A PERFECT CHEMISTRY: PHOTOGRAPHS BY HILL & ADAMSON

A PERFECT CHEMISTRY:
PHOTOGRAPHS BY HILL & ADAMSON
27 May – 1 October 2017
SCOTTISH NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Admission: £10 (£8) | 0131 624 6200
#HillAndAdamson

Hill and Adamson, Sandy (or James) Linton, his boat and bairns ca.June 1845

This summer the Scottish National Portrait Gallery will explore the captivating images produced by the unique partnership of Scottish photographic pioneers David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848). A Perfect Chemistry will comprise over 100 photographic works dating from just four short years in the 1840s, when these two men changed the path of photography and created a remarkable body of work that has had an unparalleled impact on the medium. This will be the first time in 15 years that these treasured photographs will have been the subject of a large exhibition in the UK.

The artistic partnership between the painter Hill and the engineer Adamson was remarkable in many respects: only four years after the invention of photography was announced to the world in 1839, the Scottish pair had not only mastered and improved upon the new medium, but were producing breathtaking works in extraordinary quantities. Their innovative images appear surprisingly fresh even today and their subjects range from intimate portraits to beautiful cityscapes that document the urbanisation of the Scottish capital. A Perfect Chemistry will also feature fascinating images of the Newhaven fisherfolk which form one of the most significant groups within Hill and Adamson’s oeuvre; these outstanding photographs belie the technical challenges faced by the duo and are arguably among the first examples of social documentary images in the history of photography.

The meeting between Hill and Adamson was precipitated by a polarizing religious dispute: on 18 May 1843 a group of ministers walked out of the Church of Scotland’s annual General Assembly in Edinburgh and officially established the Free Church of Scotland. The event rocked the nation and political status quo, sending reverberations around the world. Hill was so moved by the ministers standing up for their beliefs that he decided to commemorate the event in a large-scale painting representing all 400 of them. He turned to Adamson, 19 years his junior, as the first and only professional calotypist in Edinburgh, to photograph the sitters as preliminary sketches for his grand painting.

Hill quickly became smitten by the new art form and within weeks of meeting, the two men entered into a partnership and began making photographs together. Within a matter of months their works were featured in exhibitions and receiving critical acclaim, often being compared to Rembrandt’s etchings due to the strong chiaroscuro (or contrasting dark and light) quality of the prints.

Ironically, Hill had approached photography as a means to expedite his painting yet it took him 23 years to finish his large commemorative canvas: The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland; Signing Act of Separation and Deed of Demission (1843-66).The imposing picture was ultimately sold to the Free Church of Scotland and it continues to hang today in their headquarters in Edinburgh.

The success of Hill and Adamson’s partnership relied on professional alchemy as well as personal affinity, with both men working and living in Rock House, a landmark building located on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. Since making calotypes required natural sunlight, the photographers used the house’s south-facing garden as their studio, employing a series of props and several different backgrounds for their outdoor images.

These portraits made at Rock House represent a real ‘who’s who’ of Edinburgh’s society and illustrate the vibrancy of the capital’s cultural life in the 1840s; eminent sitters ranged from the artist Sir David Allan, to Isabella Burns Begg, the sister of poet Robert Burns, and the inventor of chloroform James Young Simpson. A string of foreign sitters also attested to the international nature of the capital at this time.

Hill’s artistry gave him an eye for composition, evident in an intriguing portrait of Lady Ruthven, whom he posed with her back to the camera to exploit the intricate lace detailing of her shawl against her dress. The image reads as a metaphor for photography itself: the negative and positive image captured on paper. Adamson appeared to push the boundaries of photography—demonstrating skills few possessed at such an early period in the history of the art form. To create calotypes the photographers dealt with a complex process of applying light-sensitive chemical solutions to paper in order to create the images. The steps involved were cumbersome and variable, yet the consistently high quality of the prints indicate they had perfected the process and mastered the fickle chemistry of early photography.

The exhibition also will reveal how Hill and Adamson made clever use of stylistic and practical devices when creating their pictures. Books not only suggested the sitter was educated, but the white pages allowed light to bounce back on the subject (at a time when there were no studio lights), while the actual object would keep the sitters’ fidgety hands occupied for the duration of the exposure. Poses were held anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes depending on the available sunlight, and any fidgeting during that time would result in a blurred image. The resulting photographs nevertheless display remarkable vitality, and in some, carry the sense of spontaneity of a modern snapshot like in the group portrait Edinburgh Ale where the sitters exhibit relaxed poses and faint smiles.

Hill and Adamson also captured the fisherfolk of nearby Newhaven. The men and women of the village were known throughout Edinburgh and beyond for their distinctive costumes, and their reputation for bravery had made them a part of popular culture in the nineteenth century, even featuring as characters in novels by Sir Walter Scott. With the limitations of the medium, the photographers could not capture the boats at sea and interestingly some of their most iconic works from the series, depict the men beside their beached boats or tending to their fishing lines ashore. These shoots were not a casual day out at the shore; in order to record these subjects the two men had to transport all their cumbersome equipment (wooden box cameras, tripods, paper, and support stands) to the site. Such complex requirements didn’t stop Hill and Adamson from travelling around Scotland—Glasgow, Linlithgow and St Andrews — and even as far afield as Durham and York in England. The Newhaven images are rare examples of social documentary photography and a selection of the Newhaven photographs was shown at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851; an early indication of the importance of the partnership to the history of photography.

