25 years of photography: Celebrating the anniversary of the national collection, National Gallery Complex, Edinburgh

4.00

Scotland's raw and wild side

It took Thomas Annan three years to take 31 photographs inside the city centre slums of Glasgow during the late 1860s. Only rarely did the pale Scottish sun provide the light he needed for his large plate camera. Conditions may have been appalling but Annan very subtly tells us that the people were not.

In Close No 101, High Street, Glasgow, a pair of trousers hangs from a washing line strapped across the street. They are tatty – there's a hole in the leg – but they are clean. It was difficult to get water in the slums yet the people are able to uphold the Victorian ideal that cleanliness is next to godliness.

The ghostly face of a young boy – his face blurred by the long exposure – peeps out from a shabby doorway. Child mortality was high, and he is a reminder of all the dead children, but there is hope for him: the street leads down towards an opening filled with light. It is an exit; there is a way out.

The photograph belongs to the Scottish National Galleries, which is celebrating the 25th anniversary of its photography collection.

Scottish photographers were there from the beginning. The earliest work in this exhibition is from around 1845 and it shows The Misses Farnie with Brownie by David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson. Two children and a puppy were not the ideal subject for these early photographers where the necessary exposure time could be three minutes. Adamson and Hill found a way to limit the exposure time but no one knows how they did it.

Iain Stewart is a contemporary Scottish photographer and his photograph Erriboll is the most recent addition to the museum's collection. It was taken at Loch Erriboll. It's a romantic landscape: raw and wild. Stewart photographed the scene during the day but the water is black and so is the sky. The landscape almost becomes abstract, an arrangement of darkness and light. It is from a series called Dark Eden and the title fits perfectly.

Stewart's interpretation of the Scottish hills is emotional, whereas Patricia Macdonald has a more scientific eye. Her photograph Castle Island and Cracking Ice, Loch Leven (1987) is an aerial shot of the castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned in 1567. Ice patterns like these are usually found only in polar regions – but 1987 was a particularly cold winter in Scotland. The photograph is a fascinating study of the movement of melting ice and the location is poignant. As Macdonald points out, poor Mary was a woman trapped in the cold politics of the time.

There are eccentric scenes from Scotland's past. The Rev D T K Drummond was a rebellious minister of the Episcopal church in Edinburgh during the 19th century. His photograph Mr Currie is of an outing to study botany in the Scottish hills. Mr Currie is in a wheelchair. It's a wonderful image of the extent of Scottish gentility and the Victorian pursuit of knowledge.

Robin Gillanders worked with Scotland's most famous artist and poet, Ian Hamilton Finlay, during the 1990s. The photograph is of a sculpture on which words have been carved in the style of an epitaph. It reads "The rowan is learning to write". It was taken at the moment when the leaves of the tree cast shadows on the base of the stone and the silhouettes are shaped like the wings of a bird. Shadows on stone become the essence of photography as painting with light.

To 19 April (0131-624 6200)

Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
Arts and Entertainment
Crowd control: institutions like New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art are packed

Art
Arts and Entertainment
Cillian Murphy stars as Tommy Shelby in Peaky Blinders

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices