Big Hooses Built on the Backs of Slaves

 

To complete this project I decided to find the properties that were bought or originally owned by these “respectable gentlemen”. As in Jamaica, some properties were splendid country estates, others in more dilapidated condition. Several like Rozelle House in Ayrshire and Strathleven House in the Vale of Leven have been taken over by local authorities as the cost of upkeep became too large for subsequent generations.

 

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Another layer of steel

Andy Scott's Steel Man

During the spring and summer of 2014, I spent several months exploring the site of the former Ravenscraig steelworks in Lanarkshire.

Once Europe’s largest hot strip mill, the British Steel plant employed thousands of men – and some women – in what was commonly regarded as Scotland’s industrial heart from when it opened in 1957 to its controversial closure in 1992. When it shut, the surrounding area was devastated economically and socially and after the site was cleared in 1996, lay derelict and neglected for many years.

My project looked at the Ravenscraig site today and the people who were endeavouring to bring the area back to life. I photographed and interviewed people who had worked in the plant, as well as those now studying, working and living at the college, sports centre, businesses and housing estates slowly springing up on a site which is double the size of the principality of Monaco.

Andy Scott welding Steel Man in his studio workshop. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Andy Scott welding Steel Man in his studio workshop. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

 

The result of my work was The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig which was exhibited as part of Document Scotland’s Common Ground exhibition at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow in the autumn of 2014. As with many projects, the story didn’t seem to end there. In the run up to the show, I had met Andy Scott, the acclaimed Scottish sculptor whose most celebrated work, the giant Kelpies statues was one of my favourite pieces of public art in the world.

I discovered that Andy was working on a new piece, which had been commissioned by a group of people connected with the steel industry in Lanarkshire, who wanted to make a commemorative statue to honour those who had lost their lives in the service of iron and steel making in Scotland. When I first visited Andy’s studio workshop in Glasgow, the parallels with steel making were instantly apparent: welding gear, safety equipment, heat and sparks flying everywhere. And before my eyes, rivet-by-rivet, Steel Man was taking shape.

Andy Scott during a break whilst working on Steel man. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Andy Scott during a break whilst working on Steel Man. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

 

The major difference was scale: whilst Andy painstakingly crafted his statue with the precision of a jeweller, Ravenscraig was a belching furnace, a difficult and dangerous place of work, where many injuries were sustained and lives lost. Notwithstanding that places like Ravenscraig produced the steel which made everything from airplanes to washing machines and powered Scotland’s economy, those that worked there did so out of necessity, not choice. They also had no choice when the plant closed. Some took redundancy, some left the area to find employment and many simply never worked again.

Andy Scott working in his studio workshop in Glasgow. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Andy Scott working in his studio workshop in Glasgow. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

 

As the statue progressed during the spring of 2015, it became apparent to me that it was not only a timely memorial to the past but a symbol of hope for the future. Ravenscraig today may not be the site of an economic powerhouse, but slowly, surely it is coming back to life. Steel Man is a poignant reminder of what has gone before, but as a piece of art by one of Scotland’s best-regarded contemporary creative minds, it offers us a glimpse of what is possible if a group of people are determined to make something happen. The fundraising effort to bring Steel Man to life involved people from the old industry and those determined that the site should have a positive future.

Steel Man taking shape in Andy Scott's studio workshop. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Steel Man taking shape in Andy Scott’s studio workshop. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Steel Man was finally unveiled at a moving and celebratory ceremony in June 2015, when the statue was shown off for the first time. Former steelworkers, trade unionists, religious and civic leaders were joined by local school pupils, supporters of the project and Andy Scott himself, who talked about the statue and how much it meant to him to create. There were prayers and dedications to those who had perished and as the wind whistled around, it was not difficult to image in noise, dust, smoke and heat of Ravenscraig past.

For me, it was another fascinating layer to the story of Ravenscraig, one which I first became acquainted with on a hot July afternoon in 1996, when the Independent commissioned me to photograph the destruction of the iconic cooling towers by controlled explosion. It took me fully two decades to return to Motherwell to take up the story again, but if I hadn’t, I would not have encountered so many interesting and inspirational people, and I would not have met Steel Man either.

Coverage of the making of Steel Man in the Independent. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Coverage of the making of Steel Man in the Independent. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Workmen preparing for the Steel Man unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Workmen preparing for the Steel Man unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Pipers welcome guests to the Steel Man unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Pipers welcome guests to the Steel Man unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Flowers growing on the Ravenscraig site. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Flowers growing on the Ravenscraig site. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Former steelworkers gather at the unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Former steelworkers and their families gather at the unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

The unveiling ceremony of Steel Man. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

The unveiling ceremony of Steel Man. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Andy Scott and Steel Man at the official unveiling. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

Andy Scott and Steel Man at the official unveiling at Ravenscraig. Photograph © Colin McPherson 2015, all rights reserved.

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Thomas Annan of Glasgow

An email slipped into our Document Scotland inboxes recently which we felt would be good to share with everyone, telling us of a new book out on Thomas Annan, Scottish documentary photographer.

 

Annan

 

 

“…latest Open Access book, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph by Lionel Gossman, a study of nineteenth-century photography, urban life, and Scotland – the first account of Annan’s full achievement as a photographer.

The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, Thomas Annan’s photographic record of the slums of the city prior to their demolition in accordance with the City of Glasgow Improvements Act of 1866, is widely recognized as a classic of nineteenth-century documentary photography. However, Annan’s achievement as a photographer of paintings, portraits, and landscapes is less widely known. To repair this neglect, Thomas Annan of Glasgow offers a handy, comprehensive and copiously illustrated overview of the full range of the photographer’s work. Successive chapters deal with each of the main fields of his activity, touching along the way on issues such as the nineteenth-century debate over the status of photography — a mechanical practice or an artistic one? — and the still ongoing controversies surrounding the documentary photograph in particular.

Lionel Gossman, a native of Glasgow whose own graduation portrait was made, in 1951, at the studio of T. &. R. Annan in Sauchiehall Street, has spent his career as a teacher of literature at universities in the United States (Johns Hopkins and Princeton). Here he returns to his roots to produce a tribute to one of his city’s most talented and conscientious nineteenth-century artists. He chose to publish with the innovative Open Book Publishers so that Thomas Annan of Glasgow could be read for free online and reach the largest number of readers possible.

It is also available in interactive PDF and e-book versions.”

 

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The Bigger Picture

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It’s always a nice way to start the day when a beautiful new publication arrives on your doorstep. What made yesterday even better was that the publication was unexpected, and that Document Scotland are featured in it.

The Bigger Picture: The Work of Impressions Gallery is a clever and comprehensive retrospective of Impressions Gallery.

 

“Since 1972 Impressions Gallery has changed the face of photography in the UK”. This beautiful book tells “the story of the gallery’s past, present and future; championing photography in Britain and beyond.”

 

We’re delighted to be included in such a publication and in such esteemed company as Anna Fox, Murray Ballard, Tessa Bunney, Melanie Friend, Paul Reas and many more. The book includes a spread about Document Scotland’s exhibition “Beyond The Border: New Contemporary photography from Scotland” in the summer of 2014, curated by the gallery’s director, Anne McNeill and is accompanied by a quote about the exhibition from Brian Liddy, Associate Curator of the National Media Museum, “Document Scotland occupies the latest in a long and rich tradition of Scottish documentary photography… the imminence of the vote only makes the exhibition even more pointed and offers a refreshing antidote to the hectoring of politicians on the subject.”

 

 

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Learn more about Impressions Gallery, their current and previous exhibitions and projects on their website

See more images of the book’s creative design and content here  www.behance.net

 

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