Easdale’s World Stone Skimming Championships

Last week, the island of Easdale was in the news about a threat to a world-class sporting event held on its square mile of craggy slate anchored off the Argyll coast. Apparently the island’s owner wanted to cancel the island’s premier sporting event of the season, the World Stone Skimming Championships, for not providing a large sum of money to indemnify him against any claims leading from the event. Thankfully a  last-minute deal was brokered and so  I decided to go along and see what these elite athletes from the stone skimming world were up to.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

 

The World Stone Skimming Championships began in earnest in 1997 and were founded by the Eilean Eisdeal (The Easdale Island Community Development Group) as a fundraising event. The island’s now-abandoned slate quarry makes it the obvious place to hold a world championship in this field and after some canny marketing and healthy PR, contestants now hail from around the world and the event attracts over 300 participants.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

The rules of the World Stone Skimming Championships are rigourous. Stones must be no more than 3 inches in diameter and formed of Easdale slate. The stone must bounce no less than 3 times and skims are judged on the distance thrown rather than the number of bounces.

The competition is split into Ladies, Men, Junior Boys and Girls and Under 10s Boys and Girls categories. There is also the Old Tosser section for senior stone skimmers.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

This year’s event seemed to benefit from the news attention it received in the preceding week and the cliffs surrounding the quarry were jammed full of participants, their supporters and curious punters like myself. The quarry’s walls resounded with throaty cheers and the bellowing of stern officials. It got me thinking that odd, and faintly ridiculous events like these, are a clever way for small Scottish communities to open their arms to tourists and raise a few bob from a new generation of outdoor sporting trials. The world’s first crazy golf tournament, set in some entrepreneurial Scottish seaside town, must surely be on the horizon.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

Easdale Island image © Stephen McLaren 2012 all rights reserved.

 

 

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Crossing Paths

Scottish photographer Niall McDiarmid was recently awarded a prize for portraiture in the International Photography Awards for his current Crossing Paths portraiture project,  an ongoing project which stands as a social document of the looks and styles of people on the streets of the UK at present. Niall kindly agreed to answer a few emailed questions from Document Scotland about the background to his project, and to share with us some of the images from the series which you can see in the Niall McDiarmid Crossing Paths photographic portfolio.

Platform 5, York Railway Station. ©Niall McDiarmid 2012, all rights reserved.

 

Niall, when did the project begin?

I had been working on a similar smaller project near to where I live in South London for seven or eight years before this, focussing on interesting characters who I met in my everyday life.

So, in essence, Crossing Paths has been a few years in the making. However the main project really got going properly in early 2011 when I branched out to cover the whole of London, then the across the South East of England shortly after and then later in the year, the whole of the UK.

Is the project self-initiated, or a great commission ?

Yes, it’s a personal project – my own record of characters I’ve met throughout the UK in these past two years.

Where and why do you go to the particular towns, how do you choose the locations? What are the logistics of traveling around?

I stop at towns where I happen to be for commissions as a commercial photographer, places where I’m on holiday with my family or occasionally I just take short trips out.

You were asking your Facebook readers and Twitter users about their favourite towns, what was the aim of that ?

Having visited so many towns across the country this past year, I was interested to know if people had favourite towns and what their relationships with those towns was. A pattern seemed to emerge whereby those of us who now live in the large conurbations still have huge fondness for the smaller towns where they either grew up or in many cases went to college or university.

How does your use of social media play into the project?

Social media users, particularly those on Twitter, are extremely supportive of other liked-minded people. Building a core audience which can get involved in a project from the beginning is a great way of generating support and driving a body of work on. Starting a large project such as this as an individual with no formal or financial backing can be extremely daunting and hard to pull off. So the goodwill and encouragement of peers and friends is a huge benefit. In many ways I feel those who have joined in and spread the word about Crossing Paths are part of the story too.

However, other than generating support, I haven’t used social media to shape the narrative or direction of the project.

The images are very clean, and it seems hard to place how’ve they been shot. Are they on film or digital ?

They are all shot on medium format film.

How much are you shooting per person?

I generally only take two or three shots maximum per person.

A lot of the locations really seem to fit the clothes the people are wearing, are you moving the sitters to pre-chosen locations, or shooting where you find them?

No I just photograph people somewhere very close to where I first say hello.

What are your feelings on the fashions you see people wearing at present? Is it hard to find uniqueness?  How much do the styles and looks change as you cross the country?

I don’t really have a particular interest in fashion or style. However uniqueness in peoples’ appearance is important to me. British people are not afraid to stick out from the crowd and many positively enjoy being different. One of this country’s great strengths is our ability to be individuals and be proud of that. It is also a sign of our nation’s tolerance that in most cases no matter what your age, sex, ethnicity or social background you can be as you wish, wear what you like and walk down any high street without feeling alienated.

