David Octavius Hill 1802 - 1870. Artist and pioneer photographerImage copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption David Octavius Hill pioneered photography from his studio in Edinburgh

More than 200 of the oldest photographs taken in Scotland are to go on display at the National Galleries of Scotland.

The influential partnership of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson lasted for less than five years before the premature death of Adamson, aged just 26.

But it produced thousands of images which are admired by photographers to this day.

Within four years of the invention of photography being announced to the world in 1839, Hill and Adamson had mastered the new medium and were producing innovative work from their studio in Edinburgh.

Robert Adamson by John AdamsonImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption A photograph of Robert Adamson taken by his brother John. Robert died at the age of 26 from tuberculo
David Octavius Hill and Professor James Miller in a photograph known as The Morning After ‘He greatly daring dined'Image copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption David Octavius Hill and Professor James Miller in a photograph known as The Morning After ‘He greatly daring dined’

A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill & Adamson is one of the biggest exhibitions of their work to be staged in recent years.

The pioneering partnership came about due to an unlikely event, the ‘Disruption’ of the Church of Scotland Assembly.

This was where 450 ministers – upset over the issue of the church’s relationship with the state – left to form the Free Church of Scotland.

Hill decided he would record the event with a painting. He was put in touch Adamson, who could take photographs of the clergymen.

Dumbarton PresbyteryImage copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption The Dumbarton Presbytery (29 March 1845) is a tightly composed group arrangement with the focus on the four men around the table, who all appear to be concerned with a document in the hand of Rev. William Alexander of Duntocher (at far left)

This would be a quick way for Hill to record a likeness of the men at this momentous meeting so he could transform them into a large painting.

Over the next four years, they took about 3,000 pictures including images of the clergymen.

The duo’s ambitions saw them quickly extend their repertoire to include portraits of Edinburgh society figures, 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.

Their partnership came to an early end when Adamson died in 1848.

Newhaven beachImage copyright Sam Drake
Image caption Hill and Adamson took many images in Newhaven, a small fishing village on the outskirts of Edinburgh
Greyfriars' Churchyard a group of monuments including the Chalmers and Jackson MonumentsImage copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Greyfriars Churchyard, with Edinburgh Castle in the background, was a popular setting for much of Hill and Adamson’s work. Photographs often show friends and family posed before tombs and headstones
The Orphan Hospital during demolition on the site of Waverley StationImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption The Orphan Hospital during demolition on the site of Waverley Station
Dr George Bell Nude Study.jpgImage copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Dr George Bell Nude Study
The High Street with John Knox's HouseImage copyright Sam Drake
Image caption The High Street in Edinburgh, with John Knox’s House
The General Assembly Hall of the Free Church during building with the Castle and the Church of Tolbooth St John in the backgroundImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption The General Assembly Hall of the Free Church during building, with the Castle and the Church of Tolbooth St John in the background
Greyfriar's Churchyard a group of monuments including the Paton and Chalmers monumentsImage copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Many of the monuments in Greyfriars Churchyard were for the early Covenanters who brought Presbyterianism to Scotland in the 16th century
The Pends Argyle Gate, St Andrews with a man and horse-drawn cartImage copyright Sam Drake
Image caption The Pends in Argyle Gate, St Andrews, with a man and horse-drawn cart
James Ballantine Dr George Bell and David Octavius Hill 1843 1847Image copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption A photograph known as Edinburgh Ale. James Ballantine, Dr George Bell and David Octavius Hill.
Jeanie Wilson and Annie LintonImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption A portrait of Jeanie Wilson and Annie Linton. One of the many pictures of the fisherfolk of Newhaven
Lady Mary Hamilton (Campbell) Ruthven 1789 - 1885. Wife of James Lord Ruthven 1843 1847Image copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Lady Mary Hamilton (Campbell) Ruthven 1789 – 1885. Wife of James, Lord Ruthven
Linlithgow from above the railway line shed and station in foreground. Town Hall St Michael's Church and Linlithgow Palace in the backgroundImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption The photographic partners travelled to Linlithgow in 1845 to record a number of sites, This one shows Linlithgow from above the railway (line shed and station in foreground. Town Hall St Michael’s Church and Linlithgow Palace in the background)
South Street St AndrewsImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Robert Adamson lived in the Fife town of St Andrews before moving to Edinburgh. He returned to the town to take photographs such as this one of South Street
St Andrews HarbourImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption A photograph of St Andrews harbour
Newhaven boy ('King Fisher' or 'His Faither's Breeks')Image copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption The men and women of Newhaven for their distinctive costumes and reputation for bravery. It helped make the fisherfolk a part of popular culture in the 19th century
Sandy (or James) Linton his boat and bairns c June 1845Image copyright Sam Drake
Image caption Hill and Adamson could not capture the boats at sea, so most of the men are portrayed beside their beached boats. This shows Sandy (or James) Linton his boat and bairns c June 1845
Sir James Young Simpson 1811 - 1870. Discoverer of chloroformImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Sir James Young Simpson 1811 – 1870. Discoverer of chloroform
Rev Dr Patrick MacfarlaneImage copyright National Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Rev. Dr Patrick Macfarlane (1781–1849) of Greenock “signing” the Deed of Demission from the Church of Scotland
Rev. Thomas ChalmersImage copyright NAtional Galleries of Scotland
Image caption Reverend Thomas Chalmers – preacher and social reformer

A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill and Adamson is being shown at the National Galleries of Scotland from 27 May to 1 October.

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