Cockenzie, ‘Weighting the Mussels’
Cockenzie, ‘Weighting the Mussels’

The Photographers

Many early practitioners who pioneered new methods of photography were based in Scotland or were inspired by Scottish subjects and were recognised internationally. These are just some of the individuals who were trailblazing this new art form in the late 19th century.

Thomas Annan (1829-1887)

Thomas Annan was the one of the most important photographers in 19th century Scotland. He grew up in rural Fife, the son of a farmer. Like other early photographic pioneers he had a background in printing and the visual arts, beginning in 1845 a seven-year apprenticeship as a lithographic engraver with the printing firm of Tullis in Cupar. After only four years he moved to Glasgow to work in a large lithographic print works.

Find out more on the Library’s Thomas Annan’s Glasgow website.

Ross & Thomson

Scottish photographers, James Ross and John Thomson, entered into a partnership in 1848, with a studio in the National Monument in Calton Hill. Ross and Thomson began practicing with the daguerreotype and calotype processes and were amongst the first to adopt the albumen process in 1849. The same year, they sent an album to Windsor Castle and were appointed 'Photographers to the Queen'. In 1851, they won a medal in the Great Exhibition in London. Throughout the 1850s and 60s, they specialised in studio portraits, but the partnership ended in 1864.

From National Galleries of Scotland artist page.

Thomas Rodger (1833-1883)

Thomas Rodger was a pupil and laboratory assistant to John Adamson. On the death of Robert Adamson, John Adamson urged the sixteen-year-old Rodger to set up his own studio in the city. He had a precise approach to the chemistry of photography which earned him success at exhibitions and competitions around Scotland. Having begun as a 'calotypist' in 1848, he later moved on to the collodion process. Sadly, his glass negatives were smashed when, after his death, his studio closed down in the early 1900s.

From National Galleries of Scotland artist page.

George Washington Wilson 1823-1893

A hugely successful businessman, George Washington Wilson had left home at twelve to be a carpenter and subsequently trained as a portrait painter before turning to photography in 1853. By the 1860s he owned printing works in Aberdeen that produced thousands of prints with views from all over Britain every year. Later his catalogue grew to include pictures from the Continent and the rest of the world. One of his first clients was Prince Albert who asked him to photograph the rebuilding of Balmoral Castle. Queen Victoria continued to commission work from Wilson after her husband's death.

From National Galleries of Scotland artist page