Dr David Eustace is a fine art photographer and director. He is known for his art based portfolios and comment. His photographs are included in the National Galleries of Scotland collection. He currently serves as the Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University.
I sat in a friend’s home thinking how elegant and contemporary it was whilst retaining many of the building’s original, traditional features. From a distance this 150 year-old building may seem reflective of another age, but on closer inspection, and in reality its heart was as new as the life it houses. It was once the home of David Octavius Hill.
Likewise, when I look at the work of David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson I don’t see old photographs, more so fresh, pioneering contemporary celebrations. They may at first appear as relics of yesteryear faded by the obvious passing of time, yet their heart and spirit goes beyond the surface.
These two gentlemen were brought together by chaos, fate or whatever one wishes to call it and created a prolific amount of work in a relatively short period of time. I presume full of the same excitement and enthusiasm as the digital age has presented for many today.
Hill and Adamson recognized a new dawn in communications and self-expression and embraced it.
From these photographs, the authors offer us their (and often their subject’s) sense of inquisitiveness and humour, as well as a sense of the moment. Emotions that have always existed, but rarely have we seen them prior to this work in such life like resemblance.
None of us can really pass comment on their immediate worlds, in particular Adamson’s life, other than to offer an educated guess and interpretations of written records. Today, I’m sure they’d be referred to as a “team” and most probably be working on some multimedia, cutting edge digital platform, interested equally in all that surrounded them and further afield.
They were balanced collaborators. Hill offered a strong arts foundation; full of passion and his talent as a painter. Adamson was more scientifically minded and reserved, but brought the missing link – the knowledge of the process.
It is also worth noting the importance of the time and their location. History has highlighted the mindset, events and aftermath of what has become known as the “Scottish (Age of) Enlightenment” and scientific revolution and this brought many new horizons. I suspect Hill and Adamson would most probably find it quite remarkable, if not amusing, how the groundbreaking process they regarded as revolutionary then, was now considered by some in the fine art market today as being “contemporary”.
In the work of Hill and Adamson I see new exciting photographs; I see curiosity, practicality and social commentary. They’d most likely blog today and for sure be avid Instagram users. I see a couple of guys enjoying good times with friends, be it on an adventure, as a trek to Newhaven was then, or the morning after the night before as life in Edinburgh, or anywhere else ale is served, continues still to this day. I don’t imagine their minds had too many barriers, more likely a craving for new horizons and opportunities.
It’s easy to romance Hill and Adamson and the Victorian Era, but I think that’s a little disrespectful to their craving for life. Their photographs are their celebration and privilege of it, or at least a glimpse into a short period of it, when they embraced all it had to offer. They left a wonderful insight for future a generation of events past and recorded them as real as real can be in photography.
I’m sure the last thing Hill and Adamson would have hoped for - yet of course I can only presume - is for folk to look back and only see images of yesteryear the way a stranger looks only at the exterior of a building. The outer shell rarely gives a true picture of all that’s important and of what is housed within, which is often both contemporary and reflective of the time.
These images are many things, but most importantly for me is that their spirit of adventure and love and interest in life shines through. I hope viewers take a little of that away from this wonderful exhibition.
©David Eustace 2017
This text was originally published by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
The exhibition A Perfect Chemistry | Photographs by Hill and Adamson is on at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery unil 1 October 2017.
Thoroughly enjoyed taking part in TEDx Glasgow 2017. The enthusiasm and energy from the audience and commitment from the production staff was simply fantastic. Thanks to all involved.
I decided to talk on following your passions, dreams and how it's often a very confusing and indirect path that can help us realise them. Taking that first often hesitant step and how serendipity can smile when least expected.
"WHAT IF..." hopefully offers thought, inspiration and perhaps some answers.
I'm a great believer where you come from should never hold you back from where you hope to go...and that if you care passionately about something then whilst a final result is never assured you should never fear that first step.
This lecture is based on my hopes as a 16 year old in Glasgow's East End and dreaming of a road trip adventure in a far-off distant land.
Almost 30 years later I realised that dream and created the portfolio IN SEARCH OF EUSTACE with my 16 year old daughter, Rachael. This is the events that led and connected many paths that one day saw me being given complete creative freedom to produce this body of work supported by the US retail giant Anthropologie to highlight their celebrations of artists who inspire them.
I hope you take something from this and enjoy.
"Never allow WHAT IF to become IF ONLY".
Can't believe it's over 6 years now since we made this. Great folk involved, lovely location and superb little camera. Still as fresh today...the ad that is..not me haha. When an advert isn't overtly scripted or in this case not at all...the idea was the real voice. It's all good.
"We asked the celebrated photographer DAVID EUSTACE to go and capture it, (The Old Town) in words and images."
- BAKU Magazine, Conde Nast Publications
Great to be working with Conde Nast publications again... this time for BAKU Magazine. I recently spent a lovely couple of days in BAKU, Azerbaijan focusing on cities historic “Old Town”. I wanted to celebrate details within the much photographed area and offer an insight into elements which can often get overlooked. I also met and created some portraits of local artists who live within the cities walls. Made to feel so very welcome and hoping to get the chance to head back and see more of the country. If you ever get the chance to visit BAKU make sure to allow time to visit the prizewinning and mind-blowing Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid. I’ve witnessed many incredible buildings in my time and this has to be one of them. The balance between this building and the old town, only a short taxi ride away, offers a great balance to the capitals hopes.
It’s all good.
On Friday 2nd June 2017, TEDx will welcome thought-provoking, inspirational speakers, thinkers and doers to their fifth annual event, where the theme ‘Lead or Follow‘ will be explored. Delighted to announce I’ll be one of the speakers at TEDx Glasgow. The event will be held at The SEC Armadillo in Glasgow. For details and tickets please click here.
One of my hopes when accepting the responsibility of Chancellor or Edinburgh Napier University was to help seek new ventures and inspirations. To create events to inspire not only those who trust us with some of their most precious years of their lives but as part of a forward thinking new University’s hopes to contribute to a wider audience.
With this in mind and the support of the University’s Principal and University Board I launched ‘The Chancellor Talk Series” in 2016 with the hope to bring to Scotland those at the very pinnacle of their profession, who are highly regarded on an international level.
We’ve aimed to bring the best of the best for others to hear and be inspired by, therefore I’m absolutely delighted to announce our next guest will be Ann Daniels. As a single mother with young triplets and no outdoor experience Ann dared to dream big and in responding to a newspaper article was selected as part of the first all women expedition to the North Pole. Ann’s story is truly inspirational and I hope you’ll join us on the 17th May.
If your company is interested in supporting these talks then please drop me an email as I’d love to chat.
I was recently asked by Scottish Ballet to “create a visual statement” to launch their digital season. Given creative freedom I decided to write and direct a short film based on a poem by Paul Laurence Dunbar. I’ve titled this film “WHAT DREAMS WE HAVE" and you can watch it here on my website.
Such projects only come to life when many come together with a single common hope... to create a unique and bold narrative. I’m grateful to all who contributed and delighted for Scottish Ballet to see it launch on the incredibly influential NOWNESS channel as one of their “Picks”.