As to finding unique people, I suppose we are all unique – it’s just some people are more unique than others and I seem to have a knack of finding of them.

How are you choosing people in the street, what are you looking for? Is there a type of person you look for?

I can’t say how I choose a particular person because I don’t know. They are all just people who walk by me, cross my path and catch my eye. However, looking through the project as a whole, one common theme that seems to connect all the individuals is a certain charisma and confidence.

How much do you interact with the people, a few minutes, or are you also interviewing them/chatting away?

Being a photographer is a great excuse to meet and find out about great people. Through my teens and into my 20s I was a very shy person. However I gradually grew out of that and now there is nothing I enjoy more than stopping and chatting to whoever I meet – shooting the breeze as they in the US. Some people I speak to for quite a while, others just a few seconds. However I don’t interview them. This is solely a visual project.

What is the outcome of Crossing Paths so far, has the project been exhibited or published?

I hope to exhibit the pictures at different locations across the UK. I would also like to spend more time taking portraits in areas near to any exhibitions I can organise. Publishing is another possibility but I haven’t got any plans at this stage.

How do you view the work, is it documentary? Or portraiture?

I hope the project stands as a social document about people on the streets of the UK at this time.

Many thanks to Niall for sharing the work.

To see more of Niall’s work-  Niall McDiarmid’s photography website, Crossing Paths website, Crossing Paths Facebook page, and Niall McDiarmid on Twitter.

 

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Doomen and Dookits

Young Scottish photographer Robert Ormerod has had his ‘Doomen’ series, a project of portraits of pigeon keepers, published in The Guardian Weekend magazine. The images comprise a beautiful set of portraits, quiet moments of the men and women with their pigeons, a breed of pigeon known as Horseman Thief Pouters.

The images were shot in the east of the country, in the Edinburgh area, and show the men and women who keep their pigeons and use them to capture or entice back to their huts the pigeons of other keepers. The pigeons, an attractive breed, and sometimes made more beautiful through having their feathers dyed peroxide blonde, are released in the hope that another pigeon will find them attractive, follow them back to their hut, where the pigeon keeper, or Dooman, will sling the net and capture the new pigeon. It is then theirs. This article by Guardian writer Simon Hattenstone explains the pigeon story nicely.

The spread as it appeared in The Guardian Weekend Magazine:

Robert Ormerod’s ‘Doomen’, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Sept 2012.

 

Robert Ormerod’s ‘Doomen’, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Sept 2012.

 

Robert Ormerod’s ‘Doomen’, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Sept 2012.

 

Robert Ormerod’s ‘Doomen’, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Sept 2012.

 

Click here to see larger images from Robert Ormerod’s ‘Doomen’ series, and to see Robert Ormerod’s photography website.

And here on Document Scotland photographer Stephen McLaren has posted his photographs of Dookits, the huts built in gardens and wasteland of Glasgow, by pigeon keepers, to house their prized Doo’s, or pigeons. Click here to see Stephen McLaren’s photographs of Dookits.

 

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Burns Country

While traversing Scotland in pursuit of photographs for my long-term project, Scotia Nova, I often find myself in small, un-heralded towns looking for little moments which reveal a wider truth about modern Scotland. Towns like Shotts, Peterhead, Larbert, Wemyss Bay, solid working class towns with civic monuments and no-nonsense inhabitants.

These settlements are representative of small-town Scotland – and there are hundreds more like them – however, once there I sometimes find that  that the weather is poor, there is a lack of human presence, or photogenic subjects are in short supply. In these instances I accept the limits of being a photographer on-the-road and get ready to leave with nothing accomplished.

 

Recently, though, I have started to notice how many of these towns have streets named after Rabbie Burns. Many council estates built in the 1930’s have a Burns Street, Crescent, or Grove and I have found it remarkable that Burns is marked by so many towns in this way.

So I now have a side-project which keeps me going while Scotia Nova is in hibernation. I pass through as many small and medium-sized towns as I can and try and find a Burns Street to photograph.

 

Estates with solid council housing stock from the 1930’s are most-favoured by the name-givers at the local council. Often Burns Street/Avenue will be the main spine of the estate, and occasionally other Burns-related names will appear in nearby offshoots…. Alloway, Armour, Bard, Rose.

 

 

Burns’s popularity was probably at its highest in pre-war Scotland with every child learning Tam o ‘Shanter in school and parents going to Burns Suppers each January. However, in recent times there has been another Burns renaissance and so the Burns street name is popping-up in more middle-class and up-market housing developments. On route to Alloway last January I even came across a whole new private estate which was using Burns’s image to sell the homes.

 

 

It has been heartening for me to see that Burns continues to be remembered in the nation’s street and place-names. Of course there are many Burns statues up and down the land but for me the naming of ordinary streets after Rabbie Burns is a sign that his egalitarian and down-to-earth philosophy and poetry still strikes a significant chord in his homeland.

