Film Review: Suffragette

It has been a long time coming, but finally director Sarah Gavron (Brick Lane) and screenwriter Abi Morgan (The Iron Lady) have produced a gripping and forthright film that tackles the militant women’s suffrage movement of pre-war Britain.

Set in 1912 in the heart of London and primarily concerned with working-class women, the film centres on the life of fictional character Maud Watts (Carey Mulligan). Maud spends her days working long hours under the sweltering conditions of a Bethnal Green laundry house, where she is confronted on a daily basis with sexism and misogyny. Maud’s growing sense of this inequality brings her into contact with the women’s suffrage movement. Their tactics of civil disobedience appeal to Maud, a woman forced to work just as much as her husband, but somehow still worth less. The film’s depiction of Maud’s inequality culminates in the scene in which her estranged husband puts her son up for adoption, and Maud can legally do nothing. This moment proves to her once and for all why the Suffragette movement is important.

The film offers an important insight into the lives of women who decided to campaign violently for their right to vote. Maud’s suffering is shown in a particularly horrific scene of forced feeding, an event which pricks the conscience of even the stalwart male detective following her movements. The movie’s climax is the much-debated death of Emily Davison at the King’s Derby in June 1913, which provided the Suffragette movement with a martyr and bought the plight of women’s suffrage to the forefront of British press and politics.

Mulligan gives a harrowing performance, alongside a cast of spectacular actors including Anne-Marie Duff, Helena Bonham Carter, Romola Garai and a small, but crucial, appearance by Meryl Streep as the movement’s leader, Emmeline Pankhurst. The female-heavy cast are strong but the male characters remain largely one dimensional and undeveloped, existing primarily as husbands and police officers, antagonists for the women to struggle against. Even Bonham Carter’s supportive husband ends up locking her up at home, concerned for what participation in the violence is doing to her health. This is perhaps due to a casting problem: the director admitted finding male actors to fill the roles was difficult, since the male parts were relatively small compared to those of Mulligan and Bonham-Carter. That said, Meryl Streep had nothing but enthusiasm for her part in the film, however small. Nevertheless this film has a larger goal in mind than just its artistic success.

Sisters Uncut, an activist organisation that protests the cuts to domestic violence services in the UK, raided the red carpet at the London premiere of the film in early October to demonstrate that women are still discriminated against daily in this country. Similarly there are still sixty-two million women worldwide who do not have access to an education and there are still more countries where women do not have suffrage than those in which they do. This film is a stark reminder that women had to fight bitterly and lose much for their basic human rights – rights which many today take for granted – to achieve the vote and that there is still a long way to go.

Film Review: Macbeth

Macbeth film review

Justin Kurzel’s new adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a visual, visceral force. This is a dynamic, mighty Macbetha film that deftly juxtaposes terror with tranquillity.

Violence, war and murder play out on screen, yet Scotland’s rolling, majestic crags, valleys, and mountains remain unmoved. Through this striking backdrop, Kurzel accentuates the contrast between the transience of human life – which changes, deviates, inwardly implodes – with the eternity of the natural word, synonymous with the divine and ethereal.

These visuals are so stunning that, in another film, they would threaten to steal all the thunder. Not so here: Macbeth is a movie buoyed by a tour-de-force, a career-defining performance from Michael Fassbender as the eponymous Scottish king. Fassbender is devastating throughout: from the first shot of Macbeth’s heartbreak as he buries his dead child, to his war-torn, ravaged face on the battlefield, to his transformation into a wrathful, regretful murderer.

As Lady Macbeth, one of Shakespeare’s most iconic and most difficult roles, Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard is Fassbender’s more than worthy co-star. Even more ambitious, malevolent and scheming than her husband, it is Lady Macbeth’s encouragement that drives Macbeth forward into the darkness. Cotillard is magnificent here, simultaneously calculating and vulnerable, plagued both by heartbreak and unstoppable ambition. Her expressive face conveys a multitude of mixed feelings and her inevitable death feels a true tragedy.

The film is a fast-paced, evocative concoction of drama, emotion and visual potency that will appeal to Shakespeare buffs and newbies alike. The only criticism that could be levied at this Macbeth is the authentic combination of Scottish accents and Shakespearean language occasionally makes the dialogue hard to follow. Fortunately, the standout visuals and impressive acting ensure meaning is always conveyed. Jed Kurzel’s score also impressively communicates meaning and deserves plaudits – it is intoxicatingly effective.

