About this artwork

‘The Letter’ is one of about 120 calotypes by Hill and Adamson of the fishing port of Newhaven, to the north of Edinburgh. Carefully arranged and all taken out of doors, these photographs explore the life, work and social structure of this small but independent community. This particular one shows three fishwives examining a letter, a familiar theme in art that was often used by seventeenth-century Dutch painters. The letter effectively focuses the attention of the women, whilst leaving us to speculate about its content and sender. At the time, the new penny post enabled the literate working classes to communicate properly across distance for the first time, a matter of great importance to the fishwives whose men often faced dangerous situations at sea.

Updated before 2020

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Robert Adamson

Robert Adamson