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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Sir Donald Horne Macfarlane

Names:
Other: Donald Horne MacFarlane 
Dates:  1830, July - 1904, 2 June
Born:  Scotland, Caithness
 
  

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

 
Amateur, India
Educated privately; m. 1st Mary Isabella Bagshawe, 1857 (d.1887), m. 2nd Fanny Robson, 1888; went to India in 1859 as a partner in Begg, Dunlop and Co., Calcutta; first based at Cawnpore, then to Calcutta in 1860; visited Darjeeling in 1862; left India, 1864; MP for Co. Carlow, 1880, Argyllshire, 1885, 1892.
 
Proposed for membership of the Bengal Photographic Society, 27 Nov 1860, and exhibited prints taken in Lucknow, the N.W. Provinces and Calcutta; awarded the Society’s gold medal for landscapes and silver medal for best single photograph in 4th Exhibition, Jul 1861 (?1862). Read paper to Society on new dark tent (jnl, vol 1, no.3, 30 Dec 1862) and his view at Ootacamund used as frontispiece to journal. Large-sized and stereoscopic views of Darjeeling, ‘evincing the most artistic effects of light and shade’ shown to the society on 27 May 1862 (jnl, vol 1, no.2, 1 Sep 1862). Author of paper on Landscape photography in India (jnl, vol.1, no.2, 1 Sep 1862). Exhibited 2 prints taken in Madras Presidency in Nov 1862 (jnl, vol.1, no.3, 30 Dec 1862). Elected Vice-President of Bengal Photographic Society, Feb 1862 (jnl, vol.1, no.1, 1 May 1862), President, Jan 1863.
 
Exhibited views at the Paris Exhibition of 1867: ‘Macfarlane (whose address is not given) exhibits a number of twelve or fourteen inch pictures of a high order of merit. The scenes in Bengal are the best, and deserve the medal which has been awarded. One out of four pictures is obviously fading already. He shows a very good picture of a hackneyed subject, Tintern Abbey.’ (‘Aur. Chlor.’, Paris Universal Exhibition, The British Journal of Photography, vol. 14, 23 August 1867, p. 399).
 
At the 26 November 1861 meeting of the Bengal Photographic Society, ‘Mr MacFarlane exhibited a stereoscopic camera with Dallmeyer’s instantaneous shutter, a highly finished instrument, which was much admired; also some instantaneous views in Calcutta, in which moving figures and carriages were very perfectly rendered. These are believed to be the first really instantaneous views taken in India ever exhibited to the Society.’ (Jnl. B.P.S., vol. 1, No. 1, 1 May 1862, p. 5).
 
At the Bengal Photographic Society meeting of 25 Mar 1862, ‘Mr MacFarlane brought some large sized views of the ruins of Gaur, taken during a recent tour, which were much admired for the sharpness of the details and the richness of foliage.’[1]
 
In the September 1862 issue of the Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, MacFarlane contributed a paper entitled Landscape Photography in India.[2] As someone who has ‘devoted a good deal of time and attention to Landscape Photography in this country’, he here sets down some of his working practices in a land where the photographer has to contend with ‘an intensely hot climate…and frequently, if not impure, at least overkept chemicals, the action of which cannot be depended upon, varying as it does with every bottle.’ One technical answer was the use of Thomas’s collodion, which, since he first used it, ‘I have used no other for out-door work; and for two years I do noth think I have had a failure which I could fairly attribute to the collodion…Thomas’s will keep sufficiently sensitive for landscapes for three weeks or a month after idodizing, and that is long enough. He similarly praises the albumenized paper manufactured by this supplier. He also discusses the problems of achieving good tones in the sky areas of pictures and of obtaining correctly exposed negatives generally: ‘The object should be to choose only what is in itself picturesque, and, having found that, to represent it exactly as it is, and to do this the exposure must be prolonged until the whole plate is covered with drawing. There should be no absolutely bare glass.’ Also discussed are developers and lens coverage and ends with an exhortation: ‘I belive there is plenty of room for improvement in photographs even with our present materials and appliances, and that the best results they are capable of have not yet been obtained by anyone. To be a successful photographer it is necessary to be a grumbling, fault finding, discontented man. He must ignore the beauties, leaving them for the gratification of the public, and keep his eye constantly on the faults until they have been overcome. I can speak only for myself, and I can honestly say that I have never yet taken a picture with which I was satified, or without hoping that I should do better next time.’ 
  
 
  

Footnotes 
  
  1. Λ Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, vol. 1, no. 1, 1 May 1862, p. 10. 
      
  2. Λ D.H.MacFarlane, Landscape Photography in India (Journal of the Bengal Photographic Society, vol. 1, no. 2, 1 Sep 1862, pp. 26-30) 
      
 
  

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