Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow

Exhibition Website

May 23 2017 - Aug 13 2017

During the rise of industry in 19th-century Scotland, Thomas Annan ranked as the preeminent photographer in Glasgow. Best known for his haunting images of tenements on the verge of demolition—often considered precursors of the documentary tradition in photography—he prodigiously recorded the people, the social landscape, and the built environment of Glasgow and its outskirts for more than twenty-five years. 

This exhibition is the first to survey his industrious career and legacy as photographer and printer. 

Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.

Whether you go or not, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph, offers a comprehensive and copiously illustrated overview of the full range of the photographer's work. The book opens with a brief account of the immediate context of Annan's career as a photographer: the astonishing florescence of photography in Victorian Scotland. 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. While the text itself is intended for the general reader, extensive end-notes amplify particular themes and offer guidance to readers interested in pursuing these themes further.

In the wake of Glasgow's transformation in the nineteenth-century into an industrial powerhouse, the "Second City of the Empire," a substantial part of the old town of Adam Smith degenerated into an overcrowded and disease-ridden slum. The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, Thomas Annan's photographic record of this central section of the city prior to its demolition in accordance with the City of Glasgow Improvements Act of 1866, is widely recognized as a classic of nineteenth-century documentary photography. Annan's achievement as a photographer of paintings and a portrait and landscape photographer is less widely known.  

  • Photography
  • British
  • 19th Century
  • Political / Satire / Documentary
  • Thomas Annan

Exhibition Venues & Dates