About this artwork

This atmospheric shot shows Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in about 1860. The photographer William Donaldson Clark stands looking west along the cobbled square. Many of the buildings shown are still standing today. Clark was an amateur photographer who took some remarkable views of Edinburgh. For this image he used the collodion process (and made an albumen print) which made outdoor work more practical, although it required longer exposure times. Closer inspection reveals the length of the exposure due to the movement of horses and carts throughout the scene.

William Donaldson Clark

William Donaldson Clark

William Donaldson Clark was a wealthy cotton cloth printer who used his knowledge of chemistry in his practice as an amateur photographer. He employed the dry collodion process which made outdoor work more practical. Although it required exposure times of up to a quarter of an hour, the technique resulted in subtle effects of light and dark. Clark worked with the landscape painter, Horatio McCulloch, and his own landscape photographs have a similar sophistication. They include some remarkable views of Edinburgh. He died in 1873 when he fell from the top of a tram car travelling from Newington into the city.