About this artwork

This photograph shows the elaborate eleventh-century Norman doorway of St Oran’s Chapel on the island of Iona. The chapel was named after Oran, a convert who is said to have been buried alive in order to consecrate the ground for the building. The original monastery on Iona was built by St Columba from 563 AD as the first Christian outpost in Britain. This strong image of the arch and its shadow was taken by Thomas Keith in September 1856. Following Queen Victoria’s visit to the Hebrides in 1847, the area became popular with tourists. Travel in the region had always been "expensive, slow and troublesome", but by the mid-nineteenth century steamboat links from Oban to Glasgow and the islands made the journey quicker and more comfortable.

Thomas Keith

Thomas Keith

Thomas Keith trained in surgery at the University of Edinburgh. At the time he took up photography, he was in general practice in Edinburgh with his brother, George. According to his obituary, he 'was always in earnest: and whatever he found to do, he did it with all his might.' This is seen in his photography, where he worked with the waxed paper process, achieving subtle and strong effects by the exact use of chemistry. He gave up photography after 1859 due to the demands of his highly successful medical practice.