The Story Behind the Photograph with Colin McPherson

Hailstones, Kinnaber, 2000. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

This Saturday, 30th May 2020, is the twentieth anniversary of the day I took a photograph that has come to symbolise my work and the project Catching the Tide, which documented Scotland’s last salmon net fishermen. To mark the occasion, Document Scotland is hosting a special online event, where my colleague Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and I will be in conversation about the image, and what it has come to mean to me.

Entitled Hailstones, Kinnaber, 2000, the photograph was the high point of a dramatic day spent with two fishermen as they worked on the large, sandy expanse of beach at Kinnaber, just north of the town of Montrose on Scotland’s east coast. The image came to represent many things about the work that the men undertook: the physical nature of it, the constantly changing weather and the adherence to using traditional methods to fish for wild Atlantic salmon.

As the new century began, five years into my project, few could have imagined that two decades later a Scottish Government moratorium on net fishing on Scotland’s coast and in rivers would have effectively killed off the industry for good. At the time I took the photograph, there was an ever-dwindling number of men fishing this way around Scotland’s vast and varied coastline. The stocks of fish had withered, and pressure from scientists and anglers to stop the practice had led to the closure of the big salmon companies, leaving just a few individual fishermen and their families with the right to maintain working in a way which had sustained rural communities for centuries.

The photograph itself has become the leading image for a project which lasted two decades. Since I started photographing Catching the Tide in 1995, the work has been published and exhibited extensively, both in Scotland and internationally. The image has been used to illustrate newspaper and magazine articles and has appeared in reference books on the subject of the salmon.

For me personally, this one single image came to encapsulate everything about the project. It was not the first, or last, photograph, but undoubtedly the most significant. As well as being published widely, it also resides in a number of important archives, such as the photography collections of the National Galleries of Scotland the University of St. Andrews and others.

To mark the occasion, I have produced a special, limited edition A3 commemorative poster, which you can buy from my website. All the proceeds raised from the sale will go towards photographing Catching the Tide, the Final Chapter, which will commence later this year.

I hope you can join us on Saturday, when we will explore and discuss many of the aspects of how, where and when the photograph was taken. I look forward to seeing you then.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin.

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Friday Forum

Bored in the house, fed up of the Lockdown? Join Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert tomorrow afternoon, Friday 22nd May, on the Friday Forum – an online meeting of creatives organised by Creative Informatics and Visual Arts Scotland.

Jeremy will be introducing and presenting the work of the Document Scotland photography collective.

The event is free, but please register to join the online Zoom via Eventbrite. I hope you can join us!

About this Event

The Creative Informatics team are delighted to be partnering with Visual Arts Scotland for Friday Forum, a new series of regular online events, featuring speakers from across the creative industries.

Friday Forum is an online sharing event for creatives, where they can showcase snippets of their work, give virtual tours around their current studio spaces, talk about a particular topic or theme, or provide insights into their creative practice or career.

Each Friday Forum will feature four contributors who will give short, 10 minute presentations or talks followed by a Q&A session. If you are interested in presenting at a future Friday Forum, find out how you can get involved at https://bit.ly/FF-Apl1.

#FridayForumEdi

Our speakers for Friday Forum #4 include:

Megan Rudden is a Leith-born, Glasgow-based, Sometimes-visual artist working across performance, writing, drawing, and object making. Her interdisciplinary practice considers issues of class, gender, labour, skill and reproduction. Megan has performed and exhibited at various locations across the UK including, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and more recently, at the back of a car park in Dundee. Find out more at: www.meganrudden.co.uk/

Lynne Hocking-Mennie is a hand-weaver and scientist creating textile objects inspired by data at the interface of art/craft and science. Her work takes inspiration from concepts in genetics (DNA sequences, ancestry & mutation rates) and bioacoustics. Lynne creates items for sale and exhibition, and has undertaken national and international residencies on sound weaving. She is also the practitioner lead for academic research projects in Scotland that explore distributed design processes, collaborative creation of objects and hybrid digital-analogue practices in the applied arts sphere. Find out more at: www.lynnesloom.co.uk/

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert is a member of Document Scotland, a collective of four Scottish documentary photographers , brought together by a common vision to witness and photograph important and diverse stories within Scotland. For the past seven years they have worked on their individual photographic projects, shared their work and the photography of others in self-printed publications, and exhibited nationally and internationally. Find out more at: www.documentscotland.com/

About Visual Arts Scotland

Visual Arts Scotland is a volunteer-run, charitable organisation for the exhibition and promotion of the arts in Scotland, committed to showing the diversity and quality of work across artforms. VAS is a leading platform for national and international contemporary fine and applied artists with a vibrant, active and participatory membership of practising artists, from emerging to established practitionersFind out more at https://www.visualartsscotland.org

About Creative Informatics

Creative Informatics is a partnership between the University of Edinburgh , Edinburgh Napier University, CodeBase and Creative Edinburgh. Funded by the Creative Industries Clusters Programme managed by the Arts & Humanities Research Council as part of the Industrial Strategy, with additional support from the Scottish Funding Council. The programme is part of the City Region Deal Data Driven Innovation initiative. Find out more at https://creativeinformatics.org/

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Documenting St Andrews – Open Call

Open Call

Documenting St Andrews: Spring and Summer 2020

What is the town of St Andrews like during the pandemic? What are the townspeople doing? How are the workers and the students, the elderly and the young? And the seagulls, the ducks, the crabs, the oak trees, the bell towers and the relentless waves of the North Sea. What is happening in St Andrews and what is not?

