British photographic history

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Glasgow: The Blueprint Project February 2013

During the month of February 2013 a Heritage Trail for the public around four major archives in Glasgow and the River-side Museum has been organised by participating partners in the Blueprint project. These visits will complement three coordinated exhibitions at Glasgow’s Trongate 103 visual art centre which focus on historical and contemporary practice in ‘alternative’ photographic technologies as well as lens based imagery in printmaking.

With the co-operation of Glasgow University Library Archives, the Glasgow City Archives and Glasgow Museums Resource Centre, the Heritage Trail will be referenced by a number of blueprints featuring engineering, botanical and architectural subjects, specially made for display at Trongate 103 by the project’s originators, Roger Farnham and Harry Magee.

At this stage the planned list of exhibits drawn from the above archives will include blueprints of the Class 15F locomotive at the Riverside Museum, the Queen Mary (pictured), the Russian Pavilion at the 1901 Glasgow Interna-tional Exhibition and reproduction cyanotypes of some of Anna Atkins’ images from her volume on British Algae, fa-mously recognised as the first ‘photographic’ book. Visitors on the Heritage Trail to the archives will have the opportunity to see the originals and other selected items, while Glasgow University Library Special Collections Department will be offering their visitors the sight of some prime examples of the early use of photography in printed books.

The project allows for many varied interpretations of the word ‘blueprint’, one of which will highlight the extraordinary number of associa-tions between engineering and the key alumni in the development of photography. Thomas Wedgwood, an early explorer of light sensitive materials, corresponded with James Watt about his discoveries, while Niépce, cred-ited with the first fixed image made in a camera, had previ-ously developed and patented an early internal combustion engine. The cyanotype process, invented by Sir John Herschel in 1842, became the preferred method of replicat-ing engineering line drawings well in to the twentieth cen-tury, the characteristic colour of the resulting copies leading to their designation as ‘blueprints’. Besides cyanotype, a range of other non-silver processes will also feature in the exhibitions.

An educational programme will include planned lectures by the Scottish Society for the History of Photography and demonstrations by participating artists and photographers will provide an historical and practical context. It is hoped the combination of visits to galleries showing contemporary photography and printmaking with the opportunity to view counterpart historical images in archives will attract new audiences to the richness of the resources held in care for the public and stimulate ways in which those resources can inform contemporary practice in the visual arts.

Roger Farnham and Harry Magee have been members of Glasgow Print Studio since 1978. Roger is a Consultant Sys-tems Engineer and has exhibited his photographs and prints internation-ally. He is currently a member of the Board of Glasgow Print Studio and a former board member of Street Level Photoworks. Harry was a Lecturer in Graphics before retiral and his prints are in corporate, public and private collections. He has served as Chair of the Glasgow Print Studio Board.

There is information here: and BPH will report on the programme as details become available. 

Image: Anna Atkins, Cyanotype

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