The cinematography and classic themes of death, romance, ambition and tragedy give Macbeth a truly epic feel. Kurzel is aware that a true epic contains moments of tranquillity. Some of the film’s most memorable scenes are wordless and silent; as when a single tear runs down Macbeth’s face, or the expressions of pure terror as a family come face-to-face with death. Kurzel’s Macbeth remains loyal to Shakespeare’s original vision: any deviations and additions are considered and worthy.

The film is rounded out by a noteworthy supporting cast. The usurped, doomed King of Scotland is played with regal power by David Thewlis. Meanwhile, as Macbeth’s avenger Macduff, Sean Harris conveys loss, anger and heartbreak with poignancy and veracity. Jack Reynor (A Royal Night Out, Transformers: Age of Extinction) plays King Duncan’s son, Malcolm, the rightful heir to the Scottish throne, establishing himself as a rising star to watch.

Simultaneously faithful to Shakespeare’s original and the spirit of the Scottish play, Macbeth is one of the most cinematically striking movies of the year. As the credits roll amidst shots of the Scottish hills, you’ll find yourself catching your breath and desperate to watch this movie again.

Image: The Independent

Film Review: Woman in Gold

Woman in Gold review

A dodgy Austrian accent, an unlikely partnership and an important message are the underlying elements of director Simon Curtis’ latest film Woman in Gold. The film tells the story of Maria Altmann (Helen Mirren), an elderly Jewish refugee from Vienna living in Los Angeles. Alexi Kaye Campbell’s screenplay chronicles Maria’s struggle to successfully reclaim Gustav Klimt’s portrait of her aunt Adele Bloch-Bauer, the so-called ‘Woman in Gold’. This painting had been stolen by the Nazis some 60 years earlier. With the help of lawyer Randy Schoenberg (Ryan Reynolds) the pair go on to eventually sue the Austrian government, taking their right to do so all the way to the Supreme Court.

Despite Helen Mirren’s unconvincing Austrian accent and the often forced humour between the lead characters, what really gives the film its sense of gravity is the flashback scenes which are interspersed throughout the main action. It is through these scenes that Curtis injects the real sense of terror faced by Maria Altmann and her family at the beginning of Nazi occupation in Austria. This sense of fear is compounded by Martin Phipps and Hans Zimmer’s stunning original score. Additionally, Allan Corduner’s performance as Maria’s father, Gustav, is highly poignant. Gustav refuses to allow his daily life to be shattered by the Nazi occupation and determinedly continues his cello practice against the backdrop of such chaos and fear.

It is when Randy Schoenberg convinces Maria to travel back to Austria that we learn that not only did the Nazis steal her aunt’s portrait, but they also stole her identity as Adele Bloch-Bauer, reducing her to merely a ‘Woman in Gold’. Therefore, this portrait becomes a symbol for the Nazi attempt to eradicate the Jewish community from history. Mirren’s character explains her motives in pursuing her case, arguing that ‘people forget you see, especially the young’. Maria here articulates the crux of Campbell’s screenplay: it is necessary to keep the memory alive. Not only must we remember the lives of the Jewish community from before the war but we also must remember the memories of the atrocities committed by the Nazis, to ensure that history does not repeat itself.

The closing scene of the film, in which Maria Altmann visits her childhood apartment, feels somewhat contrived. Curtis blends the two worlds he has created as Maria steps through each room of her home, interacting with her family and friends of a time gone by. Whilst this is certainly an emotive concept, it fails to be convincing in its execution. In the final montage we see Maria come face to face once more with her aunt, illuminated against the backdrop of the ‘Woman in Gold’. What Campbell’s script makes clear, despite the flaws in its portrayal, is that with an estimated 100,000 artworks still not restored to their rightful owners, the persecution faced by the Jewish community must never be forgotten.

A History of British Immigration Policy: Constructing the ‘Enemy Within’

‘I tried to get into a lifeboat, but, when it was launched, it was nearly empty, and soon the stream and waves pushed it far. The other lifeboats were already far away.  Many people had jumped into the sea and a good deal of them had already died. When I realised… that there was not much time left, I got down calmly into the sea, and swam away from the ship, which was quickly sinking.  She had turned on the right side, her bow was submerged, people were on the decks poured into the sea, and all of a sudden she sank with a terrible noise.  The sea was covered with oil… with wrecks, and pieces of wood.’