Documenting St Andrews: Spring and Summer 2020 is a participatory project that produces and reproduces memory about St Andrews through photographs. The call for submissions is open to anyone using photography to document St Andrews between early March and late August 2020. Documenting is understood in its broadest sense here, derived from photography’s capacity to capture and preserve fleeting moments, and encompassing all kinds of ordinary shots. At the end of this summer, the photographs submitted to the project will cumulatively make up a unique image archive.

The project welcomes snapshots of parties from the ‘photo gallery’ of your phone taken at the beginning of March; it also anticipates photographs of the town on breezy July afternoons. We accept, among other formats, JPEGs, as well as photographs of the film that some of you will hasten to develop once darkrooms reopen.

Lossy image formats and social media are nothing new. But the combination of the two seems to be reproducing ideas that fetishise high resolution and beautiful shots, as well as enabling image environments permeated by advanced commodification through copyright, advertising, and collecting viewer data. Instead of rejecting beautiful and high-resolution images, the project wants to set up a more inclusive platform where photography functions as a participatory event within the community.

The project takes place in two spaces—on Instagram @documentingstandrews and in St Andrews. The virtual space and the physical space interact, intersect, converge, and part ways. It is our hope that photographs, which slip in and out of the two spaces in the form of digital files, can stitch together what seem distantly separated in the time of a global pandemic through creating collective memories that resonate across temporal and spatial boundaries.

This project is initiated by Weitian Liu, a research student at the University of St Andrews pursing an Mphil in History of Photography.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 


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What Does Photography Mean To You?

Over here in Document Scotland HQ we’re fans of those who promote democracy within photography, who give voices to all photographers, where all opinions are welcome and valid. For that reason we enjoy the podcasts brought to us by Grant Scott’s UN of Photography every Wednesday, in which he explores the topic of the week in photography, the debate, the controversy and what’s being said on social media. The weekly podcast has become a great source of interest and inspiration, as a photographer is invited to join the chat, and to send Grant an audio file in which they try to answer the question “what does photography mean to you?”

Today, it’s the turn of Document Scotland’s Colin McPherson who gives his thoughts and opinions on where we are now when it comes to support, funding and opportunities for photographers. Although it was recorded before the current coronavirus crisis, the ideas and observations are as relevant now as they were before as we move beyond, what he describes as, “the end of photography”.

Listen to Colin here:

A while back now, in the same series, Glasgow-based photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert posted his views in response to an invite from Grant. Jeremy talks in the below podcast about how he views his camera as a passport into different situations and cultures, and how he hopes his photography can be shared and make a little difference in the world, to help change prejudices, or to educate, and to share the feeling of being somewhere for those less fortunate to travel.

Have a listen, and let us know what you think, you can always tweet Grant on @UNofPhoto, Jeremy on @JshPhotog, and Colin on @germanocean. Many thanks.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

Become a Patron!

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On call on Colonsay

Life is changing for all of us. That much we know about the world we live in as the conseqienses the coronavisrus pandemic become more apparent. The future has never looked more uncertain and we can only guess and speculate what is in front of us now.

A year ago, Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson visited the small inner Hebridean island of Colonsay to shoot a short story about two of its residents for whom life was about to change. Or so they hoped at the time. One year one, due to the global pandemic, that change has been put on hold.

Colonsay’s medical services are run and co-ordinated by husband-and-wide doctors David Binnie and Jan Brooks. In May 2019, they were nearing retirement after eight years overseeing the GP practice there. Colonsay’s approach to health is a bit old school: it relies on involving as many members of the community as necessary to deliver services by pooling and sharing knowledge and resources. It is not uncommon for the islanders to be called upon to use their skills as firefighters, ambulance crew, flight controllers or administrators to help keep the island’s 135 permananet residents and thousands of annual visitors safe and well.

Whilst he was there, Colin was given privileged access to all facets of the service, from attending consultations at the surgery which overlooks the main settlement and ferry terminal at Scalasaig, to accompnaying Dr Binnie on home visits. It gave him a chance to see how this beautiful island worked and what it looked like.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, the doctors’ retirement plans have been put on hold. Although at the time of writing there have been no cases on the island, Colonsay effectively remains closed to the outside world, with a lifeline ferry service delivering food and essentials the only contact with the mainland, a two-and-a-half hour sailing from Oban. Once the outbreak subsides and life starts to return to normal, the doctors will try to get their retirement plans back on track and renew the process of recruiting a replacement GP.

As well as photographing the doctors’ work and capturing aspects of life on Colonsay, Colin also shot a short film which has been used in the advertising campaign to find David and Jan’s replacement.

It was Colin’s first visit to the island in over thirty years. Like so many Hebridean islands, so much has changed, yet stayed the same. It will be fascinating to see how it changes as a result of the conronavisrus outbreak.

Island of Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
The ferry arriving, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
A patient receives treatment, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Burial ground, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Dr David Binnie during a home visit, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Dr Jan Brooks, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Card in doctor’s practice, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

Become a Patron!

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