 

 

 

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Marzaroli’s ‘Castlemilk Lads’.

Oscar Marzaroli‘s picture known as ‘The Castlemilk Lads’ is one of the iconic photographic images of Glasgow, and of Scotland. It was with great relish that Document Scotland recently read the story behind the image, a story which has gone untold until Peter Ross, journalist with the Scotland On Sunday newspaper, tracked down the three gents who appear as boys in the black and white image, shot in 1963 by Marzaroli.

With the kind permission of Peter Ross, and of Scotland On Sunday, we reproduce the article below and the tear sheets of how it appeared in the Spectrum Magazine on June 24th 2012.  All  below text and tear sheet images are ©Scotland On Sunday, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012. Colour photograph of the ‘Castlemilk Lads’ as adults is by Scotland On Sunday staff photographer Robert Perry.

Scotland On Sunday’s Spectrum Magazine, 24th June 2012.

 

‘Whatever Happened to The Castlemilk Lads ?’ by Peter Ross

IT is early 1963 and a group of schoolboys are standing on a green hill in Castlemilk, Europeʼs largest housing estate, having their photograph taken. They jostle in front of the camera, crowding into the frame, anxious to be in the picture. One stands on tip-toe, leans his chin on anotherʼs shoulder, and stares straight at the lens, defiant.

The photographer, a handsome young man, would stand out anywhere in Glasgow, but at more than six feet tall he towers over these youngsters. He must look curious to them – black beard, Russian hat, dark cape, eyes and hands that are never still. Nevertheless, he has an easy manner, asking about school and football. The boy at the front, the one with the sticky-up hair, is called Charlie and supports Celtic, as does the photographer. Charlie has an interesting face – tough but vulnerable with something in his eyes which suggests heʼs seen things in his thirteen years that no one of that age should witness. When the boyʼs gaze is snagged, suddenly, by something to his right, the photographer knows that this is the moment and takes the picture. Click.

Oscar Marzaroli died of cancer in 1988 and so it is impossible to know for sure what he felt when he first developed this photograph and saw the boys begin to materialise in the darkroom. We can guess, though, that he must have realised he had something special. He called his picture Castlemilk Lads and it has become iconic, appearing in books and on the sleeve of Deacon Blueʼs Chocolate Girl. The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, when it reopened last year, used the photo prominently in its advertising, and Charlieʼs face, even now, hangs on a banner outside the grand sandstone building.

The faces of the boys, then, are famous, but they themselves remained unknown. Marzaroli did not take their names. He did not wish to intrude beyond taking the photograph. Yet, as the poet Edwin Morgan put it in 1984, “It is impossible not to wonder what the Castlemilk lads are like today”. And as the years have passed, this instinct has grown ever stronger. Are they alive? Have they had good lives? Whatever happened to the Castlemilk Lads?

LAST year, I decided to find out. I put up posters around Castlemilk, forlorn notices of the sort one might make for a lost cat. One day a message was left on my phone by a woman called Emily. “I think,” she said, “you are looking for my brother.”

Scotland On Sunday’s Spectrum Magazine, June 24th 2012. Colour photograph of the Castlemilk Lads as adults, by Scotland on Sunday staff photographer Robert Perry.

 

Charlie Gordon is 63. He lives with his wife in a suburb of Birmingham, a city that has been his home for the whole of his adult life. He left Scotland at 18 and came down to England to work as a labourer. He had been involved with one of the Glasgow gangs, the Cumbie, and served short sentences for fighting. He never used a weapon, he says, but was once hit on the back of the head by an axe.

Youʼd never know now, to meet Charlie, that he was involved in all that. Heʼs friendly and funny, a grandfather five times over, a burly man with a Brummie accent, though sometimes, as he talks about the past, his native Glaswegian emerges. He had a heart attack in 1999 and his health hasnʼt been great since – “Every day is a bonus for me” – but you can still see the wee boy in him. His hair is silver yet still sticks up. He could never do anything with it. When he takes off his specs, it is possible to make out the small scar above his left eye, visible in Marzaroliʼs shot, which he got when he threw an empty cider bottle into a midden and it bounced back and cut him. “Iʼve got scars all over the place,” he says. “You had to in those days, growing up in the Gorbals.”

He was born in 1949 and spent his early childhood living in the bottom flat of a tenement at 3 Inverkip Street, right by the Clyde, where the Central Mosque is now. Their home was near the John Begg whisky distillery. He remembers the barrels, the smell, the big dray horses, the neon sign that flashed into his bedroom all night – “Take a peg of John Begg”.

