100 years of Scottish photography displayed at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Scotland's Photograph Album: the MacKinnon Collection

More than 100 selected photographs from the MacKinnon collection are being displayed at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery starting on Saturday 16 November.

Around 14,000 images dating from the 1840s to the 1940s were collected over 20 years by Murray MacKinnon, a photography lover and pharmacist from Aberdeen.

Officers of the 71st Highlanders, 1856, Roger Fenton

Murray MacKinnon, the collector, said: “The collection covers the day-to-day lives of Scottish people both rich and poor, the work they carried out including fishing and farming, in order to survive, and their social life including sport and leisure. These were turbulent times with industrialisation, shipbuilding, new forms of transport, the social upheaval caused by the First World War in Europe and the Boer War in South Africa.” 

This collection shows a century of innovation and transformation in Scotland, and covers a wide range of subjects, such as working life, family portraits, sports, mountains and monuments.

Sir John Leighton, the Director General of the National Galleries of Scotland, said: “Scotland’s Photograph Album: The MacKinnon Collection allows audiences the chance to be transported back to a century of change and growth. It is not only a fascinating look at historical Scottish life that sits just on the edge of living memory, but also an important showcase of the innovative progression of photography in Scotland.”

The exhibition features the work of many of the pioneers of photography, such as William Henry Fox Talbot, David Octavius Hill and Robert Adamson, Roger Fenton, and George Washington Wilson.

Forth Bridge, 1888, George Washington Wilson

Jackie Cromarty, the Associate Director of External Relations of the National Library, said: “These incredible photographs actually help you feel as though you are stepping back in time. The immediacy and the impact of looking at a historic photograph is undeniable. Looking into the face of a person who lived 100 years ago, or seeing a place where your grandparents or your great grandparents lived, is the closest to time travel we can get, and it is incredibly moving and inspiring to experience.”

This collection was jointly acquired a year ago by the National Galleries and the National Library with the assistance of the the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Art Fund.

The National Library of Scotland is also displaying photographs from the MacKinnon Collection until 15 February 2020.

Blake Milteer, the curator of the collection said: “The MacKinnon Collection will be shared in perpetuity by both the National Galleries of Scotland and the National Library of Scotland. This partnership is an ambitious commitment proceeding from our assuredness that the MacKinnon Collection’s content and quality are – and will remain – relevant to our communities as well as within the existing and growing collections of both NGS and the National Library.”

Jackie Cromarty added: “We hope these photographs will work in tandem with other collections at the library to act as an even richer memory source for our users and visitors – and so the collection will really add to the ways in which we can help people to engage with their heritage.” 

The exhibition at the National Gallery will run until 16 February 2020.