William Donaldson Clark

Princes Street, The Scott Monument and the Royal Institution (About 1858)

About this artwork

The neoclassical New Town of Edinburgh was built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century following the example of ancient Greek architecture in grand and formal lines. Walter Scott's Monument, designed and built by George Meikle Kemp, asserts the contrast and importance of the Gothic, northern culture, which interrupts the regular calm of the surrounding neoclassical buildings. Judging by the shadows, the picture was taken in the afternoon, when the light is best in Princes Street. The street looks empty, because the photograph was taken on a long exposure, and a dark blur is all that is left of the passers-by along the pavement on the left. The Royal Institution, now the Royal Scottish Academy building can be seen on the right.

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.