Charlieʼs father was a busker. Heʼd play the accordion round the pubs and then come back home drunk and throw a bag of money on the floor. Charlie sometimes worked with his dad in Paddyʼs Market, selling old clothes out of a suitcase. “We had hand-me-down clothes all the time,” he recalls. “Thatʼs why I would never get rid of that coat Iʼm wearing in the photo. I got it bought for me, for either a birthday or Christmas, and it the first brand new thing I ever owned.”

When Charlie was around five or six, he saw his young sister Catherine killed. Loads of local kids were out playing, as usual, by the buses parked across the road. But Catherine ran out between two buses and was hit by a lorry. “When I looked at the ground I was in shock,” he says, “because all you could see was her clothes. Everything was flat. Iʼll never forget it till the day I die. She was wearing this outfit that my mum knitted. A skirt with a big white stripe round it and thatʼs all you could see. I went to my mum and dad and they came running out – ʻOh God!ʼ Mum was in hysterics. It was terrible.”

What sort of effect has it had on him, losing his sister like that? “What can I say? I mean, can you imagine coming out your house and seeing the spot exactly where she died every day of your life till you moved? It does mentally affect you. You think, ʻIf I could have stopped her …ʼ Most of us had the sense not to run out. But she was only little. Three, four maybe. Iʼve blanked it. The year, the date, everything. I didnʼt want it in my head.”

It must have been a relief for to get away to Castlemilk, The family moved in 1959 as part of the massive slum clearance programme, settling into a new home at 17 Downcraig Drive. Between 1961 and 1971, the population of the Gorbals and neighbouring Hutchestown fell from 45,000 to 19,000 as Victorian tenements were razed and teeming streets emptied, a pattern repeated in several other central districts. The Glasgow Corporation aimed to demolish 4,500 dwellings each year, replacing them with multi- stories, and homes in the New Towns and on the vast new peripheral estates – Pollok, Castlemilk, Easterhouse and Drumchapel.

The families moving into their new homes, with their bathrooms and central heating, found them to be mansions in comparison to where they had come from. But it did not take long for problems to emerge, largely because of a lack of amenities and the distance of the estates from work. Too many people were jobless and bored. Newspaper articles from 1963 refer to Castlemilk as a “concrete jungle” and a “cemetery with lights” and report gang violence as a serious issue. The parents of three little boys, noted the Evening Citizen, were “saving like mad to buy a house of their own, miles away from Castlemilk, because they donʼt want their children to grow up here”.

You can see something of this, perhaps, in Marzaroliʼs photograph, taken that same year. The multi-story being constructed in the background is possibly one of the Mitchelhill blocks which were, eventually, demolished in 2005 – part of an ongoing demolition of Glasgowʼs high flats, every blow-down a fresh admission of failure. There is, too, something in the tone of the photograph which seems to speak of struggle and anxiety.

We should be careful, though, not to clart the picture with too thick a layer of our own angst. The Scottish National Portrait Galleryʼs guide to the photograph talks about a dislocated community inhabiting an unfriendly environment, a presumption which Peter Jackson, for one, finds insulting. “Unfriendly enviornment?” he says. “Thatʼs absolute rubbish. I was quite annoyed when I saw that. Flaming cheek.”

Peter Jackson is the second of the Castlemilk Lads, the boy leaning his chin on Charlie Gordonʼs shoulder. Heʼs 62 now, married since 1971, with two children and a grandchild. He worked on the production line of a chemical company until his retirement in 2006, and spends three days a week caring for people with learning difficulties. He always seems to scowl in photos, he says, but wasnʼt the wee hard nut he looks in Marzaroliʼs picture.

He lives in Neilston, East Renfrewshire. At the time of the photo he stayed at 16 Raithburn Road, a first floor flat. He moved to Castlemilk in 1959. He had been living with his paternal grandparents in Howard Street, diagonally across the Clyde from Charlie Gordon, but there was an electrical fire in the tenement and the family were moved to the new housing. His grandparents looked after him because his mother had died of tuberculosis. His father was employed by the cleansing department and would come home with tons of stories and what were known as “lucks” – broken toys that heʼd found in bins – and fix them up for the children.

“I still remember my mother,” says Peter. “Iʼve got vivid memories because she was ill for a long time. I remember going to visit her in hospital, my dad taking us. He would always kid on we were sneaking in, and say that weʼd got to be quiet; he was making it a kind of game. My brother Richard was four years older so he knew more than me. I just thought it was a big adventure. But the funny thing is I remember great laughter in the house when my mum and dad were there. I always remember it being a happy house.”

Mrs Jacksonʼs illness, TB, is a point of connection with Oscar Marzaroli. The photographer moved to Glasgow from Italy in the mid-1930s at the age of two, and worked in the family businesses – a cafe, grocerʼs and fish restaurant. When he was 18 he developed tuberculosis and was bedridden for a year, gradually recovering his health in a sanatorium in Kingussie. This, according to his widow Anne, was a moment of “catharsis”. He saw other patients dying and believed he would be next.

