Hill and Adamson (David Octavius Hill [1802-70] and Robert Adamson [1821-48]) made a number of portraits where the figures are dressed in costumes. This reflected the mid-nineteenth century interest in the culture and customs of lands different from their own. In the spring of 1843 the Edinburgh Evening Courant reported on two fancy dress balls featuring examples of Afghan clothing. The photographers seem to be capitalizing on this subject with their full-length portrait of two Europeans portraying Afghans carrying various weapons.
Denied a recognizable location and prevented from identifying the models due to the chain mail hoods that obscure their faces, the viewer is left only with details of the costumes. This apparent vagueness is in keeping with the traditional representation of foreign individuals as the mysterious "other." This image looks ahead to the work of Roger Fenton (1819-69), who in the summer of 1858 made studies of Europeans dressed in Middle Eastern-style costumes.
Adapted from Anne M. Lyden. Hill and Adamson, In Focus: Photographs from the J. Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1999), 22. ©1999, J. Paul Getty Museum.