One would be forgiven for mistaking this as a contemporary news account of a tragic event in the Mediterranean Sea. Instead, these are the words of a passenger on the SS Arandora Star, sunk by a German U-Boat off the coast of Ireland in July 1940. There are strong parallels between this event and the growing list of contemporary disasters in the Mediterranean. One particularly interesting parallel is that the sinking of the Arandora Star resulted in a sudden about-face of British public opinion on government policy, comparable to the recent shift in public perception of refugees following the multiple disasters in the Mediterranean Sea. In the context of what seemed to be an imminent German invasion from the spring of 1940, widespread paranoia began to frame the approximately 20,000 German nationals residing in Britain as an infiltrating ‘fifth column’ undermining the British state. The government began a policy of interning the bulk of this population, sometimes resulting in deportation. However, pressured by the outcry following the Arandora Star’s sinking, the British government was forced to retract this policy and within a year most interned foreign nationals had been released. This could be partly attributed to the fact that the sense of crisis had diminished by 1941, due to Britain’s air superiority over the German Luftwaffe, but it is unlikely the government would have acted as swiftly without popular pressure forcing its hand.

This is an example of compassionate public opinion influencing government policy, but it remains a notable exception in a history of British immigration policy marked by extreme treatment of those labelled ‘outsiders’. Anti-outsider sentiment has been fuelled by political and media rhetoric characterising a specific group as ‘un-British’ or representing foreign values, which in turn has fuelled waves of ever-harsher policies towards them.

The targets have changed over time: whereas Irish and Lithuanian immigrants suffered most from this characterisation in the early nineteenth century, Britain’s Jews were turned on in the 1930s. Today it is Muslims who bear the brunt of most anti-migrant rhetoric. The government views immigration legislation as an effective scapegoat for the country’s problems, particularly during a period of economic crisis; it is no coincidence that anti-migrant sentiment flared up throughout the Long Depression of the 1870s, the Great Depression of the 1930s and the recent global financial crisis.

Only a skim over British legislation on immigration is needed to appreciate the relationship between public paranoia and government policy. The 1905 Aliens Act empowered immigration officers to exclude ‘undesirables’, such as the poor or the mentally ill; the 1914 Aliens Restriction Act allowed for the deportation of people fleeing religious persecution; the 1920 Aliens Order granted the Home Secretary power to deport anyone ‘not conducive to the public good’, and there was authorisation for widespread internment and deportation during both world wars. The post-war years of growth and prosperity are marked by their lack of mainstream anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy, but this lasted exactly as long as the feeling of economic security. With the economic shocks of the late twentieth century came renewed anti-immigration sentiment: the 1971 British Nationality Act, restricting the right of Commonwealth citizens to reside in the UK; the 1988 Immigration Act ensuring fast-track deportations; the UK Borders Act 2007, giving immigration officers police-like powers; and so on. There is not space in this article to give a full list. Worth noting is the increasing rate of such legislation, with six major Acts during the last Labour government alone.

Detaining non-British nationals became accepted policy during the world wars. Similar detention during peacetime had been codified in law since 1920, but it was only following the 1971 Immigration Act that it became commonplace to temporarily detain immigrants and asylum seekers until their status was confirmed. By the 1990s this had become a key feature of the UK’s border policy, now including purpose-built internment facilities. Anti-terror legislation passed in the aftermath of 9/11 has furthered this trend, removing any detention time limit. Jean-Claude Paye has argued that this constitutes the end of habeas corpus, the right of a detained individual for their detention to be examined by a court of law. That such a long-established tradition has gradually been overturned over the last century with virtually no public outcry indicates the popular enthusiasm for controlling ‘the enemy within’ at any cost.

The history of British immigration policy is not uplifting reading, but exceptional instances of compassion, such as in the aftermath of Arandora Star or the recent shift in public perception of refugees, are positive signs that we can build on. This compassionate energy needs to create long-term change in immigration and asylum policy, but we cannot forget that there are people affected by our system right now, who need support. Take a look at the ‘Refugees Welcome in the UK’ Facebook page to see all the different ways you can help right now, whether by donating your time, money or old clothes, or by pressuring your MPs to do better.

