Museum Home Past Exhibitions Photographers of Genius at the Getty

March 16–July 25, 2004 at the Getty Center

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Hill & Adamson - The first photographers to use the camera as a tool for social documentation.

Working in Edinburgh, Scotland between 1843 and 1848, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson were the first photographers to systematically use the camera as a tool for social documentation. Their studies of the fisher folk of Newhaven, near Edinburgh, anticipated the use of photography to depict and catalog types of people for ethnographic, cultural, and social reasons.

Hill and Adamson made several visits to the fishing village of Newhaven to document the inhabitants, who had probably not seen a camera before, in their traditional dress.

The fisherwomen of Newhaven were noted for their natural beauty and picturesque costumes. This simple, yet powerful, portrait of Mrs. Elizabeth (Johnstone) Hall was posed in bright sunlight, causing deep shadows to obscure half her face while simultaneously defining the shape of her nose, lips, and brow. The light illuminates the inside of the fish basket and juxtaposes the horizontal wickerwork with the apron's vertical stripes.

View a brief biography and other works by this artist in the Getty online collections.

Related Bookstore items:
In Focus: Hill and Adamson
Dinornis Elephantopus / Fenton