Photography collection

In order to help protect the health of our staff and visitors during this difficult time we have closed all of our research rooms. During this time we're not taking bookings for individual appointments or group visits.

Location: Scottish National Portrait Gallery
Open by appointment: Closed
Contact: [email protected]

The photography collection contains over 40,000 works, including the largest collection of Hill and Adamson anywhere in the world. The Hill and Adamson holdings total over 6000 photographs and this collection alone frequently attracts scholars and enthusiasts from around the world. The photography collection was established in 1984 with the aim to collect and research photography, with a particular interest in Scottish photography but with a remit to also collect the work of international photographers. 

It is fitting that Hill and Adamson, whose partnership did so much to establish photography as an artform and claimed for Scotland an importance place in the history of photography, should form the basis of a growing and vibrant collection. Hill and Adamson’s contribution to 19th century photography is augmented by a wealth of photographs by other Scottish photographers such as Thomas Annan, John Muir Wood, George Washington Wilson, James Valentine, William Carrick  and Samuel Bourne. The collection also includes works by important 19th century photographers including Julia Margaret Cameron, Lewis Carroll, Roger Fenton and Francis Frith.

David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson

The partnership between David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson was formed in Edinburgh in July 1843, just four years after the invention of photography was announced. Over the next four years they worked together to produce a remarkable body of work which included portraits, landscapes and social documentary and stands as one of the earliest serious artistic endevours in the medium. The National Galleries of Scotland holds the largest collection of their work anywhere in the world.

See all Hill & Adamson artworks

The focus on Scotland and its place in the world is also reflected in the acquisition of works from the twentieth century which include photographs of Scotland by Bill Brandt and Paul Strand and a rich seam of documentary photographs including work by Humphrey Spender, Bert Hardy, Wolfgang Suschitzky, Edith Tudor-Hart, Roger Mayne, Harry Benson and Oscar Marzaroli. The collection seeks not only to explore Scotland’s contribution to photography but to open it out to a wider view of the world. As such the galleries have pursued an acquisition programme which has seen works by important twentieth century photographers such as Eve Arnold, Inge Morath, Annie Leibovitz, Walker Evans, Aaron Siskind and Alfred Stieglitz enter the collection.

The opportunity has also been taken to acquire photographs by commission and an active exhibitions program has facilitated the acquisition of work by a number of contemporary photographers. In recent years the National Galleries of Scotland has acquired works by John Coplans, Andrea Gursky, Wendy McMurdo, Richard Billingham, Rankin, Viviane Sassen, Graham MacIndoe, Jitka Hanzlova and Stuart Franklin.

Hill and Adamson David Octavius Hill with his daughter, Charlotte, Probably 1843
Paul Strand Peggy MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954



Book a visit

First-time visitors will be asked to show some form of ID such as a passport or driver's licence.
There is wheelchair access to the library via a lift. 

Groups of up to 10 are welcome to visit the library.
Group visits should be pre-booked at least four weeks in advance.

+44 (0)131 624 6407

[email protected]