Zimbabwe: An English-Indian Summer in the Southern African Winter

Zimbabwe, May 2015. Winter in Southern Africa. You might think it an odd subject for a magazine that focuses on the past, but this very much suggests the present. Does it not? Let me come directly to my point: Zimbabwe is a relic. Zimbabwe is history. This sounds blunt, brutalist even. A condemnation. I don’t see it like that. Zimbabwe is a country imbued by the weight of its colossal history and the result is a country that is a misnomer. African, yet European. The result can best be described as being like England on acid.

Zimbabwe has a tranquillity and faded charm that is akin to a sleepy English Sunday afternoon at the very end of an exceptionally sublime Indian summer. Afternoon tea is a relic that, in the archaic Harare and Bulawayo Clubs’ members’ lounges, is still taken as an institution. Walking down Leopold Takawira Avenue in Bulawayo, one cannot but fail to notice that the Christmas lights are still most definitely ‘up’. Whether this is from the previous year’s festivities or those of 1981 never became clear. Their unbroken, optimistic message of good cheer felt like a collective shrug of the shoulders.

People carry on. The crash of 2008 that saw the perhaps ironic use of the US dollar as local currency has fostered a resilient resignation amongst Zimbabweans. An informal economy of market stall traders flourishes. At the dead of night in the desolate mining town Thomson Junction, I met a shunter from the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) who had not been paid in ten months. He is not unique.

The NRZ is certainly going through a rough patch. If the government newspapers are to be believed, the NRZ crumbles. Most of the rolling stock is so old and historically uncared for that in the windows and the mirrors and the light fittings the old ‘RR’ monogram of Rhodesia Railways languishes. This is the colonial entity that created the famous Victoria Falls hotel, whose golden summer is still the much-celebrated Royal Tour of 1947.

But what does the government think of the RR? It could be that no one has ever paid any attention. In Britain, trains still go about with ‘BR’ (British Railways) stamped on them conspicuously – but Britain did not fight a bitter war of liberation from a white minority government. Suddenly the nostalgia group ‘Bring Back British Railways’ and all its Corbynite leanings looks much more innocuous. ‘RR,’ unlocked a time capsule of half remembered jingoistic colonial adventure. Half remembered, because the restaurant cars don’t seem to get the concept of food on the move. Beer, biscuits and fags are what the NRZ restaurant cars sell, and cigarettes, despite the no smoking signs – although I expect them to be another leftover from the RR. Just one example of the topsy-turvy, Alice in Wonderlandworld.

Zimbabwe is a country that walks shackled by its history. I am inclined less to blame than to appreciate this. A window into a bygone colonial world is offered. The pomp of the Royal Tour of 1947 does this deliberately. The NRZ achieves this accidentally. The people struggle, but they do not fall down. The country continues to pirouette through the Indian Summer.

Image: Jason Wharam

Theatre Review: Waiting for Godot

The Edinburgh Royal Lyceum Theatre’s production of Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot is a triumph, and a fitting celebration of two anniversaries: 60 years since the play’s original production, and 50 years since the Lyceum’s own debut.

Beckett’s existentialist tragicomedy, set against the evening backdrop of only a country road and a tree, follows Estragon (Bill Paterson) and Vladimir (Brian Cox) as they contemplate life while waiting for the mysterious Mr Godot to arrive. The play is cosmetically barren and linguistically repetitive, but deliberately so, and the Lyceum’s production does an excellent job of portraying the terror that lies behind the tranquillity of this landscape.

Though it seems odd to praise stage design in a play where the only guidance on this is ‘A country road. A tree. Evening’, Designer Michael Taylor’s clever usage of a covert ramp makes the abyss that is the play’s setting appear to stretch on endlessly. When this is combined with Lighting Effects Designer Mark Doubleday’s very gradual shifts in lighting, the effect is to reproduce in the audience the characters’ sense that this is a world in which the laws governing time and space have somehow been subverted, and the production is stronger for it.

Also deserving of praise is the costume design. Vladimir and Estragon’s shabby vaudeville actor suits stand in stark contrast to the aristocratic garb of Pozzo (John Bett) and his mackintosh-wearing slave Lucky (Benny Young). This reinforces the play’s classism, which itself feeds into the existential terror about identity and human agency, or the lack thereof, in the play’s world.