The untimely death of Adamson on 14 January 1848, at the age of 26, marked the end of this unparalleled partnership, but their legacy continues. The fact that the photographs continue to delight is indicative of the special chemistry shared by these two Scottish pioneers. The last exhibition of this scale of Hill and Adamson’s fragile works was Facing the Light at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2002.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, commented: “Hill and Adamson’s works are the foundation of the photography collection at the National Galleries of Scotland. Their contribution to the history of photography was profound and enduring and is appreciated all over the world. The National Galleries holds the most comprehensive collection in existence and this very carefully selected exhibition will demonstrate the full range of their achievement. We are delighted to be providing visitors with an opportunity to view such important and inspiring works as part of our long-term commitment to promoting the appreciation of photography.”

Sue Dawe, EY Managing Partner for Edinburgh and Head of Financial Services in Scotland, said: “EY has long been a supporter of the arts and I am delighted that we are able to continue our sponsorship in Scotland with the National Galleries of Scotland. The work showcased in this exhibition demonstrates a legacy of industry and ingenuity for which Scotland is renowned worldwide. On behalf of EY, I am proud to help celebrate the efforts of two creative, Edinburgh-based photographers who were dedicated to their craft and documenting Scotland’s social history.”

A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill & Adamson is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

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Graham MacIndoe – Coming Clean

Untitled from the series Coming Clean, negative: 2004-2010; printed 2015 by Graham MacIndoe (b.1963). © Graham MacIndoe

 

GRAHAM MACINDOE: COMING CLEAN
8 April – 5 November 2017
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD
Admission free
#GrahamMacIndoe

Powerful self-portraits depicting drug addiction of acclaimed Scottish photographer to be shown by National Galleries of Scotland

A compelling and powerful series of photographs that document an acclaimed Scottish photographer’s devastating descent into drug addiction are to be given an exclusive first public showing this spring at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG).

Graham MacIndoe: Coming Clean will exhibit 25 personal and graphic images taken throughout the six-year period in which heroin and crack cocaine seized hold of successful New York-based photographer Graham MacIndoe (b.1963).

These hugely original photographs intimately record MacIndoe’s downward trajectory from professional photographer with a flourishing career to struggling opiate addict, a journey of anguish and isolation that was to culminate in an arrest for drug possession and a four-month stint in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison and five months in an American immigration detention centre before he got clean.

The images both powerfully confront the perilous destructiveness of addiction and explore the genre of self-portraiture in a way unrivalled in the photographic medium.

Graham MacIndoe studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art and received a Masters degree in photography at the Royal College of Art in London, before moving to New York in 1992 where he later pursued a career as a professional photographer. His work began to appear in some of the world’s leading publications, including The New York Times and The Guardian.

MacIndoe’s success led him to take portraits of the most recognisable people in the world, from Hollywood actors and authors to international artists and pop stars. However, he began to use alcohol and drugs in part to mitigate the stress arising from this demanding lifestyle, and also upheaval in his personal life, but his heroin habit gradually overtook everything that once mattered.

MacIndoe has now been clean for seven years, largely thanks to an innovative prison rehab program, what he describes as “a compassionate judge” and the support of his partner Susan Stellin, a reporter with whom he co-wrote Chancers: Addiction, Prison, Recovery, Love: One Couple’s Memoir, published by Random House in June 2016.

The recovery has seen MacIndoe prosper again, as a working photographer and as adjunct professor of photography at Parsons The New School in New York City, while he and Stellin were awarded a 2014 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship for a project about deportation. In addition to being represented in the National Galleries of Scotland collection, his photographs also reside in the collections of The New York Public Library, The British Council, The V&A Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg, Florida and The National Media Museum, Bradford.

While other photographers have shown the excesses of drug-taking in graphic detail before, the position usually adopted has been one of voyeur; not of subject. In MacIndoe’s case, his images do not show an individual exploited for a mass audience, so the power and control rests firmly with himself, and never before has a photographer captured addiction with such subjective honesty and rigour from the inside. This produced body of work is not only truly ground-breaking in its content, but in fact requires a certain degree of courage in viewing.

Coming Clean’s images are a result of a powerful interdependence between MacIndoe’s strong compulsions, the drive to capture the consequences of his addiction, and of his dexterous ability to do so.

The photographer hoped to avoid glamorising what had become “a solitary existence, the monotonous repetition of an addict’s daily life. I turned the camera on myself because I wanted to photograph addiction from the inside – a perspective most people never see”.

He admits that, “even in that haziness of addiction I was thinking like a photographer… how these pictures would be perceived”, and throughout this, his photographer’s eye remained keen and strong, even if everything else did not.

In their use of light, composition and ambiance, this eye emanates through Coming Clean’s images. Using basic digital cameras with self-timers, MacIndoe recorded himself while engaging in his personal drug rituals. His skilful use of light and shadow created a series of haunting self-portraits that reveal the squalor and stark reality of addiction.

