A bit of a dude was CPS. He was responsible for the One o'Clock Gun, and the Time Ball on the Nelson Monument, took some of the earliest photographs in Scotland, produced the world's first ever Stereo Photography book, and pioneeered the use of high altitude astronomy. That's just for starters, and fails to mention his talented wife Jessie.
I spent a week in August surrounded by academics, historians, astronomers, film-makers, egyptologists, art lovers and even some of the family of Charles Piazzi Smyth, in a symposium to mark his 200th birthday. Organised by the School of Physics and Astronomy at Edinburgh University, the symposium was based in the beautifully appointed Royal Society of Edinburgh on George St, a fitting venue as CPS was a member and bequeathed them his photos, paintings, journals and cameras on his death in 1900.
It was a real privilege to see and photograph items from the archive to help document the events.
Piazzi Smyth was based here on Calton Hill in the role of Astronomer Royal for Scotland, where he painted this view of the Nelson Monument. I spent a bit of time trying to reproduce the view, and it felt a bit hair-on-neck-raising weird sitting on the exact spot where CPS had sat to paint the view back in 1856.
His own photographs were ground breaking, using the various methods being developed as photography took leaps and bounds through calotype, colloidal and film.
The highlights of the symposium for me were the film about his Tenerife adventures "Residence Above The Clouds" and the presentation of his stereo photographs by Denis Pellerin. He's the guy responsible for the archive of Queen guitarist Brian May's massive collection of stereo photographs. Here's the audience wearing their stereo goggles during his show - can you see their minds being blown?
It was a fantastic week, filled with fascinating lectures, films and presentations and it was a real pleasure to meet and work with so many interesting and knowledgeable people. If you have a similar event you'd like to visually document and garner PR for, please do get in touch. Here's the page for the wee article we got in the Evening News.