In the Blink of an Eye

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David Octavius Hill*

Between 1843 and 1847, Edinburgh artist David Octavius Hill and his partner Robert Adamson, an engineer from St. Andrews, created thousands of photographic prints in a variety of styles, using  the technique invented only a few years earlier by William Henry Fox Talbot. In four dramatic years they produced some 3000 images and laid the foundations of modern photography.   Their calotype prints have been preserved in many galleries and libraries.


I stumbled on their story while writing A Kettle of Fish and  decided this would be my next project. I’m delighted to say it is now very nearly finished and will be published next year by Linen Press. 

Calton Hillrock house001_RDedited-1 (2)

In the Blink of an Eye

In the Blink of an Eye is a re-imagining of the life of  David Octavius Hill from the moment of his encounter with Robert Adamson until the day when his great Disruption Painting is unveiled. It explores the four tumultuous years of his partnership with Adamson, the hiatus resulting from the younger man’s tragic death and the story of love and redemption that brings the painting to completion twenty three years after it is begun.

In this  multi-faceted approach to biographical fiction, Ali Bacon tells the story of D. O. Hill, using the voices of ten characters, each of whom reveals a stage in the artist’s emotional journey. These narrators, mostly but not exclusively women, provide the lenses through which we see into the corners of Edinburgh society: the architect’s wife held captive in his fairytale creation; the woman who has only a calotype of her missing husband for comfort after his death; the fisherman’s wife who feels her life change in the blink of the camera’s eye.

In the words of competition judge Nick Bellorini, “These are exquisitely rendered tales which reveal their truths with all the delicate resonance of the art they celebrate.”


Image credits
*Image courtesy of Preus Museum Norway
** Thanks to Rob Douglas for this photo of Calton Hill probably taken ca 1870

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