Almost all the photographs are set within the small and limiting confines of his flat in Brooklyn. There is little connection with or evidence of the outside world and the few views of the city outside recorded from the window only seem to reinforce the isolating and claustrophobic existence. The only figure to appear in the scenes is MacIndoe himself, whose ghost-like presence is often exaggerated through the piercing light. In one portrait he is photographed against a window—turning his back literally and figuratively on the outside world—and the strong backlight has effectively distorted his body so that his head appears to float up and away.

Though no image, perhaps, is as symbolic of Coming Clean as that in which a clearly incapacitated MacIndoe rests his head on a seat, the evidence of a recent heroin injection in his contorted face and blood trickling from his forearm. Not only does MacIndoe, albeit inadvertently, frame the whole shot with his outstretched hand, but in his final action before descending into unconsciousness leaves the viewer with the understanding that amid the chaos, what he had been reaching out for was is the one thing he’d been left with any discernible control over; his camera.

Graham MacIndoe said: “It is a great honour to have the first showing of this body of work at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Although the images were taken during a difficult time, I am grateful to have made it through that period and hope this series shows that recovery is possible even from the depths of serious addiction. I never anticipated that these photographs would find a place in the national collection, so I’m especially excited for the opportunity to exhibit them in the city where I first discovered photography”.

Annie Lyden, International Photography Curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: “These photographs offer a rare insight into a very real aspect of the human condition. Graham’s honesty and courage in documenting this particular moment of his life allows us to see the rawness and isolation of addiction from the inside. The images are powerful and are at times upsetting, but you will not find a more candid and revealing series of self-portraits than Graham MacIndoe’s Coming Clean photographs.”

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‘Gravitas’ at London Art Fair

We’re delighted that Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’ project, which examines the culture of the Common Riding festivals of the Scottish Borders, has been chosen to be included in the Photo50 show at London Art Fair which runs this week from Wednesday 18th – Sunday 22nd January.

Photo50 is London Art Fair’s annual exhibition of contemporary photography, providing a critical form for examining some of the most distinctive elements of current photographic practice. 2017’s installment is ‘Gravitas‘, a group exhibition of lens-based works, curated by Christiane Monarchi, editor of Photomonitor photography website.

Also from Scotland and included in the show are works from a new portrait project by Wendy McMurdo which examines the dual existence of children and their digital online worlds.

GRAVITAS

“‘Gravitas’ refers to one of the core personal virtues taken by ancient Roman society as an important part of the expression of a purposeful life, a facet of the ideal and well-rounded citizen. It denoted depth as well as a seriousness and solemnity of character. The presence of gravitas signalled the transition of the Roman youth from the ranks of boyhood to become a respected member of society.

Artistic representation of the interior world of children and adolescents as they enter the adult world is fraught with challenges: not least the existence of taboos regarding the portrayal of children in the media under the age of consent. However, at a time when childhood itself comes under increasing pressure from society in many real and virtual arenas, the path through adolescence constitutes a fascinating journey worth illuminating for both artistic and sociological discourse.” – Christiane Monarchi explains the exhibition.

 

Ethan McMurdo as monk, St. Ronan’s games festival, Innerleithen, Scotland on 19th July 2014.

 

Jeremy will be exhibiting portraits of youths (above) participating in the Common Riding festivals from his Unsullied And Untarnished project, photographic portraits of the people of the towns of the Scottish Borders who each year undertake the maintaining of tradition, commemorating their local history and strengthening the bonds of their communities, during the annual Common Riding festivals of the summer months. Braw Lassies and Honest Lads, Left Hand Lassies and Right Hand Men, Cornets, Hunters and Coldstreamers – all titles given to the upstanding youths who lead the festivities, and whose duty it is to carry the burgh or town standard around the common lands, to “bring it back unsullied and untarnished”.

Wendy McMurdo’s work focuses on the now ubiquitous role of the computer in the lives of the majority of western children. The rapid proliferation of computers in schools has provided the context for the development of much of her work, which looks directly at the influence of computers on early years education. Working closely with local schools, she has explored the role of the child within the school, the growth of the Internet and the development of networked play. In related projects, she shadowed school parties on educational visits to various local museums, a process which evolved naturally from photographing in the classroom. From this, she produced series of works that explored the ways in which children related to the museum and its objects in a world of increasing simulation. She is based in Edinburgh.

Young Girl (iii), photo © Wendy McMurdo 2016.

 

Talking of the project Wendy says, “In the summer of this year, my youngest daughter was about to leave primary school and I wanted to make a final piece of work documenting her class. I’d worked with this group on many occasions over the years, mainly looking at the impact that the computer and digital culture had on their lives.

That summer, location based gaming exploded onto the scene and it seemed that much of this group’s time outside school was spent chasing Pokémon around the streets of the city. Using GPS and their camera functions, they roamed the city, inhabiting two worlds at the same time – one geographic and one imaginary. In this set of portraits, I wanted to capture that dual existence, now that space has been re-imagined for us by the appearance of location-based gaming.”

‘Gravitas’ Exhibiting Artists.

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

 

HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST – a new movie about acclaimed photojournalist Harry Benson, native of Glasgow and now residing in New York, and Honorary Patron of Document Scotland, is now out in the cinemas.

HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST will be shown at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on Monday, February 6 and Tuesday, February 7. And no doubt on many more screens to come.

Watch the trailer here.

 

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Disappearing Glasgow

We’re delighted to read that Chris Leslie‘s Disappearing Glasgow project is getting another outing, this time as a multimedia exhibition at Glasgow Lighthouse space. If you missed Chris’s recent Glasgow School of Art show, then you should hurry along to see this arrangement of the works…

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

 

Exhibition info:

Photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie is widely acknowledged as the most consistent chronicler of the city’s recent history. This new multimedia exhibition and accompanying book ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ documents an era of spectacular change in Glasgow through the medium of photography and film.

The skyline of Glasgow has been radically transformed as high rise tower blocks have been blown down and bulldozed. Since 2006 more than 30% of the city’s high rise flats have disappeared, communities dispersed across the city and Dalmarnock have ‘been raised from the ashes’ via the Commonwealth Games.

Does this Disappearing Glasgow herald a renaissance in the city?

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

 

Disappearing Glasgow book, by Chris Leslie.

 

Reviews of the book:

‘There’s something about a still image of something gone wrong that’s truly haunting. Perhaps to do with the age we live in, where everything is fast-moving and fleeting, that something grounded can have such a lasting effect. That’s what Chris Leslie brings to the table in Disappearing Glasgow. FIVE STARS’ The Skinny

‘Fascinating and highly emotive.’ i-on

‘Fascinating and moving.’ Scots Magazine

‘Photographer Chris Leslie documents this decline and fall wth steely-eyed honesty and unsentimental empathy. The result is both distressing and beautiful, an essay in what might have been and a lesson for anyone involved in the planning process.’ Scottish Review of Books

‘The photographs are absolutely stunning, perfectly capturing the spooky, eerie atmosphere of buildings which have been left to time. The story which Leslie tells through his photo series involves the smallest detail, such as a lost lottery ticket or an old thermostat on the wall, but also panoramas of the Glasgow cityscape, being once someone’s view. Two thumbs up for this book!’ SkyHighCity

‘Chris Leslie is the foremost chronicler of the changing face of Glasgow over the last decade.’ A Thousand Flowers

‘Chris Leslie builds on that erudite pointed critical observation and legacy of photography from the Victorian photographer Thomas Annan, through to Marzaroli. The city is fortunate to have such a critical friend, the contemporary conscience of our generation, able to aim his lens with astonishing focus, at the same time capturing the beauty, sadness and poignant with a pointed dignity.’ Page and Park Architects

Release date: 26th October 2016
Format: A4 Landscape Hardback, 192pp

Book can be purchased at usual outlets or online here – http://www.freightbooks.co.uk/disappearing-glasgow.html

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

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‘Sun pictures and beyond’

Scotland’s pioneering role in the development of photography in the 19th century is being celebrated in a new display at the National Library of Scotland. The exhibition runs until March 26th, and entry is free.

It features one of the first ever books to be illustrated with photographs, William Henry Fox Talbot’s Sun Pictures in Scotland, published in 1845. Only 100 copies were produced and the National Library has one of the few complete copies that have survived.

 

A clean sandstone Scott monument under construction from 'Sun Pictures in Scotland'

A clean sandstone Scott monument under construction from ‘Sun Pictures in Scotland’ by William Henry Fox Talbot. 

 

Melrose Abbey, from 'Sun Pictures in Scotland' by William Henry Fox Talbot.

Melrose Abbey, from ‘Sun Pictures in Scotland’ by William Henry Fox Talbot.

 

The display, which opened on November 30, showcases examples of photographically illustrated books that followed this landmark publication in the second half of the century as photographic reproduction became simpler, quicker and more reliable. This includes work from some of Scotland’s early professional photographers such as George Washington Wilson, James Valentine, Thomas Annan and Scottish photographers abroad including William Notman and John Thomson.

Wilson and Valentine in particular followed Talbot’s lead by maximising the commercial opportunities of photography in book form, establishing successful studios in Aberdeen and Dundee. This included producing albums with original prints for tourists wishing to have souvenirs of the Scottish landscape and notable buildings. They also published illustrated books with photomechanical prints, which combined photography with existing commercial printing processes to create high quality prints on a large scale. Valentine went on to establish a globally successful business selling postcards.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Thomas and James Craig Annan became renowned for their photographically-illustrated books of architecture and fine art.

 

'Through Cyprus with a Camera, Vol 1, Cypriot Maid', by John Thomson

‘Through Cyprus with a Camera, Vol 1, Cypriot Maid’, by John Thomson

 

The display also features the work of Scots photographers abroad including John Thomson, one of the first photographers to visit the Far East. His final foreign trip was to Cyprus which resulted in a deluxe publication Through Cyprus with a camera from 1879 which can be seen in the display.

Curator Dr Graham Hogg who has produced the display said: “These books hold an important place in the history of photography and helped to establish an art form that still thrives in Scotland today. They represent only a small selection of the Library’s extensive holdings of photographically illustrated books relating to Scotland that were produced in the 19th century.”

Sun pictures and beyond: Scotland and the photographically-illustrated book 1845-1900 runs until March 26 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free.

