Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill, 'Mr Lane in Indian Dress'

Robert Adamson and David Octavius Hill, 'Mr Lane in Indian Dress'

Robert Adamson (1821-48) and David Octavius Hill (1802-70)
'Mr Lane in Indian Dress'
Width 13.2 cm x heigth 18.5 cm
Museum no. 3127-1955

The Photograph

The calotype process coincided with the contemporary taste in art, portrait painters favouring the generalised treatment. It is important to note that its development fell to a small group of artists such as Hill, who were interested in the tradition of picture-making and photography's role within its established aesthetic.

Hill and Adamson's portrait of Mr Lane is a good example of the rich tone of the calotype. The lack of precision in detail of the image creates a beautifully soft and suggestive image. The image appears to be part of the paper, rather than lying in a coating on the paper. This was certainly one of the qualities of the process that appealed to artists who experimented with the photographic technique. It is not known whether Mr Lane was the Edinburgh actor of this name or the explorer Edward William Lane, as his costume could signify either profession. It is also worth noting that Mr Lane is posed in the open air since interiors were not light enough for a negative to be quickly produced. The setting of the portrait, however, does not acknowledge the open-air location, and is arranged to look like an interior scene

The Photographers

Fox Talbot was concerned that, although he had not patented the calotype in Scotland, someone should practice it on a professional basis.

Robert Adamson, the younger brother of one of the first Scotsmen to experiment with the technique, was proposed and accepted as the first professional calotype photographer in Scotland.

The Hill and Adamson partnership lasted from 1843 to 1847, starting soon after Hill had visited Adamson's photography studio. Initially Hill was interested in using the calotype process to produce studies for his paintings.


This photograph can be found in Print Room Box 13.