‘Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow’ in LA

LOS ANGELES – During the rise of industrialization in mid-19th century Scotland, Thomas Annan ranked as the preeminent photographer of Glasgow. For more than 25 years, he prodigiously recorded the people, the social landscape, and the built environment of the city during a period of rapid growth and change. Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow, on view May 23-August 13, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, presents the first exhibition to survey Annan’s prolific career and legacy as both a photographer and printer via his engagement with Glasgow as his photographic subject.

The exhibition includes more than 100 photographs, the majority on loan to the Getty, providing a rare opportunity to view key series by this photographer in the United States. Among the works to be featured are recently rediscovered prints Annan made at the end of his career and numerous photographically illustrated books that demonstrate technical innovations he perfected and championed.

“This exhibition is the first to explore Annan’s deep fascination with Glasgow and fully contextualize his contributions within the city’s history,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “His work effectively recorded the transformation of greater Glasgow over the course of several decades, during an era when this ‘second city of the empire’ flourished. Annan’s photographs underscore the notion of progress that dominated this era and directed urban growth in the 19th century.”

Thomas Annan, who opened his own photographic firm in Glasgow in 1857 and remained active until his death three decades later, worked at a time when the city’s population increased dramatically and industry neared its peak. Initially Annan garnered attention for work that ranged from studio portraiture and reproductions of artwork to landscapes, but he also quickly emerged as an important documentarian of Glasgow and its outskirts. Near the outset of his career, Annan was tasked with documenting the construction of a 35-mile long aqueduct—located in a picturesque wooded glen called the Trossachs—from Loch Katrine to Glasgow. His photographs reveal how this colossal feat of engineering impacted the scenic landscape of the Scottish countryside, underscoring the industrialization associated with this era in British history, as well as the somewhat tenuous relationship between man and the natural environment. Annan continued to record the development and effects of the aqueduct for more than two decades. One gallery in the exhibition explores his extensive commitment to the subject, featuring rare views from his 1859 documentation of the aqueduct scheme that will be on view for the first time since the 19th century.

Today, Annan is remembered principally for his haunting images of tenements and passageways, known as closes, slated for modification or demolition as a result of the Glasgow City Improvements Act of 1867. Considered a precursor of the social documentary tradition in photography, Annan’s Photographs of Old Closes and Streets series (1868-71) not only reveals the difficult living conditions of working-class residents of central Glasgow, but also suggests progress underway as a result of the Improvements Act. Despite challenges posed by weather, sanitation, lighting, and the labor-intensive photographic equipment/process he employed, Annan produced highly detailed, enigmatic photographs of the closes and the tenement dwellers that are testament to his technical and artistic mastery. On view will be albumen silver prints from the Old Closes and Streets series, including an original glass plate negative and publications that feature the closes.

Throughout his career, Annan photographed construction efforts, engineering works, buildings, and other subjects that related to concurrent municipal initiatives. Among the civic projects that he documented, and that will be showcased in the exhibition, are the relocation of the University of Glasgow, the re-navigation of the River Clyde and the construction of Queen’s Dock at Glasgow harbor, and the beautification of Glasgow Cathedral. He also photographed numerous country estates and houses that were demolished or repurposed as part of the outward expansion of the city and the rising industrialist class. Transformation of the built environment in Glasgow during this time largely shaped the appearance of the city as we know it today, and Annan effectively documented this evolution.

Annan is also credited for promoting various photographic processes, specifically carbon printing and photogravure, for which he owned the licensing rights within Scotland. His legacy was extended by his eldest sons, James Craig and John, who worked as photographers and managed their father’s photographic firm upon his death. While James Craig pursued fine art photography and emerged as a leading figure in the Pictorialist movement, John carved out a steady career photographing architecture and industrial machinery in Glasgow. Their discrete areas of expertise reflected their father’s myriad interests and may have constituted the division of labor at the firm as well.

“Though a pioneer in his field, Annan has remained a relatively marginalized figure in the history of photography,” says Amanda Maddox, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition seeks to highlight the breadth of his output and the extent of his contributions to the medium, which we hope will prompt further scholarship and greater appreciation for this important 19th century practitioner.”

Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow, on view May 23-August 13, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, will coincide with the presentation of Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante. Together these exhibitions represent a century of industry in Britain, from its height to its demise. A scholarly publication that shares the title of the exhibition and is focused on Thomas Annan’s photographically illustrated books about Glasgow will be released by Getty Publications in spring 2017.

