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Retouching The Archive: Gender and Class in Early Photography in Scotland

Photography is much more than alchemy. Power and privilege were present at its very inception. The history of photography has long been constructed and reproduced in such a way that many of the living, breathing participants of its earliest period remain unknown. Principal among them are women.It is forty-five years since Linda Nochlin’s ruptural 1971 essay became a cornerstone for uncovering the institutional barriers that have shaped women’s encounters in the arts. We are only now coming to terms with how photography was gendered from its very inception. Early photographic discourse was replete with references to the female body, yet its qualification as art was secured on profoundly masculine terms (Galifot 2015). Women may have been cast as artistic, but rarely as artists in the late-Victorian era (Riches 2015). This gendering of photography, its close association with the female body, has been accompanied by the historical erasure of the agency of actual women, their hands, their thinking and self-activity that helped shape the medium through its fin de siècle phase. This PhD by project will explore the history of women in early photographic practice in Victorian Scotland, from female factory workers, ‘fillers’, at the George Washington Wilson and Co. in Aberdeen, to the unknown women in Hill and Adamson’s studio at ‘Rock House’ in Edinburgh. In doing so, it will also offer a creative response that explores the implications of this history for the discipline today. The PhD will take the form of a dialogue between archive and image; empirical research and studio practice.

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  • technē AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership


More about Caroline

Caroline Douglas is an artist working with photography and moving image. Her PhD by Project looks at the gendering of photography since its invention. Driven by the archival, haptic and optic, she focusses on the role of women in early Scottish photography. This work incorporates a range of photographic collections and archives, including; the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, the University of Glasgow, and the University of St Andrews.

She is part of the steering committee for the School of Art and Humanities Open Research Network Speaking of Her and on the Advisory Board for the RSE Network Women Make Cities. In 2019 she co-organised Speaking With- a one-day event exploring voicing historical subjectivity at the Royal College of Art. She is a contributor to Photomonitor, and has worked as a tutor and lecturer at The Glasgow School of Art, Edinburgh College of Art and Edinburgh Napier University, and is also a tutor at Stills Centre for Photography.

This year she undertakes two Doctoral Training Partnership placements, one at the V&A Museum as a Cataloguer (Photographs) and the other at Collective, Edinburgh (2021).

Postgraduate Master of Fine Art (with Distinction), The Glasgow School of Art, 2010

BA (Hons) Photography, (First Class), Edinburgh College of Art, 2006

Steering Committee, Speaking of Her, RCA Open Research Network, 2019

The Facture of Research; a process-led residency enquiry into method for artist-researchers, University of Cumbria, 2018

Art and Design Studies Tutor, (Photography), Edinburgh College of Art, 2012-2017

Photography Lecturer, BA (Hons) Photography, Edinburgh Napier University, 2012-2017

International Residency, Project Fabrika, Moscow, Russia, 2011

AiR Artist in Residence, Fondazione Fotografia, Modena, Italy, 2010

MFA Postgraduate Residency, School of the Art Institute, Chicago, 2009

Re:Create Artist in Residence, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2008

BA (Hons) Exchange, Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, 2005

Andrew Wyld Support Grant (Paul Mellon Centre), 2020

Association for Art History Grant Award, 2019

Scottish Society for Art History Research Support Grant, 2019

The British Association for Victorian Studies (BAVS) Funding Grant Award, 2018

Women’s History Scotland Bursary, 2018; technē Doctoral Training Partnership, Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), 2017-2020

University of St Andrews Library Visiting Scholarship, 2017

technē Scholarship, the AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership (2017)

Chemistry of Colour, St Andrews Photography Festival, 2019

'SEND BACK THE MONEY!' An Evening With Frederick Douglass, Organised by Dr. Hannah-Rose Murray and Dr. Arun Sood, The Jam House Edinburgh, 2018

FLIGHT MODE, Royal College of Art Group Show, Asylum, Peckham - Group Show, 2018

Documents, Lumen Studios, The Crypt, Bethnal Green - Group Show, 2018

Flash Forward 2016, Magenta Publishing for the Arts, Toronto - Group Show, 2016

BPF OPEN16 Showcase & Moving Image Showreel, Brighton Photo Fringe, 2016

Thingness, Künstlerhaus, Dortmund, Germany - Group Show, 2016

Mount Florida Screenings 01, Mount Florida Studios, Glasgow - Screening, 2016

Evidence, FORMAT International Photography Festival, Quad, Derby - Group Show, 2015

Zero Hours Creativity, Edinburgh Art Fair, Represented by Stills Gallery - Group Show, 2015

An Attendant’s Portrait: A One-Day Installation at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 2013

Mémoire Involontaire, Columbia University School of the Arts, New York - Group Show, 2012

9th International Helen Keller Award, Glasgow Caledonian University - Group Show, 2011

Reflection: Contemporary Visual Arts and Crafts in Edinburgh, City Art Centre - Group Show, 2012

Everything that comes before us, Project Fabrika, Moscow - Solo Show, 2011

Transience, Photography Open Salon, Arles at Gallerie Huit, Arles - Group Show, 2011

New Work Scotland Programme Annual Showreel, Collective Gallery, Edinburgh - Screening, 2010

'Frederick Douglass: Witness to Early Scottish Photography', National Galleries of Scotland Blog, 2021

'Postpartum: Unlearning Conception and Photography', CARE(less), MA BIBLIOTHÈQUE, 2021

'Pictures and progress? Frederick Douglass and early Scottish photography', V&A Blog, 2021

'Sonsy Fishwives: Gender and Class in Early Scottish Photography', Studies in Photography (Spring), 2021

'A Conversation: Tait / Maxwell', PROVA, the annual RCA Humanities Research Forum Journal, Issue 5, 2020, Royal College of Art

'Conceiving Reproduction', PROVA, the annual RCA Humanities Research Forum Journal, Issue 4, 2018, Royal College of Art

Symposium Co-Organiser, Speaking With- voicing historical subjectivity, with Marita Fraser, Royal College of Art, 2019

Cloths of Gold and Experiments on Light, Colour Fever, V&A | 2021

Ways of Seeing, Second Morton Photography Symposium, Glasgow Women's Library | 2020

Where Are The Women?, Friday Night Mixer, Scottish National Portrait Gallery | 2019

Extraordinary Creative Summer Session, The Women’s Studies Group 1558-1837 | 2019

Afterlife of the Object, European Summer School, University of Copenhagen | 2019

Spectre of a Woman, DRN Summer Symposium, Paul Mellon Centre, London | 2019

Newhaven Madonna, Say Something Back, Merton College, Oxford | 2019

Women, Work and Commerce in the Creative Industries, Britain 1750 – 1950’, V&A | 2019

Pickling, capturing and collecting, History of Art, University of St Andrews | 2018

Visiting Scholar Talk, Martyrs Kirk Research Library, St Andrews | 2017