Thomas Annan

Close, No. 46 Saltmarket, from Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow (1868 - 1871)

About this artwork

In 1868 the City of Glasgow commissioned Thomas Annan to photograph the run-down buildings and closes of the old town before their destruction in a large urban improvement scheme. It was a difficult task, because light levels in these built-up, overcrowded slums were very low. Hence exposure times had to be increased, which made it harder to create sharp, well-defined images. In this photograph, many of the carefully grouped and positioned children appear blurred as they will have moved while the photograph was taken. However, the boy with his hands on his hips stands out from the rest. His strong, clear-cut figure appears to challenge his squalid surroundings and gives the viewer a sense of hope and indestructibility.

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.