He began to read the great Russian authors – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Gogol, Gorsky – and through them developed, it would appear, an interest in becoming a social chronicler in his own way. This would involve a camera. It afforded him, he felt, a chance to preserve moments which would soon be gone. For a young man who had felt the hand of death on his shoulder, the idea that life was fragile, fleeting and ought to be captured for posterity was powerful and pressing. So he began to take photographs.

Marzaroli earned his living as a documentary filmmaker, working for Films of Scotland and the Highlands and Islands Development Board. Stills photography was a personal passion, and it was only in the last few years of his life that he began to be celebrated for his talents. His reputation as arguably Scotlandʼs greatest post-war photographer has grown since his death.

He carried his camera with him at all times. It is said that he had “magpie” eyes, always alert to the possibility of a photograph. He was patient, willing to linger till the light or some other aspect of the composition was right. This he called “waiting for the magic”.

There are 55,000 negatives in his archive, of which only around 1,000 have been printed and published. Remarkably, Castlemilk Lads exists as just a single frame. On the contact sheet there are no other photographs of those boys. The same goes for Golden-Haired Lass, another of his most celebrated shots – a wee blonde girl in wellies trotting past the dark mouth of a Gorbals close.

Marzaroli took many, many pictures of the Gorbals: its closes and courts; its winos and workers and dirty-kneed weans in the streets. He photographed it at the precise moment when it was beginning to disappear, as the bulldozers did their work. He shows lone tenements as islands in a sea of rubble. He shows the gigantic new tower-blocks as a sort of concrete armada, an unstoppable invading force.

“I think what fascinated him about the Gorbals was the fact that it was being destroyed,” says his daughter, Marie Claire. “He loved the community, he loved that whole idea of belonging. Because he was going back and forward to Italy, for a long time I donʼt think he felt he belonged anywhere. But Glasgow was where he belonged.”

Marie Claire was born in 1963, the eldest of Marzaroliʼs three daughters. His wife Anne often accompanied him when he was out taking pictures, but not when he took Castlemilk Lads as she was pregnant with Marie Claire at the time. His many photographs of children may reflect the fact that he himself was starting a family at around this time.

What did he see when he photographed those boys that day? For what magic was he waiting? Perhaps itʼs something to do with Charlie Gordonʼs clasped hands. The picture is a prayer of sorts. It feels aggressive but also plaintive. You might think what you are looking at is a gang. But itʼs not. Though these boys were classmates at Glenwood, they werenʼt really friends. Two years after the picture was taken they would leave school and lose contact with each other.

Robert Carnochan, heʼs the third boy; the one, a little out of focus, behind Peter Jackson. Robert still lives in Castlemilk. He is 61, has been married for 40 years, has two sons and three grandchildren. He worked as an engineer until a few years ago when he was made redundant. Now he does maintenance work. He had a health scare in recent years, suffering from pancreatitis and was lucky to survive, but is much better now. He seems like a quiet and gentle man. You can sort of understand, meeting him, why heʼs at the back of the photograph. “Aye, I like the picture,” he says. “Wish I was at the front, but.”

His dad was a plumber. His mum worked at the Co-op. They lived on Castlemilk Drive; Robert, his brother and sister. The family had come from Carnoustie Street in Tradeston, where they were pulling all the old houses down, and he had attended the Scotland Street school, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh, which is now a museum.

He moved to Castlemilk at around the age of five, in the mid-1950s, the early days of the estate. He remembers it as part countryside, part construction site, a frontier territory which kids roamed in packs. He and his pals would steal apples and turnips from gardens, play at fighting, or venture into Burnside and explore the derelict cinema.
“I remember a lot of open spaces,” says Robert. “I remember I got lost. In the woods there by Castlemilk school, the bluebell woods. I would have been eight or something like that. It was scary for a while. There was still a lot of building going on. Thatʼs how you got lost. You were in the middle of nowhere and there was no way to figure out your way home.”

It occurs to me, while talking to Robert, that one day, not too many years in the future, there will be no-one left who remembers the tenement life – the outside toilets and street games and tin baths in front of the fire – and the move to what must have seemed like another world. That exodus is, at the moment, still the dominant folk memory in Glasgow. But for how much longer? These Castlemilk Lads, that generation, when they go, a whole era will fade like an old photo exposed to the sun.

IT is June 16, 2012, and we are on that same hill where, so many years ago, Oscar Marzaroli photographed some pale and freckly boys. The lads are back in Castlemilk, posing in the rain for a recreation of the photograph. Watching them are two of Marzaroliʼs daughters, Marie Claire and Nicola, and his widow Anne.

