspondence between James Craig Annan and Helmut Gernsheim regarding the Hill and Adamson photogravures are located at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas, Austin.