Standout among the cast of this production is Brian Cox’s Vladimir. Unsurprisingly to anyone familiar with his work, Cox handles his character’s comic and tragic extremes with subtlety and panache, and the result is a performance that elicits both laughter and pity. Cox’s rendering of Beckett’s lines is so natural that audience members might be fooled into thinking that he is ad-libbing, though this never occurs in the production. Paterson’s Estragon is similarly virtuoso though his timing did sometimes seem slightly off, somewhat breaking the flow of the play’s frequent sections of stichomythia. Pozzo and Lucky are also rendered as a suitably Hegelian duo by Bett and Young. Bett is convincing as both the Pozzo that acts as Lucky’s master and his slave, and Young portrays the extremes of Lucky’s stoicism and emotional outbursts with great gusto.

Overall Mark Thomson’s direction has produced a faithful and enjoyable production of Godot, and one destined to leave audiences pondering the question that Estragon poses at the start of the second act: ‘What do we do, now that we are happy?’

Image: Marko Milosevic

Book Review: All Quite on the Western Front

The centenary of the First World War hangs over the next few years. This anniversary is prompting new academic writing, literature, television and radio, which reflect on the war and the impact it has on us today. Whilst all these mediums shed light on the events of those dreadful four years and their aftermath, it is important to revisit the sources of the time to unearth the realities of the war, and the experiences of those directly involved.

All Quiet on the Western Front, was published in 1928 and is based on the frontline experiences of its author, Erich Maria Remarque. He was conscripted into the German army in 1917 at the age of eighteen. The text was extremely popular when first published, selling over one and a half million copies in 1929. It was also made into an Academy Award winning film in 1930. The novel is a fascinating source that presents the perspective that most British readers are least familiar with – that of the ‘enemy’, the Germans. Remarque begins the novel with a disclaimer of sorts:

This book is to be neither an accusation nor a confession, and least of all an adventure, for death is not an adventure… It will try simply to tell of a generation of men who, even though they may have escaped shells, were destroyed by the war.

The text professes the confusing juxtaposition of the extremes of quasi-modern warfare: utter boredom and constant fear of a violent and painful death. The men go from endlessly waiting, smoking, talking and killing millions of lice, to being pushed over the top straight into hand-to-hand combat, fighting to the death with men who mirror them in almost every way apart from their language. Through the exploration of these poles of warfare, the novel encapsulates both terror and tranquillity.

Images in the text veer violently between those of beauty, nature and camaraderie, and those of death, destruction and the immense pity of war. Any reader, at any point in this novel’s existence, will be aware that the Germans lost and were blamed for the war; the allies are seen as the heroes and the Germans generally as a homogenised evil invader. However, All Quiet undermines this by unbinding the blur of ‘evil’ German soldiers into individuals with same hopes, dreams and extreme fear as the opposing armies’. Remarque detaches the common soldiers from those giving the orders, adding perspective and allowing the reader to engage in both sides of the story.

Like much of the literature of the war, All Quiet captures the futility and unpredictability of the conflict. Characters you have got to know through the course of the text are suddenly dead, wounded, or gassed, torn from your imagination as those whom they represent were torn from reality a hundred years ago. Its stark depiction of war made it a censored and publicly burned book following the Nazi’s rise to power in 1933. Nevertheless, it has survived the test of time and still resonates with modern readers. It is a staple of war literature and will remain in the historical literary cannon, I hope, for years to come.

Image: Amanda Slater

Holland: The Glorious Days of ‘Tulip Mania’

Earlier this year, on a warm April morning, I boarded a bus heading out of Amsterdam to the small town of Lisse, south east of the city. Like thousands of tourists and locals alike, I had been drawn in by the promise of a true spectaclem – the annual flowering of the Tulip bulbs in the Keukenhof. This ornamental garden boasts 32 hectares of tulip displays, with a whopping seven million individual plants, having been opened in 1949 by the Mayor of Lisse, in order to both celebrate the beautiful bloom and assist the Dutch flower market. It was not hard to understand how the tulip has become almost synonymous with the country, and held a special place in its economy for hundreds of years. Holland is currently the world’s largest exporter of flowers and, indeed, flower markets can be seen dotted alongside the canals in every major Dutch city.

However, the idyllic image of these Dutch flower markets hides a fascinating history. The tulip, despite its associations with the Dutch capital, is not in fact native to the country or to Western Europe at all. It was first introduced to the region in the late sixteenth century. Flemish botanist Carolus Clusius is credited with the first flowerings in the Netherlands in the city of Leiden in 1594. The flowers were greeted with such enthusiasm that prices soared, in an event that became known as ‘Tulip Mania’. Nineteenth century British journalist Charles Mackay, in the seminal book on the event, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds claimed that at one point, twelve hectares of land, or the value of a year’s wages for a Dutch merchant, were offered for a single bulb.

