James Patrick  -   EPS Lecture  -  4 May 1892

The Imitative and Imaginative sides of
Photographic Art

James Patrick's First Lecture to EPS

James Patrick gave the first of several lectures to Edinburgh Photographic Society on 4 May 1892.  He chose as his subject:
The Imitative and Imaginative Sides of Photographic Art.

He said there were limits as to what was possible in photography that did not apply to painters, and suggested how the photographer might achieve the best results within these limits, including combination printing.

The EPS President, Hippolyte Blanc, George G Mitchell, John McKean  and others thanked James Patrick for his paper and spoke of their agreement with his ideas and how James Patrick and his work had inspired.

Photography and Art

James Patrick said he wished to offer some thoughts and conclusions that had occurred to him during his course of art training. 

He disputed claims by some artists that photography was a mere mechanical handicraft, and said that the photographer who was able to use light and shade to express sentiment in monochrome was an artist in the true sense of the word.

Limitations of Photography

James Patrick argued that all arts had limitations and that it was important to understand these in order to succeed.  In particular, the photographer had to work in monochrome and was not able to rearrange his composition in a way that a painter could.

He suggested that the photographer should pay more attention to changes of mood and atmospheric effects, and be prepared to make combination prints, using one exposure for the foreground and another for the long view, then combining the two into a single print.

He appreciated that some people objected to combination prints,  but said that what was important was the result, not how it had been created.


James Patrick praised the work of H P Robinson, and said that it was not always necessary to keep the sun behind the camera.  Some of the most pictorial and suggestive photographs that he had ever seen had been taken with the sun in front of the lens.

He said it was the quality of light and composition that create a picture, and not excessive sharpness as many would have us believe.  He said that in buying a photograph, most people wanted it to be an exact representation of the scene, clear and sharp in every detail - in short, an imitation.

He said that photography should have a higher aim, that can be seen by viewing the best work in photographic exhibitions.  It should appeal to our feelings in as lively manner as a Turner or a Constable.

 In order to produce such images, the photographer should study the works of great artists.  The photographer (or painter or poet) should be in touch with nature, understand what is truly beautiful in nature and be ruled by his imagination.

The lecture above was reproduced in Transactions of the Edinburgh Photographic Society, June 1892, pp231-236.

James Patrick's lecture was also reproduced in Amateur Photographer:  13 March 1892