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North Sea Fishing

In Scotland’s Season of Photography, the Scottish Fisheries Museum is delighted to be hosting a striking exhibition of black and white images shot by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert aboard the seine net fishing boats, Mairead and Argosy, in the North Sea in the 1990’s. These images capture the reality of the life at sea for the fishermen of Scotland’s North East fishing communities – the cramped conditions, the monotony, and the grueling work in harsh conditions.

 

Bill Smith secures the nets, aboard the 'Argosy' seine-net fishing boat in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

Bill Smith secures the nets, aboard the ‘Argosy’ seine-net fishing boat in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

 

12th November 2016 – 19th February 2017
Entry included in museum admission.

Here, Jeremy talks about how the work came about:

“Considering I come from a land-locked family I’ve done my fair share of bobbing about on the waves of the planet, and no sea has more bobbing than the North Sea (although going through the 40degress and 50 degree latitudes of the Southern Ocean was quite interesting). The North Sea – “a confused sea” as it was once described to me and, as one fishing trawler skipper told me, late at night, only the instrument panel lighting the bridge room, “the north sea, she’s a cruel mistress”.

I think my first experience on the North Sea was on a fishing trawler, on an overnight assignment photographing fishing trawlers for a paper. There was a fisherman’s protest, lots of trawlers all together, protesting latest EU rules and regulations, net sizes and quotas. I got sent out to photograph. It was a night of adventure: watch dawn rise, shoot the other boats, back to harbour, home by lunchtime. The skipper that night, Ronnie, was a decent chap. I asked him how long he usually goes out for at a time, “10 days”, was the reply. “Can I come next time?” I asked. He smiled, he laughed, he replied, “if you think you can handle it, you can come, but there’s no going back. If you’re sea sick you’ll be sea sick for 10 days”. Count me in.”

The results of this expedition are captured in these striking images which serve as an important record of a period and style of fishing which is already passing into history and the Scottish Fisheries Museum is pleased to be able to provide our visitors with an insight into the working conditions for seine net fishermen, operating far from the safety and comforts of the shore.

We feel equally privileged to be hosting the inaugural display of this exhibition which will then tour other venues nationwide. The production has been made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of several organisations including Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, Scottish Fishermen’s Trust, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and Loxley Colour Photo Lab.

Aboard the 'Argosy' seine-net fishing boat, in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

Aboard the ‘Argosy’ seine-net fishing boat, in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum-partnered exhibition will then tour to the following venues across the country over the next year:

12th Nov. 2016 – 19th Feb. 2017 – Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther

23rd Feb 2017- End of March 2017 – Arbuthnot Museum, Peterhead

8th April – 13th May 2017 – Montrose Museum

20th May – 29th June 2017 – Signal Tower Museum, Arbroath

8th July – 27th August 2017 – Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland Isles

9th Sept – 21st October 2017 – St Fergus Gallery, Wick

28th Oct – 9th December 2017 – Thurso Art Centre

6th Jan 2018 – 24th Feb 2018 – Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

A related Education Pack developed by the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Learning and Access Officer will be available for subsequent venues to engage with their local young people.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum will host a talk by the photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and featured fishing boat skipper Ronnie Hughes on Friday 2nd December, from 6pm.

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Peripheral Histories

A few friends of Document Scotland are having a 2-venue show in the coming weeks called Peripheral Histories. See below for all the important info and hope to see you at one of the two venues for this Street Level Photoworks supported show! We’re told there is different work in each venue, so make sure to visit both for the full show!

 

Peripheral Histories

Main Exhibition takes place at: Platform, Glasgow: 5 August – 18 September 2016
with a smaller representation of work at The Lighthouse, Glasgow: 5 August – 2 October 2016

Opening Reception: Saturday 13th August, 3-5pm, The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow (Level 4).

A two-venue exhibition featuring work by four Glasgow-based artists. Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte combines photographs made by her father in the last days of the Soviet Union’s grip on her native Lithuania and her own images of life in the West made using expired film as old as the one used by her father. Calum Douglas explores the tension between science and belief in the search for extraterrestrial life in America’s southwestern states, while Alan Knox explores the relationship between the sublime and the uncanny by documenting the architecture of space simulation at the Mars Yard test area, constructed by Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage. Sarah Amy Fishlock takes the trajectory of her late father’s life as a point of departure to investigate ideas of grief, mortality and memory.

Peripheral-Histories_small

 

Sarah Amy Fishlock

Sarah Amy Fishlock (b. Glasgow, 1986) works mainly with lens-based media, found images and publications. Her work explores the relationship between the individual and wider social, historical and political realities, the tension between cultural and familial identity, and the problematic nature of memory. Notable projects include Middlemen, a portrait of three Iraqi former British Forces workers, now resettled in Glasgow, Amye & Ahren, documenting a family living with autism, and a 9-month period as Artist in Residence at Glasgow’s Citizen’s Theatre in 2013/14. Sarah’s work has been featured by Der Grief, BBC News In Pictures and Foto 8, and exhibited internationally at venues including Calumet Gallery (New York) the British Council Gallery (Delhi) and the Consul’Art (Marseille). UK exhibitions include the Scottish Parliament (Edinburgh), V&A (London) and Glasgow Women’s Library (Glasgow).

