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Close, No. 46 Saltmarket, from Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow
Albumen print, from wet collodion negative
28 x 22.7 cm
National Galleries of Scotland
Acc. no. PGP 185.22
(Curatorial caption, accessed 23 November 2014)
In 1868 the City of Glasgow commissioned Thomas Annan to photograph the run-down buildings and closes of the old town before their destruction in a large urban improvement scheme. It was a difficult task, because light levels in these built-up, overcrowded slums were very low. Hence exposure times had to be increased, which made it harder to create sharp, well-defined images. In this photograph, many of the carefully grouped and positioned children appear blurred as they will have moved while the photograph was taken. However, the boy with his hands on his hips stands out from the rest. His strong, clear-cut figure appears to challenge his squalid surroundings and gives the viewer a sense of hope and indestructibility.