Thomas Annan

Close No. 101 High Street, Glasgow (1868 - 1871)

About this artwork

In 1868 the Fife-born photographer, Thomas Annan, began his series of thirty-one photographs of the closes and wynds of old Glasgow. This area was one of the worst urban slums in Britain and had recently been scheduled for demolition by the City Improvement Trust, a body set up by the Glasgow Improvement Act of 1866 with sweeping powers to clear property. Annan was charged by the Trustees with recording its passing, an antiquarian commission that answered an anxiety about the city’s rapid pace of change. Facing technical problems due to the dark and dank conditions, he utilised the wet collodion process, the most sensitive technology then available. The series is acknowledged as the first record of slum housing in the history of photography.

Thomas Annan

Thomas Annan

Having begun his career as a lithographic writer and engraver on a local newspaper in Fife, Thomas Annan set up a studio as a professional photographer in 1855. He founded his own photographic printing works in Hamilton in 1859 and by 1862 had begun to establish a reputation for photographing works of art. In 1866 he purchased the carbon process patent rights for Scotland and in 1883 he secured the British rights for photogravure. Between 1868 and 1871 he executed a commission from the City of Glasgow to photograph the slums of the old town before their demolition.