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An Hundred Pictures in Calotype by Hill & Adamson

An Hundred Pictures in Calotype by Hill & Adamson
An Hundred Pictures in Calotype by Hill & Adamson
This exhibition brings together images from David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson's volume, 'An Hundred Pictures in Calotype'.

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson were free to use the calotype process, a type of early photography developed by William H Fox Talbot, because Talbot's patent did not apply in Scotland. It was Talbot's friend, Sir David Brewster who initiated the development of photography in Scotland. Talbot had sent Brewster some examples of calotypes, but Brewster didn't know how to produce them himself. He enlisted his colleague Dr John Adamson, Professor of Chemistry, and it was therefore Adamson who was the first to use the calotype process in Scotland. Nevertheless, it was his 21-year-old brother Robert Adamson, who, interested in mechanics, would develop a passion for the calotype process. Being a delicate man, Robert Adamson was not suited for the profession of a millwright, to which he had been apprenticed. The pursuit of producing calotypes was a much better match. Talbot himself was in favour of Scottish people using his invention, too, in order to compete with the rival daguerreotype process.

David Octavius Hill, born in Perth in 1802, had learnt the art of lithography at Edinburgh's Academy School of Design and proved as skilled as ambitious. On May 18th 1843, Hill attended the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and the following establishment of the Free Church of Scotland at Tanfield Hall. Deeply impressed, Hill decided to create a monumental commemorative picture of the event. But how to remember all of the nearly five hundred ministers involved? It was Brewster who gave Hill the idea of using photography to do studies of the ministers. Brewster also introduced Hill to Robert Adamson to help him with his studies, and so began their prolific partnership.

Hill and Adamson's skills complemented each other. Hill was likely to be responsible for the artistic arrangement of the sitters, while Adamson looked after the cameras and the chemical processes. In only four and a half years, the two photographers produced over 3000 images. This volume includes portrait studies of some of the ministers, a portrait of Hill himself, another of Sir D Brewster and many of Hill's extended family and friends. It also contains several of the famous pictures of the Newhaven fishing community as well as striking images of the city at the time including a half-built Scott Monument and scenes in Greyfriars Kirkyard.

The partnership of Hill and Adamson ended abruptly with the death of the always unhealthy Robert Adamson in 1848 aged only 26. After Adamson's death Hill returned to painting and he finally completed his painting of the signing of the deed of demission in 1865.

View more images from Hill and Adamson's Partnership of Genius alongside images by their contemporaries in a further exhibition.