(Sarah’s) Beloved Curve examines the transitory nature of human life in relation to the cyclical and constantly regenerating natural world, as well as being a personal chronicle of my attempts to understand and come to terms with the death of my father, Michael, in 2004. Using double exposure techniques to create a dialogue between my father’s documented (photographed) past and my immediate, unknowable present, the work attempts to reconcile the two realities that grief creates: a before, in which the beloved is a living, breathing person, and an after, in which they exist only in the memory of the bereaved, resigning agency to the imagination of the living. These images speak to the undulating, cyclical nature of grief – in some, my father’s presence is clear, his features perfectly recollected. In others, he is indistinct, as my memory of his physicality is erroded by time, his reality slowly reclaimed by the natural world, receding into the past as my own trajectory continues into the future.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock.

 

©Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte

©Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte

 

Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte

Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte is a Lithuanian artist based in Glasgow. She holds a BA in Visual Communication and a Masters in Fine Art with distinction from the Glasgow School of Art. She has exhibited nationally and internationally including Kaunas Photography Gallery, Street Level Photoworks Glasgow, Calumet gallery New York, British Council New Delhi and Rovinj Photodays Croatia. Kotryna is a recipient of grants and awards from Lithuanian Culture Council, Glasgow Visual Art and Craft award scheme, Eaton Trust and Educational and Marshall Trust Glasgow. Kotryna works with photographic image, archival materials, moving image and installation.

Kotryna writes: This body of work combines archival photographs taken by my father in the last decade of USSR’s existence and pictures made by me 30 years later. Unexpected finding of previously unseen negatives showing travels, political events and family scenes prompted me to initiate a visual dialogue in between two different geographical points in Europe, two eras and two political regimes. I am mainly using expired photographic films as old as the ones my father had used- thus questioning notions of time, memory, change and the medium itself. The familiar and the surreal, the personal and the political, memory and expectation weave the visual narrative on the photographic emulsion that is as old as me.

©Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte

©Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte

 

Alan Knox

Alan Knox is a photographer based between Glasgow and London.  Since graduating from the Glasgow School of Art where he was the recipient of the Chairman’s Medal, his work has been featured in the British Journal of Photography, Creative Review, GUP, Der Greif and BBC News In Pictures, whilst in 2015 he was named as a finalist in the Daniel Blau Gallery’s 5 Under 30 competition and the Jill Todd Photo Awards. In 2016 he was named as a winner of the Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Awards.

Life on Mars explores the relationship between the sublime and the uncanny by documenting the landscape of Mars as constructed by Airbus Defence and Space at their base in Stevenage.  In the photographic reconstruction of the Martian expanse, the site becomes a liminal boundary between the finite matter of the universe and the infinite expanse of the unknown.  As engineers test the development of the Mars Rover to search for evidence of life on the red planet, the Rover once complete is due to land on Mars in 2020.

 

©Alan Knox

©Alan Knox

 

©Alan Knox

©Alan Knox

 

Calum Douglas

Calum Douglas’ work explores themes of belief, representation and contradiction.His series Only The Dead Have Seen The End Of War looked at the ever evolving conflict in the Middle East. With this series Douglas wished to create work that questions the typical images we see of modern conflicts in the media, while also forcing the viewer to confront their own morality and mortality. The work was exhibited in London and Rome and was featured in British Journal of Photography, GUP and Magenta’s Flash Forward 2016 Catalogue.

Douglas’ most recent series Where Is Everyone? explores other complexities that face humanity, in a search to understand our innate desire for answers to our existence. The series has featured on It’s Nice That and The Guardian Online. In September Douglas will be relocating to Switzerland to embark on a Masters of Photography at ECAL, where he plans to further explore the themes within his recent work.

 

© Calum Douglas

© Calum Douglas

 

© Calum Douglas

© Calum Douglas

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Shipbuilding On The River Clyde

Shipbuilding On The River Clyde, by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

I’m pleased to announce that some of my archive work, of shipbuilding on Glasgow’s River Clyde in the 1990’s, has been published as a small book, and is due to be exhibited over the summer here in Glasgow.

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert — Shipbilding on the River Clyde

The photographs, shot in the Kvaerner, Yarrow and Ferguson’s shipyards on the River Clyde, have been published as a limited edition book by the industrious Craig Atkinson at Café Royal Books: ‘Shipbuilding on The River Clyde’.

A selection of the work from the book will be exhibited, in a group show ‘Govan / Gdansk’ at Street Level Photoworks gallery in Glasgow, Scotland, from 4th June until 31st July. My book will be on sale at the show also, and on Saturday 4th June I’ll be talking about the work at the gallery. Please join us!

The book and exhibition were showcased a few days back by the Daily Record. You can read the article here, and here’s how it looked in a pretty decent spread.

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This exhibition at Street Level, curated by director Malcolm Dickson, will encompass the work of four photographers- Michal Szlaga of Poland, Nick Hedges of England, Raymond Depardon of France, and myself. The works on show link the shipyards of Govan in Glasgow and Gdansk in Poland and their post-industrial decline and resilience.