Images:

Left: Piping across the Balfron Road (1859). Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829 – 1887). Albumen silver print. Image: 20.9 x 28.6 cm (8 ¼ x 11 1/4 in.); Sheet: 38 x 48.5 cm (14 15/16 x 19 1/18 in.); Mat: 40.6 x 55.9 cm (16 x 22 in.). Lent by Glasgow Life (Mitchell Library Special Collections) on behalf of Glasgow City Council. Image © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collection: The Mitchell Library, Special Collections

Right: High Street from College Open (1868 – 1871). Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829 – 1887). Albumen silver print. Image: 40.5 x 54 cm (15 15/16 x 21 1/4 in.); Mat: 50.8 x 60.9 cm (20 x 24 in.). Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. © Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal

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The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The J. Paul Getty Museum collects Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts to 1900, as well as photographs from around the world to the present day. The Museum’s mission is to display and interpret its collections, and present important loan exhibitions and publications for the enjoyment and education of visitors locally and internationally. This is supported by an active program of research, conservation, and public programs that seek to deepen our knowledge of and connection of works of art.

Visiting the Getty Center
The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Mondays, January 1, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but reduced to $10 after 3 p.m. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call (310) 440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is (310) 440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.

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‘Sun pictures and beyond’

Scotland’s pioneering role in the development of photography in the 19th century is being celebrated in a new display at the National Library of Scotland. The exhibition runs until March 26th, and entry is free.

It features one of the first ever books to be illustrated with photographs, William Henry Fox Talbot’s Sun Pictures in Scotland, published in 1845. Only 100 copies were produced and the National Library has one of the few complete copies that have survived.

 

A clean sandstone Scott monument under construction from 'Sun Pictures in Scotland'

A clean sandstone Scott monument under construction from ‘Sun Pictures in Scotland’ by William Henry Fox Talbot. 

 

Melrose Abbey, from 'Sun Pictures in Scotland' by William Henry Fox Talbot.

Melrose Abbey, from ‘Sun Pictures in Scotland’ by William Henry Fox Talbot.

 

The display, which opened on November 30, showcases examples of photographically illustrated books that followed this landmark publication in the second half of the century as photographic reproduction became simpler, quicker and more reliable. This includes work from some of Scotland’s early professional photographers such as George Washington Wilson, James Valentine, Thomas Annan and Scottish photographers abroad including William Notman and John Thomson.

Wilson and Valentine in particular followed Talbot’s lead by maximising the commercial opportunities of photography in book form, establishing successful studios in Aberdeen and Dundee. This included producing albums with original prints for tourists wishing to have souvenirs of the Scottish landscape and notable buildings. They also published illustrated books with photomechanical prints, which combined photography with existing commercial printing processes to create high quality prints on a large scale. Valentine went on to establish a globally successful business selling postcards.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Thomas and James Craig Annan became renowned for their photographically-illustrated books of architecture and fine art.

 

'Through Cyprus with a Camera, Vol 1, Cypriot Maid', by John Thomson

‘Through Cyprus with a Camera, Vol 1, Cypriot Maid’, by John Thomson

 

The display also features the work of Scots photographers abroad including John Thomson, one of the first photographers to visit the Far East. His final foreign trip was to Cyprus which resulted in a deluxe publication Through Cyprus with a camera from 1879 which can be seen in the display.

Curator Dr Graham Hogg who has produced the display said: “These books hold an important place in the history of photography and helped to establish an art form that still thrives in Scotland today. They represent only a small selection of the Library’s extensive holdings of photographically illustrated books relating to Scotland that were produced in the 19th century.”

Sun pictures and beyond: Scotland and the photographically-illustrated book 1845-1900 runs until March 26 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free.

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Thomas Annan of Glasgow

An email slipped into our Document Scotland inboxes recently which we felt would be good to share with everyone, telling us of a new book out on Thomas Annan, Scottish documentary photographer.

 

Annan

 

 

“…latest Open Access book, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph by Lionel Gossman, a study of nineteenth-century photography, urban life, and Scotland – the first account of Annan’s full achievement as a photographer.

The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, Thomas Annan’s photographic record of the slums of the city prior to their demolition in accordance with the City of Glasgow Improvements Act of 1866, is widely recognized as a classic of nineteenth-century documentary photography. However, Annan’s achievement as a photographer of paintings, portraits, and landscapes is less widely known. To repair this neglect, Thomas Annan of Glasgow offers a handy, comprehensive and copiously illustrated overview of the full range of the photographer’s work. Successive chapters deal with each of the main fields of his activity, touching along the way on issues such as the nineteenth-century debate over the status of photography — a mechanical practice or an artistic one? — and the still ongoing controversies surrounding the documentary photograph in particular.

Lionel Gossman, a native of Glasgow whose own graduation portrait was made, in 1951, at the studio of T. &. R. Annan in Sauchiehall Street, has spent his career as a teacher of literature at universities in the United States (Johns Hopkins and Princeton). Here he returns to his roots to produce a tribute to one of his city’s most talented and conscientious nineteenth-century artists. He chose to publish with the innovative Open Book Publishers so that Thomas Annan of Glasgow could be read for free online and reach the largest number of readers possible.

It is also available in interactive PDF and e-book versions.”

 

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