“Right hand over your left,” Anne tells Charlie Gordon. “Donʼt smile. Iʼll hold your glasses.” “You need to look more grumpy,” Marie Claire says to Peter Jackson. “Itʼs very difficult with false teeth, you know,” Peter replies.

The three talk about old times. About teachers and gangs and how Castlemilk has changed and whatever happened to so-and-so. They are glad to see each other. Though never close, they do have this strange bond in common. Plans are made to keep in touch.

Marie Claire explains that for many years she has had Castlemilk Lads on her living room wall; her children have grown up with it. One of her daughters, Rachael, wrote a school essay in which she admitted to being envious of the boys as they had met her grandfather and she had not. For Marie Claire, the photograph is about courage and pride and sticking together through adversity. “Itʼs a really important picture for us as a family,” she says. “It gives me strength every day.”

Next year will be the 50th anniversary of Castlemilk Lads and the 25th anniversary of Marzaroliʼs death. There are plans for a new collection of photographs, an international touring exhibition, and a little further down the line a permanent exhibition of his work in Glasgow. That, though, is the future. For now, it feels like enough to enjoy this remarkable reunion.

Marzaroli used to talk about waiting for the magic. Finally, on a green hill in Castlemilk, after almost half a century, it has arrived.

Reproduced with the kind permission of Peter Ross, and of Scotland On Sunday. The above article appeared in the Spectrum Magazine on June 24th 2012.  All text and tear sheet images are ©Scotland On Sunday, Edinburgh, Scotland, 2012.

 

 

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Turkish Delight

Well it’s been a great week here in Turkey, delightful even. Very kindly I was invited to participate in the Bursa Photo Festival, and to exhibit my photography work with the Roma of Sintesti, Romania, at the festival which this year had the theme of ‘Traces of Humanity’.

The organisers had asked that I show my portrait work, and we selected about 20 shots covering both parts of the project, both the early years shot in black and white from 1990-97, and then the latter years in colour from 2004-06. The pictures were hung in the Pirinc Han courtyard, and very nicely presented. It was so refreshing to have the work hung outside instead of framed an in a straight line on an interior wall…

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s exhibition at Bursa Photo Festival, Bursa, Turkey, 2012. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2012. All rights reserved.

 

As well as showing my work, I was kindly invited to present a seminar about the multi-year project, and in the mornings every day all the festival’s participating photographers ( Antonin Kratchovil of VII agency, legendary American documentary photographer Mary Ellen Mark, Phillip Toledano, National Geographic’s Maggie Steber, Li Zhensheng from China, Newsha Tavakolian of Iran,  Ken Schles of New York and many others) held portfolio reviews, aided by Turkish coffees, in the Koza Han courtyard, for any photographer who wished to gain the views and insight of others into their own work.

Seminars and talks, round table discussions filled the day, and in the evenings slideshow presentations of works by ‘Master Photographers’ took place.

Bursa Photo Festival, Bursa, Turkey. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2012, all rights reserved.

 

It’s been a thoroughly enjoyable week here in Turkey, one in which the photographers and editors were given both the chance to share their work and knowledge, but also the chance to gain inspiration and words of advice from their peers. The Bursa Photo Festival is only in it’s second year, but already seems destined to being a regular stop on the photo festival calendar for critics, editors and photographers alike. I, for one, certainly hope I can return again and look forward to visiting.

 

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Olympics Parade, Glasgow, September 2012

These photographs were taken during the recent Olympics and Para-Olympics homecoming celebration in Glasgow. The theme of the event was celebrating, “Scotland’s Greatest Team”, which seemed a substantially different message to the “Support Team GB” message that had predominated during the Games.

I was interested to find out how onlookers and supporters of the athletes would resolve the tension between those two national and sporting allegiances. I was surprised to find that the Team GB motif, whether shown by flags and mascots or in chants, was still very strong.

It is hard to argue with the assertion that the Olympics has subtly changed the dynamics of the Scottish referendum debate. However, it was also hard to argue with the strength of feeling that was shown for the Scottish athletes who were being celebrated and who gave the parade its energy and passion.

 

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Last chance to see

Photographing conflict and post-conflict arenas is one of the most interesting sub-genres of documentary photography.

There are many different approaches which make for outstanding viewing. From the monumental landscapes of Donovan Wylie and Simon Norfolk, depicting the theatre sets of war to the late Tim Hetherington’s claustrophobic and intimate moments with the dramatis personae, there is barely a facet of modern conflict which is not explored and exploited by photographers today.

In ‘Legacy’ Scottish artist Roderick Buchanan focuses on post-Troubles Northern Ireland and uses two Scottish flute bands to demonstrate the current and historical links between the peoples of the two territories. Using simple, striking portraits on the one hand and film footage of re-enactment scenes and marches on the other, Buchanan produces a tableau which invites us to examine our own links with the Troubles and our attitude to history, conflict and memory.