Michal Szlaga’s ‘Stocznia/Shipyard – Documents of Loss’ is the outcome of a 15 year project in which Szlaga has documented the buildings of the Gdansk Shipyard, their gradual demolition and the construction of new ones. For Szlaga, the shipyard represents a dynamic landscape of industrial architecture reflecting history and its people, the images loaded with memories of the turbulent times of the anti-communist revolution.

In 1980, the French Magnum photographer Raymond Depardon was commissioned by the Sunday Times to record aspects of Glasgow and the evocative results are now lauded as telling an unremittingly bleak portrayal of urban deprivation and decay. In 1968 Nick Hedges was commissioned by the housing charity Shelter to document the abject living conditions being experienced in slum housing in the UK, including Glasgow. The images here are from the seminal and humanistic body of work ‘A Life Worth Living’, which, like Depardon’s work, see children happily at play against the backdrop of the Govan cranes, evidence of a community spirit unthwarted by the harsh realities of life.  Shot for editorial clients, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ‘Shipbuilding’ from the mid-1990’s is a critical time capsule at the Kvaerner shipyards in Govan which catches the monumentality of this industry and the people who drove it. 

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert — Shipbilding on the River Clyde

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert — Shipbilding on the River Clyde

The exhibition ‘Govan/Gdansk’ and the programme of events around the exhibition are organised in association with an RSE – funded research network on Regeneration and Waterfront Heritage Zones, exploring participatory approaches to waterfront regeneration in urban spaces in transition in Northern European cities. The main case studies of regeneration focus on Govan and wider Glasgow (Scotland) and Gdansk (Poland), each of which are dealing with the consequences of the post-industrial demise of the shipbuilding industry, trying to find a transition into a new economy and community.

Associated Events:

Street Level Photoworks | 4th June 2016, 1-4pm
Symposium: Attracted to dereliction? Documenting post-industrial heritage

•  Prof Katarzyna Kosmala (UWS) Introduction – Gdansk/Govan; Govan/Gdansk
•  Michal Szlaga talk and tour of the works
•  Dr Waldemar Affelt (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, and the Main Conservation Commission to the General Conservator of the Polish Republic) addressing issues of documenting and conversation, linking to his on-going research on Gdansk shipyard and post-industrial regeneration.
•  Talks: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Chris Leslie
•  Discussion facilitated by Graham Jeffery (UWS)

 

UWS, School of Media Culture and Society, Paisley Campus | 3rd June 2016, 1-3pm, Room A100

Seminar is free and open to public. To register pls email: Susan.Caldwell@uws.ac.uk  by 31 May.

UWS research seminar series:  Panel on politics of regeneration, artists lens and community engagement with Polish artist Michal Szlaga’s video screening

•  Chair Prof Katarzyna Kosmala (UWS)
•  Dr Waldemar Affelt (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, and the Main Conservation Commission to the General Conservator of the Polish Republic) discussing his collaboration with Michal Szlaga in Gdansk shipyard, problematizing the heritage value of the site.
•  Roman Sebastyanski (UWS) addressing Gdansk shipyard regeneration through artists lens and public participation.
•  Dr Peter Matthews (Stirling University) discussing politics around connecting communities to/in post-regeneration era.

Alongside the exhibition we will be selling copies of Raymond Depardon’s ‘Glasgow’.
112 pages, 30x23cm, £20, and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ‘Shipbuilding on the River Clyde’ on Cafe Royal Books, £7.

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Harry Benson CBE, an exhibition

We’re pleased to hear that Glasgow-born photojournalist Harry Benson CBE, and Honorary Patron of Document Scotland, is having an exhibition at the Scottish Parliament later this year. The press release from Holyrood, reproduced below, tells all…

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick, with Harry Benson CBE.

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick, with Harry Benson CBE.

 

An exhibition featuring the work of one of the world’s most renowned photographers, Harry Benson CBE, is to go on display at the Scottish Parliament in August.

The free exhibition, Harry Benson: Seeing America, will include some of the photographer’s most iconic images capturing significant moments in America’s social, political and cultural history over the last 50 years.

Harry Benson’s credentials on photographing American history are unrivalled. Glasgow-born Benson essentially arrived in America with the Beatles and went on to photograph every US President since Dwight D. Eisenhower. Benson was present during Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and teargassed during the James Meredith March with Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. He started by covering America for the Daily Express and by 1968, was fulfilling his ambition of working for Life magazine.

 

Cassius Clay hits George Harrison of The Beatles,- copyright Harry Benson 1964.

Cassius Clay hits George Harrison of The Beatles,- copyright Harry Benson 1964.

 

This new exhibition will bring together many of his well-known images including the photograph of President and Mrs Reagan dancing, which featured on the cover of Vanity Fair, images documenting the civil rights movement and tensions in 1960s America, the Watergate journalists Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward and Richard Nixon’s resignation speech. It will also feature many well-known American entertainers including Frank Sinatra, James Brown, Jack Nicholson, Dolly Parton, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt.

The free exhibition will be on display at the Parliament from Friday 12 August until Saturday 3 December. It will be the first exhibition of Harry Benson’s work to go on display in Scotland since 2008.

Reagan's Dance, copyright Harry Benson 1985

Reagan’s Dance, copyright Harry Benson 1985

 

The Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick, who announced the exhibition whilst she was in New York for Scotland Week, said: “Harry Benson’s work is admired across the world and he is undoubtedly one of Scotland’s greatest exports.

