Hill & Adamson

Datesactive 1843 - 1848
RolesMaker, Photographer

David Octavius Hill was a portrait painter, and Robert Adamson, the brother of photographer John Adamson, was an engineer. Their partnership as photographers was born in 1843, when Hill received a commission for a painting, known as The Disruption Painting, of the 470 attendees at the first meeting of the Free Church of Scotland. He decided to use photography to create individual documents of each attendee and was introduced to Adamson as a possible partner. Hill and Adamson took more than a year to make calotype portraits of each cleric in attendance, while the painting took Hill twenty-three years to complete.

During their four-year partnership, the pair made more than three thousand photographs, including landscapes and architectural studies, but they are best known for their portrait work. Hill and Adamson's portraits of working men and women from the fishing village of Newhaven, near Edinburgh, are among the earliest examples of social documentary photography. Upon Adamson's early death, Hill gave up photographing for a dozen years, though he continued to sell prints. In 1858 he became a Council Member of the Photographic Society of Scotland. He later collaborated with another photographer in Glasgow, but they produced few works to compare to his collaboration with Adamson.