As Buchanan states: “My proposal was to make a portrait with grass-roots activists who had lived through the Troubles, processed the Good Friday Agreement meant for them, and who continued to march and stand up for what they believe. As both bands say about themselves, ‘We’re still here’.”

Although chilling to look at, there is something almost charming about the men depicted. The faces are earnest, determined, hard and unforgiving, but there is something almost comedic about them too. These are men you could meet anywhere in Scottish society and you wouldn’t presume that they could be so passionate about a cause which most people regard as a hangover of a bygone age of pugilism and insanity. But these are the men (and boys) of the Parkhead Republican Flute Band and on the other side the Black Skull Corps of Fife and Drum and they mean business. You walk away from the portraits casting a glance back to make sure they aren’t actually following you.

‘Legacy’ by Roderick Buchanan is on at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 16th September 2012. Admission free.

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11 years on.

Today whilst driving to a photography assignment near Stirling, Scotland, I heard on the radio that it is September 11th, the 11th anniversary of the World trade Centre bombings by Al Qaeda. There has been much said before about it obviously, and nothing much that I can add, other than I went there shortly afterwards and photographed. It so happened I was there at the time when New Yorkers were able to see “Ground Zero” for the first time. The streets were opening up, and police barriers were moving back on a daily basis, and I worked the street, photographing all the people who came to look, to pay their respects and  pray. I shot for a few days on those streets, and produced a set of images that I am still happy with to this day. You can see those photographs of Ground Zero/ World Trade Centre after 9/11 here.

This image below I remember being one of the early images I shot, and it perhaps drew my attention due to the Scottish Saltire flag I noticed hanging. People from all countries and all nationalities were present. That was one of the most impressive things, the cross section of humanity who came there.

A New York policeman stands on Broadway beside flowers, a Scottish flag, and cards of condolences to the victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre buildings in Lower Manhattan by Al-Qaeda terrorists. New York, America, October 2001. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2001, All rights reserved.

 

I wrote these words about the images at the time:

October 2001. New York, USA.

I’m in New York. With my good friend Jason I work the streets of Broadway and Lower Manhattan, edging around the perimeters of Ground Zero, photographing. We watch the police barriers move back each day, revealing more and more of the devastation. We watch as tourists and locals alike come to visit, to look, to stand silently, to pay respects. All are there; whites, blacks, hispanics, Jewish; old, young; students, business people, some from out of town, some not. Everyone stands and looks. I photograph the crowds, and no one objects. Dust still falling from the carnage behind me lands on my arms, and every day I’m there from 8am until evening, watching this cross section of humanity. I only work a section of street about 200 metres long, but all pass through, a constant, changing wave of people, a reflection of all nations. There’s a feeling in the air: poignancy, history, fear, solidarity, shock, numbness. All are standing straining to see the carnage, reflecting on the damage and the loss, the loss past and the loss to come.

New Yorkers, and visitors from all over the world, stop on lower Broadway to look at the smouldering buildings of the World Trade Centre complex, and to remember and pay tribute to the victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre buildings in Lower Manhattan by Al-Qaeda terrorists. New York, America, October 2001. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2001, all rights reserved.

 

And whilst on the subject this evening I saw this article about the photographs of American photographer James Nachtwey, from the actual day of September 11th 2001 itself, and how the appearance of his images has been adjusted over time.

 

 

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Caught on film

 

We all get 15 minutes of fame, so the story goes. To stretch the Warholian reference, in 2005 I got the best part of half-an-hour starring on prime time television. Not strictly true, I admit. It was my photography and the subject of my work which captured the attention of the nation. I was merely a narrator. A walk-on part in my own story. I was reminded of this episode in my career as the short film was first broadcast exactly seven years ago today and featured my work with Scotland’s last salmon net fishermen, a project which had already been ongoing for around a decade.

Entitled ‘Catching the Tide’ and commissioned by Scottish Television and Grampian Television, it allowed me to introduce my work and two of the pivotal figures in the salmon netting community with whom I had formed a strong bond and collaborated with over the years. The film was a family affair: directed by my sister Katrina McPherson and edited by her husband Simon Fildes. Filmed beautifully by cameraman Neville Kidd, the documentary managed to capture the ever-changing weather, dramatic scenery and the perseverance and effort required by the fishermen. Having worked with the whole crew and production team previously as a stills photographer on a number of projects, I felt completely at ease during the filming, even managing to keep seasickness at bay during a stormy afternoon at the bag nets off Auchmithie.

I’ve no idea what the viewing figures were like, but I did get a lot of feedback about the film and the photography. Most was positive; some was negative; a couple of letters were threatening. I knew I was tackling a very sensitive story with the film. The salmon netsmen have many enemies, particularly within the powerful angling fraternity. Those critics didn’t like the slant of the content. My view was that my work was ventilating a particular point-of-view. Anyone can disagree with or criticise that perspective. That is their right. I felt strongly that it was story which had to be told.

