Becoming second nature

The Riva Schiavoni, Venice (James Craig Annan, 1894)

The Riva Schiavoni, Venice, 1894
James Craig Annan (Scottish, 1864–1946)

Having secured a light-tight camera and suitable lens, there is no more important quality than ease in mechanical working. The adjustments ought to be so simple that the operator may be able to bring it from his satchel and get it in order for making an exposure without a conscious thought. Each worker will have his own idea as to which style of camera comes nearest to perfection in this respect, and having made his choice he should study to become so intimate with it that it will become a second nature with his hands to prepare the camera while his mind and eyes are fully occupied with the subject before him.

So said Annan, as quoted in Alfred Stieglitz’s essay The Hand Camera — Its Present Importance, published in 1897.

One can see Annan’s work here. Annan was the son of Thomas Annan, who in 1868 had documented the Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow with a camera. The younger Annan, in addition to his own photogravures, gained renown for reprinting the pioneering calotypes of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, who collaborated on over 1,500 calotypes during their brief 4-year partnership in the 1840’s, photography’s infancy. These photogravure reprints, done by Annan in the late 19th/early 20th century, later found their way into Stieglitz’s Camera Work journal.

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