Mr Laing or Laine

Robert Adamson, David Octavius Hill

Mr Laing or Laine


Richie Cumming, Outreach Officer This Portrait of the Month is selected by Richie Cumming, Outreach Officer

The image of this dedicated follower of sports fashion, Mr Laing (or Laine), was created by pioneers of photography David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. With his brooding stare, determined stance and a waistband high enough to make Simon Cowell wince, the image has understandably become a popular picture postcard.

The portrait of the tennis racket-wielding Mr Laing was created in 1843, using William Henry Fox Talbot’s sophisticated calotype process, in the same year Adamson established his studio on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. The calotype process was truly revolutionary, capable of producing multiple prints of the one image, unlike the Daguerreotype, the predominant photographic process of the time.

Hill, a prominent painter, had become convinced of the benefits of photography whilst creating his epic painting The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland; signing the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission - 23rd May 1843, the first painting to be created using photography as source material. The painting has hung in the Free Presbytery Hall, the kirk overlooking the National Gallery of Scotland, since 1866.

Hill and Adamson worked on hundreds of images together, a great many of which are portraits, and are cherished, alongside Mr Laing, within the National Galleries Collection.