The Fleet of Argosies

The Fleet of Argosies

A silhouetted fleet of Argosies, or large merchant ships equipped with sails, was most likely taken on the North Sea in Scotland, near the photographers home. A lone steamer ship is at far right in frame. This photograph was taken in 1908 or before and published in the October, 1908 issue of Photo-Era as part of the illustrated article: William Norrie: His Art and Methods, by William Findlay. (pp.155-60) Titled Herring-Fishing Boats Setting Sail, (p.163 appearing after article) Norrie, believed to have been born around 1862 based on a 1901 Scottish census record stating he was 39 years of age, was a professional photographer from Fraserburgh, Scotland active from roughly 1880-1920, with his studio located at 28 Cross Street. Interestingly, Norrie exhibited another photograph Fishing Boats (157) in the 1898 Philadelphia Photographic Salon.

William Norrie made something of a specialty of marine photographs. The following commentary on his work appeared in the July, 1909 issue of Photo-Era, the American Journal of Photography published in Boston:

Beautiful Marine Views

Those of our many readers who are familiar with the exquisite pictorial interpretations of the sea by William Norrie, of Fraserburgh, Scotland, will be pleased to know that his enthusiasm and industry in this respect have suffered no abatement. We have just received from him a collection of new and delightful additions to his large collection of incomparable marine views. Workers will do well to emulate the example of this admirable Scotch pictorialist. -from “Notes and News”, p.43

The following month, two marine views by Norrie were published in the August issue, (p. 56-57) with the editors making detailed commentary:

It is a pleasure to be able to present to our readers this month two more superb marines by Wm. Norrie. No photographer in Scotland has, to our knowledge, been so successful in depicting the morning and evening aspects of the sea.

“Moonlight at Sea” is one of those night effects frequently made by daylight when the sun is low, the print being, perhaps, a trifle too light to convey an absolutely true impression. The craft in the foreground is well placed, and its dark bulk, contrasted with the lighter tone and smaller size of its distant echo on the horizon, accentuates aerial perspective. Contrast and interchange of light and dark are well exemplified by the intense path of light just beyond the herring-boat. It should be noticed, however, that this path of light is far from being white paper, and that it is always by juxtaposition of light and dark that the effect of extreme light or dark, as the case may be, is obtained in photography, the same as in painting. An important part of the composition is the sky, which has been handled admirably, the time of exposure having been chosen when the lighter clouds would contrast with the nearer sail, making it seem closer at hand, and its distant echo correspondingly farther away. No data are available.

“Outward Bound” shows greater breadth of treatment, and is another successful example of the many beautiful effects to be had by photographing against the sun. The clouds, again, are an important factor in the composition, but the chief interest is found in the water. Note the beautiful curve of the rocks in the foreground, and the great roller in the middle-distance, which leads toward the little sailing-craft. Follow any prominent line in the picture and it brings the vision nearer to this little sail; even the trend of the clouds is in that direction. All this, however, is largely a matter of good fortune, a seeing eye and judicious choice of the psychological moment; but convincingly to record the pearly lights seen on the water requires the feeling and technique of an artist. That, we believe, Mr. Norrie possesses as far as photography is concerned. Data: October, 9 A, tit.; good light; Shew Eclipse lens; 6f-inch focus, f/ii; ./s second; Imperial Sovereign plate; pyro-ammonia developer; P. O. P. matt print. – Our Illustrations, p. 80

The Fleet of Argosies

Image Dimensions10.0 x 14.3 cm laid down within impressed window

Support Dimensions32.9 x 25.4 cm moderately thick manilla stock

Print Notes

Recto: Titled in graphite at lr mount below impressed window: The Fleet of Argosies  William Norrie; Norrie was known to have made POP and Silver Chloride prints around the time this photograph (1908) was taken.


Purchased for this archive in December, 2019 from the photographer and editor Sigismund Blumann’s grandson Thomas High.