Burns, Archibald


Active 1858 – 80

Cowgate, Edinburgh, A. Burns, c. 1870

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Archibald Burns was a gifted amateur photographer who entered stereoscopic work in local exhibitions from 1857, garnering a favourable review from the Photographic News in 1859: “If we take these stereo-grams as a fair average specimen of his skill, he deserves to take as high a rank among photographers as his celebrated name-sake among poets”.

He opened a professional studio in 1867 on Calton Hill, Edinburgh, then moved a couple of doors up to Rock House from 1871-80. Earlier occupants were photographers Hill and Adamson, then Thomas Annan, with whom he initially may have shared studio space.

His images sometimes have dramatic skies, and in an interesting letter to the British Journal of Photography in 1863, he describes his use of a slow top-down shutter which provides shorter exposure of the sky to retain detail.

Although he also photographed the Borders and Glasgow, his best work is of Edinburgh. In 1870 he was employed to catalogue the redevelopment of the Old Town, where he admirably captured the decaying nooks and crannies in work somewhat reminiscent of Thomas Annan’s celebrated record of Glasgow’s slums.