Monday’s Photography Inspiration – James Craig Annan

James Craig Annan was a pioneering Scottish-born photographer and Honorary Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society.

He was born on 8 March 1864 and educated at Hamilton Academy before studying chemistry and natural philosophy at Anderson’s College, Glasgow. He joined his father Thomas Annan, (known for his early documentation of Glasgow Slums) business at a young age and began assisting in studio portraiture and photographic reproductions of artwork. T. & R. Annan and Sons of Glasgow soon became Britain’s foremost gravure printing establishments.

In 1883, both father and son went Vienna to learn the process of photogravure from the inventor, Karel Klíč. James Annan then introduced the photogravure process into Britain, and T. & R. Annan, having acquired the British Patent holder rights, were to become the leading firm in Britain in gravure photographic printing.

On a Dutch Shore
On a Dutch Shore, 1905. Photo by James Craig Annan

Annan became a popular portrait photographer; however, he continued to produce his own work, primarily portraits and genre scenes.

Frau Mathasius
Frau Mathasius. Photo by James Craig Annan
Prof. John Young, of Glasgow University
Prof. John Young, of Glasgow University. Photo by James Craig Annan

In 1891 James Craig Annan was elected to membership of Glasgow Art Club as a “photographic artist.” In 1893 he exhibited his own photogravure work at the Photographic Salon in 1893, as a result of which he was, in 1894, elected a member of The Linked Ring, a select international group of art photographers, England’s most prestigious group of creative photographers. A few years later, Annan published a limited-edition portfolio of his work, Venice And Lombardy: A Series Of Original Photogravures.

He also gave lectures to the Edinburgh Photographic Society, on The Arts of Engraving (December 1901) and Photography as a Means of Artistic Expression (May 1910.) In 1900 the Royal Photographic Society invited Annan to mount a one man show, the first in a series of such shows at the Society’s new exhibition rooms on Russell Square, London, and he was subsequently awarded Honorary Fellowship of the Society.

A Franciscan, Venice
A Franciscan, Venice. Photo by James Craig Annan

He exhibited further, at the Glasgow International Exhibition of 1901; the Paris Salon; Alfred Stieglitz’s Photo-Secession galleries, the 1910 International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, New York and in 1904, the Royal Commission for the Saint Louis World’s Fair chose Annan and Sir William Abney to represent Britain on the International Jury for Photography, Photo-process, and Photo-appliances.

Unlike other photographers, Annan supplied his own photogravures for Camera Notes (1898–1903), the top photographic periodical in the United States at the time. Shortly thereafter, when Alfred Stieglitz began publishing the even more sumptuous journal Camera Work, Annan continued to contribute his own work and gravures by other British photographers, such as George Davison. Stieglitz included twenty-five of Annan’s photogravures in the magazine and devoted the entire January 1914 (no. 45) issue to him.

Annan rediscovered the work of other photographers and oversaw the production of intaglio prints by contemporary artists. For instance, he printed from the negatives of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, inspiring renewed interest in their work and photographic partnership. At T. & R. Annan, he supervised the printing of etchings and engravings by such artists as Muirhead Bone and William Strang. Annan and Alfred Stieglitz were exact contemporaries with a shared commitment to high-quality gravure printing and photography as a fine art. For over twenty years, the two corresponded both personally and professionally.

The Dark Mountains
The Dark Mountains, 1908. Photo by James Craig Annan


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