FACING THE LIGHT: DAVID OCTAVIUS HILL AND ROBERT ADAMSON
National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Fri 10 May—Sun 15 Sep
‘The more they are seen, the more the wonder grows,’ said landscape painter David Roberts of the ground-breaking photography by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. And audiences across the central belt will be able to see and wonder at the work of the photographic pioneers in a festival of exhibitions and events
celebrating the bicentenary of the (a: y birth of 0.0. Hill. t ‘
Organised by the Scottish Society for the History of Photography, Facing The Light is one of the focal exhibitions of the festival and comprises 200 of Hill and Adamson’s most outstanding images, drawn from the Scottish National Photography Collection, held at the Portrait Gallery.
The Perth-born artist and illustrator David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848) were the first to realise the artistic possibilities of photography. Their partnership came about under extraordinary circumstances in May 1843 when Hill turned to photography to provide studies for his historical painting of the ‘Disruption': the secession of over 400 ministers from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to form the Free Church of Scotland. Taking portraits of the ministers in Adamson’s photographic studio on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill, the two soon branched out into the landscape and architecture of the city.
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up: The Pastor’s Visit by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Calotype print, 1845
while they would be generating ideas between them.’
This meeting of creative minds produced a body of pioneering and influential images ranging from portraits to city views. They were responsible for the first ever documentary photographic essay on the lives of the fishermen and women of the Firth of Forth. With no precedent, their story of a working community shows that Hill and Adamson were clearly ahead of their time.
‘Part of the problem with the idea of something that has come down to us from history is that you get to admire it because it is old,’ says Stevenson. ‘These aren’t admirable because they are old, they are admirable because they are extremely good.’
Sadly, the partnership lasted only until Adamson’s death in 1847, but what they have left behind is a legacy
‘We tend to think of art as a solitary business and we forget that you can do work that is as interesting and sometimes even more interesting if you work with other people,’ says Sara Stevenson, chief curator of the Scottish National Photography Collection. ‘Hill was obviously responsible for the composition and Adamson was obviously responsible for the technological side but it’s reasonable enough to assume that after the two of them had worked for a
of wonderful images. As well as serving as a history record, artistically they stand out as examples of fine art photography.
‘People tend to assume that photography happened naturally, but of course it requires calculation, control and construction,’ says Stevenson. ‘They demonstrated that this was something that could be used as an art form and I think they changed the course of history.’
COLLABORATIVE SHOW HENRY VIII’S WIVES: LIGHT WITHOUT SHADOW
Tramway, Glasgow, until Sun 26 May I... For their latest collaborative venture. Bob Grieve. Rachel Dagnell, Sirko Knupfer, Simon Polli. Per Sander and Lucy Skaer (aka Henry VllI's Wives) have delved into a Curious range of discourses. the most immediately apparent of which is Neolithic architecture. Yes. Neolithic architecture. A 1:1 scale model of Skara Brae. constructed using wood from previous Tramway exhibitions. forms the hide-and-seek showcase for two new video works. There is the potential for several wrong turns as you hunt along the narrow corridors and under the low Iintels in search of disembodied sounds.
The video works. once you find them. have a cryptic duality. somehow Lynchian and with a distinct hint of Waiting For Godot. Each piece features three people who inhabit separate hi-tech video screens. One shows blind people sitting in a room that keeps changing various shades of
A hlde-and-seek showcase for new work
blue. They are handling items usually found in a museum, and having a three-way exchange of words that never seem to add up to a decipherable conversation, Along the passage are another trio. this time good-looking youngsters in a derelict flat inhabited by two magpies and an owl. They too are talking in sentences that are disconnected and yet strangely compelling. ‘Sometimes it's better these things happen out of your
presence.‘ remarks one.
Discovering that the young people are amateur actors. and that the transcripts for the conversations were taken from tomato farmers. acting coaches. elderly people and the law courts. does little to diffuse the profound weirdness of the piece. The work still adds up to more than its constituent parts. And like everything you don't fully understand. it is impossible to forget. (Sarah Lowndes)
News (from the world of art
CALLUM lNNES HAS BEEN shortlisted for this year’s Jerwood painting prize, worth £30,000. The Edinburgh-based artist who was shortlisted for the prize back in 1995, is up against Pamela Golden, Lisa Milroy, Nicky Hoberman, Graham Crowley and Paul Morrison. The winner will be announced on Wednesday 22 May, while the works are currently on show in the Jerwood Space, London (until 7 Jul) and will then tour to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (19 July-27 October).
Callum lnnes Jerwood Prize nominee
EDINBURGH COLLEGE OF Art's FaShion Show takes place on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 May. The show features lelVldUai collections from this year's up- and-coming designers plus project w0rk by all second and third year students. For those who can't be there in person. the show will be broadcast live on the website (\Wm'.eca.
aC.CO.uk) on Friday 17 May ‘rom 7pm.
SENSE SCOTLAND, THE national charity providing services for deafblind people were awarded a grant from the Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund for a three-year project, Sensing Art & Music (SAM). Now in its first year, the project provides visual art and music sessions for people with complex support needs, including sensory impairment and learning disabilities. A one- day conference taking place at Glasgow’s CCA on Wednesday 22 May, celebrates the work and achievements of the project and aims to bridge the gap between the worlds of art and disability. For more information call Sense Scotland on 0141 564 2444 or email sam@sensescotland. org.uk
ON A TRAGIC NOTE. ARTIST Graeme Clalg-Smlil‘ ended l‘lS own life by le'Tlpll‘ig of‘ Edinburgh’s North Bridge on Monday 22 April. We \‘JOLiKl Ike to take this ODDOITLHTII‘,’ to express Our Sincere COl‘t‘iofer‘ces to Graeme's famny and i'iCliClS.
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