Some of Hill and Adamson's (David Octavius Hill [1802-70] and Robert Adamson [1821-48]) finest work features the men, women, and children of the small fishing village of Newhaven, Scotland, one mile north of Edinburgh. Consisting of approximately 130 images, this group of pictures may be seen as the first social documentary photographs ever made.
There was a considerable amount of interest in Newhaven in the early nineteenth century. Set against a national backdrop of social upheaval, it appeared to represent the ideal of an independent community of great moral standing. While the heroism of the common person was a popular subject in art and literature, figuring, for example, in the paintings of Sir David Wilkie (1785-1841) and the poetry of Robert Burns (1759-96), the fact that Newhaven was easily accessible from Edinburgh also played an important part in Hill and Adamson's choice of subject.
This portrait of the fisherman James Linton shows him leaning against a boat with three boys causally seated below the prow of the docked boat in casual positions. The children replace the basket and fishing net found in another Hill and Adamson image of Linton. Unable to show Linton at sea, the artists have skillfully surrounded Linton with the attributes of his job. The natural appearance of the people in the Newhaven pictures suggests that Hill and Adamson earned the trust and cooperation of the fisherfolk.
Adapted from Anne M. Lyden. Hill and Adamson, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), 72. ©1999, J. Paul Getty Museum.
For more information about the places Hill and Adamson photographed see: Hill and Adamson: Place