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Hill & Adamson Studio

(Redirected from David Octavius Hill)

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Hill and Adamson Photographic Studio

A pioneering partnership came about due to an unlikely event which occurred in Scotland - the 'Disruption of 1843'.

This was a division within the established Church of Scotland, in which 450 evangelical ministers of the Church broke away over the issue of the Church's relationship with the State, and formed the Free Church of Scotland.[ The Disruption ended a bitter conflict within the established Church, and had huge effects not only within the Church, but also upon civic life within Scotland.

Disruption 1843, PD via WP
Disruption 1843

Hill decided he would record the event in a painting, and was put in touch with Adamson, who could photograph the clergymen and provide a quick reference of the men present at the momentous meeting, allowing him to transform the record into a large painting. Over the next four years, some 3,000 pictures were taken, including images of the clergymen. This painting was not actually completed until 1866.

Their ambitions saw them quickly extend their abilities to include portraits of figures from Edinburgh society, scenes from the capital, and documentary images of fisherfolk in nearby Newhaven. Their images of the working class community in the Newhaven area of Edinburgh are thought to be the first photographic studies of ordinary working people.

However, the partnership came to an early end in 1848, when Adamson's ill health led to his death at only 27.

David Octavius Hill

David Octavius Hill, PD via WP
David Octavius Hill

David Octavius Hill (20 May 1802 – 17 May 1870) was a Scottish painter and arts activist, born in Perth.

He formed the Edinburgh photographic studio of Hill and Adamson with engineer and photographer Robert Adamson, operating from 1843 to 1847 and said to have pioneered many aspects of photography in Scotland.[1]

Robert Adamson

Robert Adamson, PD via WP
Robert Adamson

Robert Adamson (26 April 1821 – 14 January 1848) was a Scottish chemist and pioneer photographer, born in St Andrews.

Best known for his pioneering photographic work with David Octavius Hill, with whom he formed the Edinburgh photographic studio of Hill and Adamson where he produced some 2500 calotypes, mostly portraits, within 5 years of being hired by Hill in 1843, before his death in 1848.

2017 Exhibition

In 2017, more than 200 of the oldest photographs taken in Scotland were put on display at the National Galleries of Scotland. [2]


1 The Scots who pioneered photography - BBC News Retrieved 28 May 2017.

2 A Perfect Chemistry | Photographs by Hill and Adamson | National Galleries of Scotland Retrieved 28 May 2017.

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