David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson

Edinburgh Ale: James Ballantine, Dr George Bell and David Octavius Hill

About this artwork

The skills involved in producing calotypes were not only of a technical nature. Hill’s sociability, humour and his capacity to gauge the sitters’ characters all played a crucial part in his photography. He is shown here on the right, apparently sharing a drink and a joke with James Ballantine and Dr George Bell. Bell, in the middle, was one of the commissioners of the Poor Law of 1845, which reformed poor relief in Scotland. Ballantine was a writer and stained-glass artist, and the son of an Edinburgh brewer. On the table are three glasses of ale. According to a contemporary account, Edinburgh ale was "a potent fluid, which almost glued the lips of the drinker together".

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David Octavius Hill

Robert Adamson

David Octavius Hill

A painter and a lithographer by training, David Octavius Hill is best remembered for the beauty of the calotypes he and Robert Adamson produced together. Hill was a sociable and kind-hearted man who did much to support the arts in Scotland and between 1830 and 1836 he was the unpaid Secretary of the newly established Royal Scottish Academy. After Adamson's death, Hill's attempt to start a new partnership with the photographer Alexander MacGlashan around 1860 failed. Hill is to this day revered as one of the first in the trade who transformed photography into an art form.

Robert Adamson