These writing obsessions take us to strange places.
I thought I’d missed my chance ever to see Sun Worshippers, shown on BBC Scotland in 2002, but in a moment of enthusiasm I contacted Caledonia films who still had it in their vaults and were able to send me a copy.
I watched it last night. Billed as a drama documentary it interspersed dramatised scenes from the Hill and Adamson partnership with comments from experts and cameos of contemporary photographers engaged in portraiture, art photography and documentary. Their work in many cases bore direct comparison to that of Hill and Adamson, proposing in a fascinating and insightful way that the pair really did lay the foundations of modern photography, unless you take Lord Snowdon’s view that photography has limitations as an art form, and that in any period its subjects will tend to be the same. Either way the factual side of the film far exceeded my expectations. Its experts included Sara Stevenson, the authority on photography of the period, and there were stunning shots – old and new – of Edinburgh, Fife and St. Andrews.
As to the drama, it had its moments. But after nearly a year of intermittent research, I have constructed my own mental pictures of Hill, Adamson and co. and, perhaps not surprisingly, neither the cast nor the costumes of this production did it for me. Today I find myself still trying to erase the memory of those hats and wigs (and some disturbingly coquettish behaviour from ‘the thrice worthy Miss Mann’)so as to get back to the comfort of my own constructs. They may of course be totally wrong, but I’m not ready to give them up just yet.
Still, I shall certainly keep the DVD among my souvenirs and hope it hasn’t been entirely pointless to review a production that none of you has ever seen. If you do feel like giving it a go, I can only urge you to offer £10 to Caledonia TV – or ask me very nicely!