The partnership of David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848) lasted between 1843 and 1848 during the early years of photography in Scotland and produced some of the finest portraits ever created. Hill was the artist and Adamson the chemist and they formed one of the most dynamic partnerships in the history of photography, tragically cut short after 5 years when Adamson died, his frail health probably made worse by the poisonous chemicals used in photography.
Their work was much admired by the pictorialists at the end of the Nineteenth century including Alfred Stieglitz and was published in Camera Work.
[With contributions by Pam Roberts]
David Octavius Hill worked in partnership with Robert Adamson in the mid-1840's. Hill was a painter-lithographer based in Edinburgh, who became interested in photography having been commissioned to paint a commemorative composition of hundreds of Church ministers. To capture their likenesses he joined forces with Adamson who had learnt the calotype process in 1842. Together they eventually produced nearly 3000 paper negatives consisting of portraits, landscapes, and scenes of local life which are some of the earliest documentary photographs ever taken.
This biography is courtesy and copyright of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is included here with permission.
Date last updated: 11 Nov 2011.
|SHARED BIOGRAPHICAL INFORMATION PROJECT |
We welcome institutions and scholars willing to test the sharing of biographies for the benefit of the photo-history community. The biography above is a part of this trial.
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Strasser, Alexander, 1942, Victorian photography: being an album of yesterday's camera-work by William Henry Fox Talbot, David Octavius Hill and others. Selection and commentary by Alex Strasser.., (London and New York: The Focal Press) [Δ]
Taylor, Roger, 2002, Photographs Exhibited In Britain 1839-1865. A Compendium Of Photographers And Their Works, (Ottawa: National Gallery Of Canada) [Δ]
Readings on, or by, individual photographers
1999, Hill and Adamson: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum, (J. Paul Getty Museum Publications) [In Focus series] [Δ]
Bell, Keith (ed.), 1987, Photographs of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, (Saskatoon: Mendell Art Gallery) [Δ]
Bruce, David, 1973, Sun Pictures: The Hill-Adamson Calotypes, (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society) [Δ]
Ford, Colin (ed.), 1976, An Early Victorian Album: The Photographic Masterpieces (1843-1847) of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, (New York: Alfred A. Knopf) [Δ]
Harley Jr, Ralph L., 1986, ‘The D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson Partnership‘, History of Photography, vol.10, no.4, pp.303-312 [Δ]
Schaaf, Larry J., 2002, Sun Pictures, Catalogue Eleven: St. Andrews and Early Scottish Photography, including Hill & Adamson, (New York: Hans P. Kraus, Jr.) [Δ]
Schwarz, Heinrich, 1932, David Octavius Hill: Master of Photography, (London: George C. Harrap) [Δ]
Smith, Graham, 1983, ‘Calotype Views of St. Andrews' by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson‘, History of Photography, vol.7, no.3, pp.207-236 [Δ]
Stevenson, S., 1981, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. Catalogue of their Calotypes taken between 1843 and 1847 in the Collection of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, (Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery) [Δ]
Stevenson, Sara, 1990, Hill and Adamson's The Fishermen and Women of the Firth of Forth, (Edinburgh: National Galleries of Scotland) [Δ]
Stevenson, Sara, 2002, The Personal Art of David Octavius Hill, (Yale University Press / Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art) isbn-13: 978-0300095340 [Δ]
Ward, John & Stevenson, Sara, 1986, Printed Light. The Scientific Art of William Henry Fox Talbot and David Octavius Hill with Robert Adamson, (Edinburgh: Scottish National Portrait Gallery & Her Majesty’s Stationery Office) [Δ]
If you feel this list is missing a significant book or article please let me know - Alan - email@example.com
If you have a portrait of this photographer or know of the whereabouts of one we would be most grateful.
|Family history |
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Exhibitions on this website
|Hill & Adamson: Scottish presbyterians|
|Hill and Adamson: A tree at Colinston [Midlothian, Scotland]|
|Hill and Adamson: Edinburgh Castle|
|Hill and Adamson: James Linton at Newhaven|
|Hill and Adamson: Lady Ruthven|
|Hill and Adamson: Newhaven|
All photographs by this photographer
Hill & Adamson
Adamson learned the calotype process in 1842, opened a portrait studio in Edinburgh, and began a five-year partnership with D.O. Hill in 1843. Hill was a landscape painter who had become interested in photography while planning a large commemorative painting of the founders of the Free Church of Scotland; he sought the help of Adamson in the belief that the calotype process would aid in rendering the likeness of the 474 clergymen and dignitaries involved. The partners soon expanded their subject matter to include genre and other scenes, and between them made about 1,500 images before the partnership ended when Adamson died in 1848.
A book on the two photographers was written in 1991 by Sara Stevenson entitled, Hill & Adamson's The Fishermen and Women of The Firth of Forth.
[Contributed by Lee Gallery]
The following books are useful starting points to obtain brief biographies but they are not substitutes for the monographs on individual photographers.
|• Beaton, Cecil & Buckland, Gail 1975 The Magic Eye: The Genius of Photography from 1839 to the Present Day (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown & Company) p.38 [Useful short biographies with personal asides and one or more example images.] |
• Capa, Cornell (ed.) 1984 The International Center of Photography: Encyclopedia of Photography (New York, Crown Publishers, Inc. - A Pound Press Book) p.249
• Lenman, Robin (ed.) 2005 The Oxford Companion to the Photograph (Oxford: Oxford University Press) [Includes a short biography on Hill & Adamson.]
• Weaver, Mike (ed.) 1989 The Art of Photography 1839-1989 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press) p.458 [This exhibition catalogue is for the travelling exhibition that went to Houston, Canberra and London in 1989.]
• Witkin, Lee D. and Barbara London 1979 The Photograph Collector’s Guide (London: Secker and Warburg) p.161-162 [Long out of print but an essential reference work - the good news is that a new edition is in preparation.]
If there is an analysis of a single photograph or a useful self portrait I will highlight it here.
Photographic collections are a useful means of examining large numbers of photographs by a single photographer on-line.