St Andrews Photo Festival: Robert Moyes Adam

Thursday 21 July 2016

This is the fifth post in a weekly series that highlights images featuring at the upcoming St Andrews Photography Festival, 1 August – 11 September 2016 [].

Ben Nevis with Corpach Pier. 1937 (RMA-H-5386).

Winter sunlight illuminates this magnificent landscape photograph by Robert Moyes Adam. For an instant the harshness of winter in the Highlands becomes much lighter, inviting us to a journey that starts on the boat sitting in the clear waters of the Loch and ends on the peaks of a snow covered Ben Nevis.

And yet, there is much more than the idyllic landscape. In the middle of the lake sits a pier alongside some industrial buildings. Behind the pier, on the shore of the Loch a town makes its appearance. The buildings in the foreground and the town houses are a reminder of everyday life taking place in the remoteness of the Highlands through the cold and short winter days. The entire arrangement inspires us with the awe of the natural world, and at the same time, it reminds us to contemplate our own human nature.

Robert Moyes Adam was a fine photographer and a botanist at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. His images reveal a high technical skill. He planned his photographs carefully, with a strong consideration of composition, and making use of long exposures that resulted in overall sharp images. His love of nature took him to remote areas of the Highlands where he produced some of his most significant work. Although he was mostly a landscape and nature photographer, his work also covered human life in the highlands and Scottish islands, portraying a way of life that is now vanished, most notably on St Kilda and Mingulay.

“Suppose I catalogued its wildlife and topography as a permanent record against the industrial and other changes of the future. Suppose I were to preserve for my own botanical interest the land as I see it in my lifetime…”

Robert Moyes Adam, in a 1958 interview with Jeremy Bruce-Watt.

The quality of his images made them a valued resource for use in calendars, books and articles about the Highlands. The same qualities have inspired conservationists and historians to use his images as a record of the Highlands during the first half of the twentieth century.

“Send a man out into the storm. Send him out on a fine day. The acid test lies in what he will manage to crystallise in his pictures. Can he convey the mood of the moment? Today the chances are that your man will fake it. Never believe anything in a picture unless you can practically smell it.”

Robert Moyes Adam.

A selection of photographs by Robert Moyes Adam will be on exhibition during the St Andrews Photography Festival at the Dolls House Restaurant, from 1 of August to the 11 of September.

You can view photos by Robert Moyes Adam online via our online catalogue.

Sources: Bruce Pert article on RM Adam in M. Kemp (ed), ‘Mood of the Moment – Masterworks of Photography from the University of St Andrews’, St Andrews: Crawford Arts Centre, 1994.

  1. Jackson. ‘Technical notes on the RMA Collection’ (1990).
  2. K. Hillhouse, ‘Adam, Robert Moyes (1885–1967)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004.

Ines Fonseca Ricardo
Photographic Cataloguer

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2 thoughts on "St Andrews Photo Festival: Robert Moyes Adam"

  • alexmoses
    Sunday 24 July 2016, 4.16pm

    cool picture

  • St Andrews Photo Festival:  Programme | Echoes from the Vault
    Thursday 28 July 2016, 1.24pm

    […] Robert Moyes Adam: […]


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