10. Lochranza / Loch Raonasa
Listen to Gaelic translation
The village of Lochranza, in the North of Arran, takes its name from the sea loch which once made the harbour an important port for herring fishing.
On a long promontory stand the ruins of a 16th century castle, replacing a much older structure which was visited by Robert the Bruce in 1306 as he returned from Ireland to take the Scottish throne.
This quiet village has unsurprisingly been frequented by many artists, each drawn to depicting a picturesque castle in a grand highland setting. From Willam Daniell who visited in his celebrated 'Voyage Around Great Britain' in the early 1800s to the work of 'Scottish Impressionist' William McTaggart in the mid 19th century, a bustling harbour full of sailing vessels set against the high drama of the mountains of Arran has long held an appeal.
These elements are all brought together perfectly in the work of photographer Thomas Annan, who depicted the castle, harbourside and hills of Lochranza in 1860.
This early work by Annan was one which helped establish him as one of the leading photographers of his age. On viewing this image, The Royal Photographic Society commented that "...from this time forth he must rank amongst our first class artists.”
Eight years later he would create his images of the overcrowded and unhygienic slums of Glasgow. This which would lead to him becoming one of the most celebrated early documentary photographers. This was confirmed by a retrospective of his work at the Getty Museum in LA in 2017.
It was here in Arran however that his work first began to gain acclaim, with Victorian postcard photographers such as James Valentine and George Washington Wilson following in his footsteps.
Thomas Annan (1829–1887) was a Scottish photographer, notable for being the first to record the bad housing conditions of the poor. Born in Dairsie, Fife he was one of seven children of John Annan, a flax spinner.
After his initial apprenticeship as a lithographic writer and engraver at the Fife Herald in Cupar, he moved to Glasgow in 1849 and worked as a lithographer and engraver for Joseph Swan until 1855.
He set up business with George Berwick at 40 Woodlands Road, Glasgow, listing in the 1855 - 56 Glasgow post office directory as calotypists, practitioners of this early form of photography. In 1855, he photographed the ship RMS Persia, under construction on the Clyde, which was probably a commission by engineer, Robert Napier. This photograph was part of a group of images sent to the Photographic Exhibition in connection with the British Association.
After dissolving his previous partnership, he established himself in a photographic studio at 116 Sauchiehall Street during 1857. In 1859, the business moved to 200 Hope Street and he was also able to establish a printing works in Hamilton in 1863. First interested largely in architectural photography and then portraits, as well as photographing artworks and maps, in 1866 Annan photographed slum areas of the city. These images were used by Glasgow City Improvement Trust to document the overcrowded, unhygienic conditions ahead of extensive redevelopments. It was this series of photographs, created between 1868 and 1871, entitled Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, that ensured his posterity.
Annan's photographs of the Loch Katrine Waterworks were praised in the British Journal of Photography: "The views by Mr. Annan could scarcely fail to be attractive, for in a country so beautiful a clever artist is bound to produce results in keeping with the nature of the subject, and this Mr. Annan has done." Indeed, Annan's work was often praised not only for its aesthetics, but also for its technical virtuosity. Twenty years later, Annan's studio would be singled out by Baden Pritchard for its accomplishments in carbon printing and "beautiful pictures of exteriors and interiors of Scotch strongholds."
Thomas Annan purchased the rights to the photogravure process in Britain from Karel Klíč of Vienna in 1883 after visiting the city with his second son, James Craig Annan. James was a noted photogravurist and associated with late nineteenth-century art photography continued in his father's profession, receiving a Royal Warrant as 'Photographers and Photographic Engravers to Her Majesty in Glasgow'.
Thomas Annan died on 14 December 1887 at his home in Lenzie. Before his death by suicide, he had experienced a month-long period of "mental aberration".
The family business survives to the present day in the form of the Annan Fine Art Gallery, located on Woodlands Road in the West End of Glasgow.
A selection of prints from the Glasgow Improvements act 1868 series were displayed in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery from 2011 to 2012. In 2017, the Getty Museum curated an exhibition entitled Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow, the first to survey his career and legacy as photographer and printer.