photography, still: The Calotype

The calotype's paper negative made possible the reproduction of photographic images. The unavoidably coarse paper base for the negative, however, eliminated the delicate detail that made the daguerreotype so appealing. This lack of precision was understood and used to advantage by the Scottish painter David Octavius Hill and his assistant, Robert Adamson. From 1843 to 1848 they made an extensive series of calotype portraits of Scottish clergymen, intended to serve only as studies for a group portrait in oils, that stands today among the major bodies of work in the medium. Hill and Adamson composed their portraits in broad planes, juxtaposing bold masses of light and dark, creating works that are monumental in feeling despite their small size.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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