Between 1868 and 1898 Thomas Annan, a leading Scottish photographer, photographed the "old and interesting landmarks" of Glasgow, where he was based. Most of the images show dark, narrow passages between slum buildings that were damp, dirty and overpopulated by the city's poor, who occasionally appear in doorways. Annan initially printed his wet-plate collodion negatives onto albumen and carbon paper but in 1900 issued them as photogravures in The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow.
Annan began his firm T. & R. Annan and Sons as a portrait studio and in 1883 purchased a license to the photogravure process from its inventor Karl Klic. The company soon became known for its high-quality printing in gravure, under the watchful eye of J. Craig Annan, an artistic photographer who went on to be a regular contributor to Camera Work, often producing his own photogravures for the journal. "The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow" is a significant record of the squalid conditions of the city at the time, but also is an outstanding example of pre-pictorialist grain gravure. The plates are sharp, rich and deep in tone, often revealing noticeable hand retouching.
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