The film went on to be repeated on terrestrial television and has been shown subsequently at a number of film festivals across the world, including the Tehran Film Festival, which threw up the tantilising prospect of my words being dubbed into Persian!

For me, it was an interesting way to diversify the direction of a project which was very close to my heart and which I had been associated with for many years. It showed just how a project can change direction and mutate during its lifetime. And it gave me my 24 minutes of fame.

To view the whole film on the internet, or to buy a DVD copy, please visit: http://www.left-luggage.co.uk/catchingthetide.com/Movie.html

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On show, Bursa Photo Festival.

Document Scotland are pleased to announce that they’ll be represented at this year’s Bursa Photo Festival, in Bursa, Turkey, from September 15th-21st. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert will be present at the festival, the 2nd year of the Bursa festival, and will be exhibiting a selection of portraits shot during his long term project with the Roma of Sintesti, in Romania.

Bursa Photo Festival

 

“My Roma of Sinetsti project was something that I worked on annually from 1990-97, shooting in black and white and documenting the lifestyle, customs, traditions and look of the roma, and then in 2004-2006 I returned to update the project and see how their story had unfolded. During both those periods I shot many portraits, recording how the traditional look was disappearing, only to be replaced with a more ‘Westernised’ look in terms of hairstyles and fashions. It is this work that will be on show at Bursa.” – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Mia, a young Roma girl stands in front of a mermaid painted on the wall of a Roma home, in the old part of the Roma camp of Sintesti, Romania, 2004. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2012, all rights reserved.

 

The Bursa festival has a very impressive line-up of distinguished guests, photographers, critics, book publishers and editors, all in attendance. Seminars, slideshows and portfolio reviews happen daily, and Jeremy’s seminar about the Roma project will be on Tuesday 18th Sept.

Click here to read more information on the Bursa Photo Festival schedule of events or book a portfolio review with one of the many photographers.

 

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Life In The 3rd.

In all my years working as an editorial photographer in Scotland I always tried to stay away from shooting the obligatory football matches. It isn’t that I didn’t like football, or didn’t follow the results, just that I had no desire to sit and photograph football games on Saturday afternoons or on wet Wednesday nights. It wasn’t what I got into photography for. And then I relocated to Japan to work for a few years and I was ever further away from Scottish football, and every time I had to explain the Rangers Celtic rivalry, bigotry and hatred, I would feel glad that I was a few thousand miles away from it all. To hear the occasional result was enough. I didn’t have to live it or photograph it.

But then a funny ol’ thing happened. I moved back to Glasgow to live and work at the same time as Rangers FC began their new adventure, their new battle to climb the table, but this time in the Irn-Bru Third Division. The mighty ‘Gers, with their incredible club history stretching back to 1893, have this season found themselves at the bottom of the table, taken there not by their own bad results on the pitch, but by bad results in the boardroom and by years of financial mismanagement. And now they face a climb back to the top, with games away to exalted teams such as Elgin City, Berwick Rangers and Annan Athletic.

Scenes of Berwick Rangers supporters at the end of the 3rd Division football game of Berwick Rangers FC versus Glasgow Rangers FC, at Shielfield Park, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, England, on Sunday 26th August 2012. The final score was 1-1. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2012. All rights reserved.

 

A colleague in Tokyo and I discussed the Rangers story and it struck me that a year with Rangers in the 3rd division might just be perfect for me. I can immerse myself in all things Glaswegian, I can see the country, the landscapes and feel the raw fresh weather on my face, and of course the story is rich in material for photographs. It’ll be great to document, the fans, the stadiums, the culture of Scottish lower division football. And so it is I have embarked on a season of football. I find myself smirking as I contemplate buying a Rangers season ticket. I woke up yesterday, Tuesday, already wishing it were Saturday and there was a game on. I find myself saying “We’re away to Annan next week” and I’m not discussing a family weekend away to Annan.

The tear sheets below come from this week’s Der Spiegel German news magazine. My first assignment back in Scotland two weeks ago, and with huge fortune and fate, I was to accompany a sports writer and the story was to be Rangers in the 3rd division. The referee had just blown the whistle and signalled that I was onside. An omen perhaps, and a great start to my season of Life In The 3rd.

I’ll post more images as the season and project progresses, but for the time being here is the Der Speigel pages which had my images, and also a shot, above, from an away game to Berwick Rangers FC a week ago.

From Der Spiegel Magazine in Germany-  The magnificent trophy room at Ibrox Stadium, home to Rangers FC, Glasgow, Scotland. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, all rights reserved.

Der Spiegel magazine- Mr. Charles Green, investor and new owner of Rangers FC, Glasgow, Scotland. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, all rights reserved.

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