Philip H. Delamotte, 'Fountains Abbey'

Philip H. Delamotte, 'Fountains Abbey'

Philip Delamotte
'Fountains Abbey'
About 1855
Albumen print from a wet collodion negative
Width 23.5 cm x height 28.8 cm
Museum no. PH.405-1981

The Photograph

This image of Fountains Abbey appeared as an illustration in 'A Photographic Tour among the Abbeys of Yorkshire' by Cundall & Delamotte (1856). The image shows the crumbling walls of the abbey and represents the preoccupation of the 19th century with the romantic ruin. It is a fine example of the great clarity which was made possible by the wet collodion negative and its ability to capture the smallest detail of the scene, showing the beautiful textures of the natural and the crumbling man-made forms.

There was, generally, no practical advantage in being able to count each mortar course in the brick wall of a distant building, but it was nevertheless a pleasure to look at a picture that allowed one to do this. It produced 'the satisfactory illusion that all was revealed, nothing withheld'. John Szarkowski, 'Photography Until Now', MoMA, 1989

The Photographer

Philip Delamotte was the son of William De La Motte, the landscape painter. Philip was possibly tutored by his father and went on to teach drawing and perspective at King's College, Cambridge from 1855 to 1857 and later became Professor of Drawing.

He began taking photographs in the late 1840s using the calotype process and went on to use the wet collodion negative. He not only produced photographs (often used for book illustrations) but taught photography and wrote about photographic techniques.

He was commissioned to document the reconstruction of Crystal Palace at Sydenham in 1854, the bright light of the glass interior making it possible to take interior 'news' photographs.

The commitment of his professorship at King's College meant that his career as a photographer was short-lived and by the end of the 1850s his prolific photographic output had ceased.


This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13.