Alfred H Wall was Honorary
Secretary of the South London Photographic Society in 1863. In his
opening address to the Society, he put forward his views on how a
photographic society should be run.
He spoke about the varied nature of
photographic society meetings, and gave some insight as to how
photographic society meetings of the mid-1800s might have differed from
Photographic Societies - Range of Subjects
"The range of subjects that come
under the attention for discussion thereat are such as, until the
introduction of photography, were seldom associated together.
The rules of art, the laws of
chemistry, the principles of optics, and the secrets of certain mechanical
crafts seem in the non-photographic mind to possess so little in common,
that strangers wonder when they her each or all of these dissimilar
subjects blending in a discussion following some paper on one or other of
the processes of photography. ...
Now they appear like societies of
fine-art students, enthusiastically dwelling upon aesthetics; and
anon you could imagine them congregations of unpretending cabinet-makers,
every man with a six foot rule in his trousers pocket, and a big square
lead pencil in that of his waistcoat. Again they show like learned
chemists, investigating the hidden mysteries of nature ... [or] ..like
grave opticians, ready at the shortest notice to chalk you in white lines
upon a black board any number of eye-confusing diagrams ..."
A H Wall went on to speak of the
importance of obtaining high quality papers for meetings, perhaps
encouraging these through the award of medals, and the importance of
He finished his comments by appealing
for professional photographers to pay more attention to photography as a
fine art, rather than undercut each other on prices.
Professional Photographers - Prices Charged
"... the advertisement columns of
the daily papers, almost every week show an increasing number of those
photographers who are bent upon underselling their rivals. The
'carte' portraits, the 'postage stamp' portraits, and the fifty reproduced
portraits for half a crown, readily suggest themselves.
Establishments commanding higher
prices have in vain stood out against the rage for cheapness, and one by
one have lowered their flag of high prices.
Clever operators receiving high
salaries are engaged in the production of low priced pictures, and
although the rapidity with which they are compelled to do their work "to
make it pay" does not enable them to do full justice to their abilities,
they certainly turned out photographs fully equal to those produced by the
generality of "higher priced" establishments. ...
Where then is this race for
cheapness to end?