MURRAY JOHNSTON'S death on Thursday at the age of 40 is a tragic loss

to Scottish photography.

He was a crucial figure in stimulating and encouraging the

contemporary medium. As director of Scotland's then sole photography

gallery, Stills, Edinburgh, from 1982 to 1986 during a difficult time,

he was instrumental in laying the national and international groundwork

for what is now a thriving and important aspect of Scottish art.

''I've no doubt there was something extraordinary and remarkable about

his abilities to inspire others,'' said Sara Stevenson, curator of

photography at the Scottish National Gallery.

Johnston's courageous fight against cancer in the last 18 months did

not prevent his taking on a huge amount of work. ''One could only be

astonished and full of admiration that he continued to be so strong and

so positive in his contribution to the future of photography here,''

said David Bruce, director of the Scottish Film Council and chairman of

the Arts Council Photography Working Party on which Murray served,

playing an important role until very recently.

''Murray alone of all his colleagues, had an awareness, too, of the

heritage and tradition of Scottish photography, yet alongside this, so

much of his thinking, effort, and energy was devoted to the future,''

said Bruce.

Murray established a completely new department at Edinburgh College of

Art where he was appointed Head of Photography in September, 1986. This

post was completely in tune with his commitment to searching out young

undiscovered talent and fostering the promotion of up-and-coming

photographers. He found the students an immense source of support. He

once told me that their realistic, positive attitude and matter-of-fact

help had been very beneficial to his fight against the illness and his

ability to continue working.

He was currently in the midst of organising Scottish Camera Art Now,

an exhibition of 16 Scottish photographers to be held in Houston, USA,

next month.

It will be the first Scottish presence at the world's foremost

international event, the Houston Fotofest. The show, backed by the

Scottish Arts Council and British Council, will then tour to Chicago,

Mexico, and Berlin. It will go ahead with the aid of co-curator David

Brittain and be premiered at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in

October this year.

Together with his wife Kate, Murray Johnston founded Scottish

Photographic Works in 1987 in Edinburgh. This company's aim is to

promote the best of independent photography in Scotland. He was also a

founder member of the Scottish Society for the History of Photography

and revived the lost nineteenth-century tradition of platinum folios and

published the first since Valentine of Dundee. He also published

photogravure by Raymond Moore.

Each Edinburgh Festival he organised the showing of new photography,

including works by Andy Weiner in 1988 and Robin Gillanders in 1989.

A very modest man as regards his own work, Johnston was a fine

landscape photographer in his own right and contributed to numerous

shows including Image And Exploration: British Photography 1980-85 at

London's Photographers' Gallery. Sadly he did not live to see the

publication of his book on Edinburgh which comes out in the autumn.

This contains text by Maurice Lindsay and David Bruce; classic

photographs by Hill, Adamson, Thomas Keith, and Washington Wilson, with

contemporary images of Edinburgh by Johnston himself.

Born in Fife, he studied at Napier Polytechnic and from 1969-72 worked

as a medical photographer. He went on to Dundee's Duncan of Jordanstone

College 1972-76. He was the first photographer-in-residence at Kielder

Forest 1980 and then spent some time in America in 1981-82, including

assistantships at Carmel University, California, the University of

Michigan and the Centre for Creative Studies, Detroit. He has work in

the collections of the Pacific Bank, San Diego, and the Musee Nicephore

Niepce, France.

Andrew Chisholm, Head of Visual Communications, Edinburgh College of

Art, said yesterday: ''Murray brought an enthusiasm and intellect to the

teaching of photography that sitmulated responses from students, thereby

creating a most exciting future.''