Willie Liston, 'Redding [cleaning or preparing] the line'; Newhaven fisherman (1843 - 1847)
About this artwork
This is one of about 120 calotypes by Hill and Adamson that document the life and work of the fishermen and fishwives of Newhaven, a fishing village to the north of Edinburgh. This dramatic portrait shows Willie Liston, a fisherman, at work ‘redding’, or preparing, the fishing line. This lengthy and painstaking job involved cleaning hundreds of hooks on the line and baiting them with mussels. The careful positioning of Liston in the sunlight has created a dark shadow across his face, which helps to focus attention on his working hands.
- title: Willie Liston, 'Redding [cleaning or preparing] the line'; Newhaven fisherman
- accession number: PGP HA 300
- artists: Robert AdamsonScottish (1821 - 1848) David Octavius HillScottish (1802 - 1870)
- depicted: Willie Liston
- gallery: Scottish National Portrait Gallery(In Storage)
- object type: Photograph
- subject: Fishing industry
- materials: Calotype print
- date created: 1843 - 1847
- measurements: 20.80 x 15.70 cm
- credit line: Provenance unknown
- photographer: Antonia Reeve
David Octavius Hill
Robert Adamson was one of the first professional photographers, setting up in business in Edinburgh in March 1843. He had aspired to be an engineer but his health was too poor. His brother, John, who was involved in the early experiments with photography in St Andrews, taught him the calotype process. Shortly after opening his studio on Calton Hill, Robert met the painter David Octavius Hill. They worked together for a few weeks on studies for a grand painting of the Free Church of Scotland before entering into partnership to explore the possibilities of photography. Despite Adamson's early death, the two produced some of the most impressive works taken in the medium and greatly influenced later practice in the art.
David Octavius Hill
A painter and a lithographer by training, David Octavius Hill is best remembered for the beauty of the calotypes he and Robert Adamson produced together. Hill was a sociable and kind-hearted man who did much to support the arts in Scotland and between 1830 and 1836 he was the unpaid Secretary of the newly established Royal Scottish Academy. After Adamson's death, Hill's attempt to start a new partnership with the photographer Alexander MacGlashan around 1860 failed. Hill is to this day revered as one of the first in the trade who transformed photography into an art form.