In Golden Age Holland, newly independent from the rule of Spain in 1581 and buoyed by success in East Indies trade, the tulips became a symbol of status and identity; ornamental gardens became a display of the affluence for Dutch merchants. Demand existed in particular for rare tulips that showed streaked and multi-coloured petals, the result of a mosaic virus affecting the plant.  The tulip plant tends to take around a decade to flower from seed, and those affected by virus can take even longer. When the bubble crashed, almost overnight, in February 1637, most bulbs had not reached maturity, and traders lost fortunes never having laid eyes on the beautiful petals.

Thanks to Mackay’s account, ‘Tulip Mania’ has entered the lexicon to refer to any speculative boom based on market irrationality. However, modern economic historians have called Mackay’s account into question. In a 2007 study, Anne Goldgar examined contracts that had been drawn up in the tulip trade and suggested that the bubble had not in fact affected the entire Dutch economy, but was limited to a small number of already wealthy individuals, for whom the dip in prices did not result in complete ruination. The Dutch government was also about to introduce a law that stated that those who had bought the rights to buy investments, such as tulip bulbs, were not legally required to follow through with this purchase if the market did not remain favourable, meaning tulip investments were actually low risk.

Regardless of the reality of the event, or the debate that continues amongst historians, the story of ‘Tulip Mania’ survives. Even today, walking through the flower beds at the Keukenhof, catching a glimpse of the tulips in their sudden yet brief season, you can still feel the pull of these beautiful flowers, and feel yourself catching a little ‘Tulip Mania’.

Image: Luke Price

Photography: A Victorian Sensation at the National Museum of Scotland

‘Meet the pioneers of photography and discover how the Victorian craze for the photograph transformed the way we capture images today and mirrors our own modern-day fascination for recording the world around us.’

This summary attached to Photography: A Victorian Sensation’s website says it all. The exhibition tackles several aspects of the photography’s development in the nineteenth century, from the scientific to the social, whilst holding true to this main theme. Its organisers have sought to penetrate what it sees as the falsely tranquil demeanour of the subjects of Victorian photography, to reveal what lies beneath: a near equivalent of today’s ‘selfie’ culture, and a Victorian public enthralled by this new way of looking at themselves. In the humble opinion of one who cavorted through its halls in a top hat, they have done it successfully.

The exhibition winds its way through the second floor of the National Museum of Scotland, following the careers of British photography’s founding fathers, whilst also highlighting the commercial side of the sensational invention. As the daughter of impoverished inventor Frederick Scott Archer tells the visitor via video, it was not uncommon to fall victim to the so-called ‘Victorian Craze’. The walls are lined with case upon case of photographs, thousands of small insights into the personal worlds of their subjects. My favourite was one deliberately stained with colour: two small girls with striking blue dresses sitting on their mother’s lap. A particularly evocative comment on it all is a colour lithograph depicting the mania that ensued in Paris when a do-it-yourself camera first became available to buy, the aptly named ‘La Daguerréotypomanie’, created by Theodore Maurrisset in 1839. These were more than just pictures: they were art, cherished by those whom they were made for because the images were simply so miraculous. Tell that to those arguing today that selfie culture is vapid and inconsequential.

True to form, we are of course made aware of the Scottish context of photography’s development. Many early photographers went to Scotland to practice and refine their craft, and the city was a hub of photography studios, one of which appears in an engraving of a view across Edinburgh by artist Joseph Woodfall Ebsworth. Small figures can be seen shivering in front of a camera on the rooftop of photographer James Howie’s studio. Pale early photographs of well-known city sights are also shown across the exhibition, making sure to remind us exactly where we are and what delights Scotland has to offer.

The exhibit also has plenty of interactive opportunities, which are equally as fascinating to adults as they must be for children. There is a chance to snap a photo in the crowds of the 1851 Great Exhibition, become Victorians in a photo studio, and experience the wonder of stereographic 3D images. Indeed, reaching the end of the exhibit, the selfie parallels are made explicit. After ending in 1889 with the Kodak slogan ‘you push the button, we do the rest’, you are met with interactive screens set up for you to snap your final moments in the exhibition.

Photography: A Victorian Sensation ran at the National Museum of Scotland from 19th June 2015 to 22nd November 2015.

Image: Paul Townsend