EPS - Informal Beginnings

The 1850s

There is evidence that the Edinburgh Photographic Society existed, informally, from the late 1850s.   There are references in PSS minutes and the photographic journals to another photographic society in Edinburgh, the earliest being a report of the PSS Annual General Meeting in March 1858, a few weeks after the professional photographers had called the PSS Special Meeting, and when PSS was only two years old.  The report reads:

“The Council understand that it is contemplated to form another Society as an offshoot from this but limited in its Membership to professional gentlemen and directed mainly to the manipulatory departments of the photographic art.  The Council are sure the Members of this Society will be desirous that every success should attend the new Society, the proposed formation of which they can only regard as another proof of how rapidly and extensively the art has spread in this part of the country.”

Three years later, in 1861, George H Slight addressing the Inaugural Meeting of EPS confirmed:  

“The Projectors of this society [EPS] had for several months been in the habit of meeting together and discussing photographic matters.”

Creation of EPS

EPS was established formally in 1861, and very soon lived up to the aspirations set at the Inaugural Meeting.  It attracted and retained a good mix of both amateur in addition to almost all of Edinburgh's professional photographers, and so became a more balanced society than might have been created by Edinburgh’s dissenting professional photographers in 1858.

Dr John Nicol gave some interesting insights into the early days of EPS in an article he wrote for the American Amateur Photographer, on the Jubilee Number of the British Journal of Photography

Relationships with PSS - 1861

In his EPS Inaugural Address, George H Slight, commenting on the relationship between EPS and PSS, said: 

"[EPS] could scarcely be called a rival, but would rather be looked upon as a useful assistant."  

One month later the EPS President, James D Marwick, in his Opening Address affirmed that the relationship between the two societies should be co-operation, not rivalry.  He commended the PSS exhibition , currently on display in Edinburgh, to EPS Members:

"[the PSS Exhibition] is well calculated to improve the taste for art both amongst its Members and the public.

However, EPS did not feel that it needed to rely on PSS.  EPS had its own plans and ambitions.  George H Slight ended his Inaugural Address in February 1861 with the sentiments:

“Gentlemen, we shall not find that our time had been either unpleasantly or unprofitably occupied if, by means of our meetings, we have our susceptibility to beauty increased.”

Impact on  PSS - early 1860s

Following the creation of EPS in 1861, PSS continued to hold its Annual Exhibitions, and programme of Lectures, but these were on a much reduced scale.

In fact, both societies met in close proximity, sometimes in the same street in the centre of Edinburgh, for several years in the early 1860s.  But the two societies appear to have almost completely ignored the existence of each other.