David Octavius Hill & Robert Adamson

- Finlay, deerstalker in the employ of Campbell of Islay [f] (About 1845)

About this artwork

This calotype is one of the first ever photographs taken of a civilian wearing tartan. It shows a man named Finlay who worked for the Campbell family, the owners of the island of Islay until 1853. As a professional deer stalker he would have been in charge of shooting parties, using his knowledge of the estates to find herds of deer. Unlike stag hunting on horse back, deer stalking is still a legal pursuit as long as it is carried out under proper supervision. It is seen as both a sport and a necessity - not only does it preserve agricultural crops and forestry, but it also protects the deer as rapid growth in their numbers often leads to disease and starvation.

David Octavius Hill

Robert Adamson

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.

Robert Adamson

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.