Several years ago, Flickr introduced a series of nineteenth century photos from the National Galleries of Scotland. There are 7 sets of photos, showcasing 107 images in total. One set features shots of “Great Scots,” like the famous writer Robert Louis Stevenson. Another set highlights the photographic work of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, who, between 1843 and 1848, took some of the earliest portraits of people living their lives in Scotland. In the picture above (view it in a larger format here), we see David Octavius Hill himself enjoying a beer in Edinburgh with James Ballantine and Dr. George Bell.
It is generally accepted that “Boulevard du Temple”, a daguerreotype made by Louis Daguerre in 1838, was the earliest photograph to show people in any form. But in Daguerre’s famous image, people were hardly the focus. Rather, they were almost accidental parts of the background. By contrast, the Met Museum will tell you, Hill and Adamson produced in the 1840s “the first substantial body of self-consciously artistic work using the newly invented medium of photography.” Two young girls together. An elderly man playing the harp. A photographer and his friends sitting down for a beer. They’re all intimate scenes from mid-nineteenth century Scottish life.
This great find comes courtesy of Steve Silberman. Follow him at @stevesilberman