Inventing provinciality: St Andrews and the global networks of early Victorian photography

Luke Gartlan*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the advent of photography in the Scottish university town of St Andrews in the context of local ties to the British Empire. It seeks to foreground the colonialist networks of some of the town’s principal families and argues that these investments ensured the avid reception and circulation of the calotype process and its products along well-established diasporic routes. In the latter section, David Brewster’s essays on photography will be assessed for their foundational statements on the camera’s potential imperialist applications. Brewster’s writings demonstrate the conceptual frameworks of empire that underpinned the adoption of photography in St Andrews. This article argues against the implicit associations that attend “provincial” photographic archives as circumscribed by local histories, geographies, and civic concerns. By doing so, it questions the politics of provincialising historiographies that disregard the extensive colonial networks of rural and small-town communities in the assessment of their photographic activities and vast archival legacies.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages37
JournalBritish Art Studies
Issue number23
Early online date20 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Photography
  • Empire
  • Colonialism


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