|Dates: ||1819 - 1897|
In 1861, thinking back to the days before his own hair had turned gray, Brown recalled: “It was, I think, about the year 1848, that I first thought of trying my hand at photography. A young acquaintance of mine had made a box, and we purchased a lens, which cost only a few pence, fitted it to the box with a paper tube, and set to work with great glee. But my partner, who was engaged all day, could spare no time except in the evenings.” Brown had more time during the day and first tried the calotype, following a formula given in the 1846 Art-Union, but without satisfactory results. He finally secured “a quarter-plate camera, with a good lens, which had been used by a lady for taking Daguerreotypes” in Glasgow. Brown read some of the books that were just then emerging in photography and finally “arrived at great success” with waxed-paper negatives. “An exposure of from one to two minutes, in the sun’s rays, was then necessary,” he explained to the Glasgow Photographic Society in 1861, and “you will see by one of the specimens that I had the cruelty to make the gentleman sit in the full blaze of the sun!” Brown was at the time the janitor but later rose to the position of administrative superintendent of the Glasgow School of Art.
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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