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Fisher Lassies (Newhaven)Enlarge image

Fisher Lassies (Newhaven), c. 1843-1847

David Octavius Hill; Robert Adamson
British, 1821 - 1848
salted paper print
20 x 14.5 cm
Purchased 1977
National Gallery of Canada (no. 31162)

portrait, double, females, exterior;
Documenting the inhabitants of Newhaven, a fishing port near Edinburgh, was one of the most significant accomplishments of D. O. Hill and Robert Adamson. With their handmade creels and striped garb, these fisherwives are "types" of the sort one would expect from genre paintings. Yet the truthfulness and specificity of photography preserve the fact that they are real individuals. The shallow depth of field and long exposure time (perhaps a minute) blur the background, depicting a world of turmoil surrounding private strength. The title reflects the harsh realities of life on the Firth of Forth, whose tempestuous waters frequently claimed lives. According to a contemporary observation, "It's no fish ye're buying, it's men's lives."

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