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Thomas Annan (1829–1887) was the preeminent photographer of Glasgow in the mid-nineteenth century, a period when the rise in industry and population dramatically altered the landscape of the “second city” of the British Empire. Often working in conjunction with civic projects, Annan produced numerous series that underscore the transformation of the city and its environs, though he remains best known for one series in particular: a group of enigmatic photographs of central Glasgow’s narrow alleys, or closes, on the verge of demolition. These haunting images, made between 1868 and 1871 and regarded as precursors of the documentary tradition in photography, represent the notion of progress that underpins much of Annan’s oeuvre.
Annan’s publication history serves as the organizing principle for this book, which considers both the breadth of his body of work as well as the multiple formats in which his photographs appeared and circulated. Featured here are seven examples— including private albums and commercial books—that focus on subjects as varied as the city’s streets and closes, the Loch Katrine aqueduct, Glasgow College, the cathedral, and the country estates of the landed gentry, highlighting Annan’s extensive engagement with the city of Glasgow. Plates from each of these works are faithfully reproduced in full color, and an introductory essay by the leading authority on Annan surveys the life and career of this widely influential photographer.