About this artwork

In 1871, Burns was commissioned by Edinburgh's City Improvement Trust to photograph the derelict closes between the Old Quadrangle of the university and the Cowgate, prior to their demolition later in the year. According to a contemporary minute, Burns's twenty-six photographs excited "deep interest" as a "faithful record of this old historic part of the City which in a few days will be entirely swept away".

Archibald Burns

Archibald Burns

Archibald Burns was a professional photographer in Edinburgh, best known for his landscape and architectural images. He published an illustrated book in 1868, called 'Picturesque Bits from Old Edinburgh'. This was a photographic guide to the Old Town, which paid attention to social issues such as overcrowding and poor sanitation. Apart from being documentary, Burns's work is quite obviously picturesque. For an added nostalgic look, he often used salted paper which makes pictures appear old and faded.