Romantic Camera | Scottish Photography & the Modern World

  • 1st December 2011 − 3rd June 2012 | Scottish National Portrait Gallery


From its inception, around 1840, photography in Scotland was marked by a rich romantic legacy. Working with the calotype, or paper negative, a very modern medium, early photographers recorded their environment through a veil of intricate literary and historical associations. At the heart of their worldview lay the writing of Sir Walter Scott, whose novels and poems inspired visions of sublime landscapes and heroic action. At a time of dramatic social and economic transformation, Scott’s historical imagination was perceived to be the ultimate expression of contemporary national consciousness.

This section presents the work of the greatest exponents of the Scottish calotype during the 1840s and 1850s. Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill’s conception of the modern world was coloured by powerful nostalgic attachments. John Muir Wood left his home in Glasgow to pursue landscape and antiquarian subjects informed by the writings of Scott, William Wordsworth and John Ruskin. Often celebrated for its artistic qualities, the calotype proved to be a medium peculiarly suited to the imaginative projection of the photographer. In Scotland, more so than elsewhere in Europe, early photography was a revolutionary medium charged with romantic desire.

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David Octavius Hill and Professor James Miller. Known as 'The Morning After "He greatly daring dined"' Robert Adamson, David Octavius Hill


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