|Dates: ||1814 - 1885|
Dr. Walker’s “ripe experience assured to him the position of a mentor in all professional questions,” making him popular with both the younger and older members of the medical community. An eye surgeon in Edinburgh, he became surgeon oculist to the queen for Scotland and served the last fifteen years of his life as president of the Royal College of Surgeons. The Lancet remembered “his commanding figure, which was well known in the streets of the Scottish metropolis” and that he was “gifted with a ready wit and a dry vein of humour.” The Edinburgh Medical Journal noted that he was “distinguished by his robust common sense.” All of these were useful traits for an early amateur in photography. Walker became a member of the Edinburgh Photographic Exchange Club and was a friend of Thomas Keith. Compared with the work of such a masterful colleague, Walker’s photography was perhaps more enthusiastic than aesthetically accomplished. He was a clever experimenter, and in 1856 he published his design for a portable camera that had a cloth body over a collapsing wooden frame. That same year Walker gave a presentation on his approach to the calotype process, acknowledging his debt to Hugh Diamond. In common with an important minority of photographers, Walker, as he explained in Photographic Notes, “thought that the best prints were always obtained from an unwaxed negative, as the shadows were not so transparent, and the half tints much more delicate.” He also stressed the need for “the strictest attention to cleanliness in the different stages.” The reviewer of the 1859 exhibition of the Photographic Society of Scotland singled out Walker’s work, feeling that his “‘Dalhousie Castle,’ and views on the ‘Esk,’ by the calotype (old school) process, are very good.”
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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