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In Focus: Hill and Adamson

  • Anne M. Lyden

    Shortly after the dawn of photography, the unlikely partnership between the respected painter David Octavius Hill and the young engineer Robert Adamson produced some of the most important photographs in the history of the medium. Their alliance began when Hill, while working on his large commemorative painting of the people involved in forming the Free Church of Scotland in 1843, began using photography as a tool to document the church elders.

    What followed was a four-and-a-half-year partnership―cut short by Adamson's untimely death in 1848―that produced a large body of work. During their association, Hill and Adamson experimented with some of the earliest calotype processes—creating hundreds of portraits, staged dramatic photographs, and architectural and landscape images.

    The J. Paul Getty Museum holds more than four hundred works by Hill and Adamson, forty-seven of which are featured in this volume. The plates are accompanied by commentary from Anne M. Lyden, curatorial assistant in the Department of Photographs at the Museum. A color foldout of Hill's above-referenced painting The Signing of the Deed of Demission (The Disruption Picture) appears in the back of the book.

    The book also includes a chronology of the key events of the artists' partnership and an edited transcript of a colloquium on the artists, with participants Lyden; Weston Naef, curator emeritus of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum; Sara Stevenson, curator of photographs at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery; Alison Morrison-Low, curator, History of Science Section, National Museums of Scotland; Jonathon Reff, photographer, Los Angeles; Michael Wilson, private collector, Los Angeles and London; and David Featherstone, independent editor and curator, San Francisco.

    "A worthwhile book for those well versed in photo history as well as those new to the field."
    —Art on Paper

    "An intriguing portrait of cultural life in mid-nineteenth-century Scotland."
    —Art Book

    "Contains photographs of remarkable clarity, many which have never been published before."
    —Professional Photographer

    144 pages
    6 x 7 1/2 inches
    55 duotone illustrations
    1 color foldout
    ISBN 978-0-89236-540-1

    Getty Publications
    Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum
    Series: In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum