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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Allan Alexander Welwood Maconochie

Other: Allan Alexander Maconochie-Welwood, 3rd Lord Meadowbank 
Dates:  1806 - 1885
Active:  UK

Preparing biographies

Approved biography for Allan Alexander Welwood Maconochie
Courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, USA)

Descended from an old Scottish family, Maconochie practiced law from 1829 until his appointment as professor of Roman and Scots law at Glasgow University in 1842. “He was an enthusiastic professor, who took much interest in his students and endeavoured to assist them in other ways than by lectures,” according to a memoir about the school published in 1927. One of his many interests was chemistry, and by May 1839 Maconochie was able to show photogenic drawing negatives and positives to his friends Sir Walter Calverley Trevelyan and his wife, Lady Pauline Trevelyan. Writing to Sir Walter on January 7, 1843, Maconochie advised that he had “made great strides in the Photographic art” the previous summer, always striving to shorten the exposure time to better capture action. Working in the weak Glasgow sunlight of the dead of winter, he eventually managed to reduce the exposure times for his calotype negatives to as little as seventeen seconds. Maconochie attended the first meeting of the Photographic Society in London in 1853, showing instantaneous photographs taken on glass. No one knew him, but as the British Journal of Photography recalled some years later, the images “were at once recognised as wonderful; and it seemed as if the producer of them had dropped from the clouds he so faithfully depicted.” Maconochie began a correspondence with Roger Fenton in which he analyzed the properties of collodion and suggested ways to make it more stable. He was particularly excited by the shortened exposures he was able to achieve. Obviously impressed, Fenton published extracts of Maconochie’s letters in the Journal of the Photographic Society, which led the firm of W. E. & F. Newton to write to the journal in August 1853 about a “Method of Deepening Negatives,” which had been communicated to them by the professor “some time since.” By allowing the correction of problems caused by too short an exposure, Maconochie’s method helped make it possible to obtain instantaneous photographs, and it seems unlikely that he ever returned to the slower paper negative. Succeeding his father to the family estates in 1861, he became Allan Alexander Maconochie-Welwood, 3rd Lord Meadowbank. 
Roger Taylor & Larry J. Schaaf Impressed by Light: British Photographs from Paper Negatives, 1840-1860 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2007) 
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is included here with permission. 
Date last updated: 4 Nov 2012. 
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