“This new exhibition is Harry’s unique take on America over the last 50 years and will feature some of his most iconic photographs.

“As the debate on the forthcoming US Presidential election intensifies, this exhibition shines a light on some of the defining moments of America’s past.

“This exhibition is a “must see” for anyone with an interest in American history, politics and culture.”

Glasgow-born, Harry has photographed some of the world’s biggest stars from The Beatles to Muhammad Ali over a career spanning 60 years.

Harry Benson CBE said: “Growing up in Glasgow, one year at the end of term when I had narrowly passed my qualifying exam to the next level, my teacher, Miss MacKenzie, stopped me as I shuffled out of the classroom and said, “Benson, I don’t worry about you one bit.” It was the nicest thing anyone had ever said to me. I wish I could have gone back years later to thank her.

“To have my retrospective, my American journey, at Parliament is an incredible privilege. My wife, Gigi, and my daughters, Wendy and Tessa, join me in thanking the Scottish Parliament for this truly remarkable honour.”

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Graham Miller’s “Autism: Hearts of Angels’

Perth-based photographer Graham Miller‘s lastest body of work, ‘Autism: Hearts of Angels’, will be exhibited at The Birnam Institute, Dunkeld, in March.

The exhibition runs from Wednesday 2nd of March to Thursday March 31st with the official opening reception March 6th from 2pm to 4pm, at  The Birnam Institute, Station Road, Birnam, Dunkeld, PH8 0DS.

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Background

In June 2015, Scottish Documentary Photographer, Graham Miller, travelled to Greece to view the impact of the financial crisis on those least able to care for themselves. Spending several days living in a house with twelve adults affected by severe autism he found a remarkable community where, despite having not being paid for two periods of six and two months respectively during the prior two years, the educators continued to give the highest standards of care.

Access to the home in Zitsa was provided by GSPAP, The Greek Society for Protection of Autistic people who established one of very few full time residencies for adults affected by severe autism in Greece in 2001. Referred to as ‘children’, yet aged between 26 and 42 years, many of the residents cannot speak and are affected by other conditions. One child is also deaf and blind.

The title of the resulting exhibition ‘Autism: Hearts of Angels.’ is taken from a quote from a parent Sophia Bonanou who was instrumental in the getting the work done.

The images shown here are selected from the 14 that will be shown as light boxes, with extended captions, at an exhibition in Perthshire during the month of March. Each light box has a remote control allowing the light levels to be adjusted. ‘I want people to feel they can interact with the work and am using light in a symbolic way to show that we can all have an impact on others lives good and bad’.

Jenny Paterson, director of The National Autistic Society Scotland, said: ‘I was very moved by Graham’s wonderful exhibition of autistic adults living in Greece. The presentation of his beautiful photographs on lightboxes is unique and attention-grabbing. I would urge people to visit The Birnam Institute and view his work whilst they can.’

NAS Scotland will also be promoting the event as part of raising autism awareness while providing an information display for the duration of the exhibition.

Graham Miller is a Perthshire based documentary photographer. He graduated with distinction from LCC University of the Arts in 2013 with an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography.

His work is focused on challenging stigma, particularly in relation to disability, and, where possible, he interviews and records sitters whilst photographing them. ‘It enables me to bring my subjects closer to life experiences which I then aim to capture with my camera’.

Graham’s work, under the title Photohonesty, has featured in the international press such as Stern.de and has been shown in a number of solo exhibitions including a month long event at Edinburgh’s prestigious Summerhall Gallery and two ‘stays’ at the Birnam Arts Centre in beautiful Perthshire .

He has been a regular contributor and panelist to the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival.

In 2013 he also self published a book ‘6%: Down’s Syndrome My Photographs Their Stories’ in collaboration with Down’s Syndrome Scotland, which has sold over 500 copies.

In 2015 he was invited to become an ambassador to the Athens based M55 collective.

Graham is currently working on his next two projects which he describes as ‘accessible conceptual’. “I want people to need to engage with my work and then ‘get’ what I’m trying to say’.

Website: www.photohonesty.org

Twitter:   @photohonesty

Facebook: Photohonesty

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Joseph McKenzie’s Secret

JOSEPH McKenzie had a secret.

For the last 35 years of his life, the man known as “the father of modern Scottish photography” stopped exhibiting his pictures, withdrawing from public life. In the eyes of the world, he had retired, retreated to his home in Tayport, on Scotland’s east coast, with its long view over the firth to Dundee. His death on July 5th, 2015, at 86, prompted obituaries composed around a minor key of regret – here was a man of great ability whose work had been neglected, nearly forgotten by the public and the arts establishment.

 

Joseph McKenzie, photo by Adam Elder. ©Adam Elder, all rights reserved.

Joseph McKenzie, photo by Adam Elder. ©Adam Elder, all rights reserved.

 

Yet, all the time, all through those decades when his reputation faded like an old photo exposed to sunlight, McKenzie kept his secret: he was still taking pictures. He just wasn’t showing them.

He took photographs right up until a few days before he died. He developed his own work, as had always been his habit, writing title and date on the back in neat black pen, and adding the new pictures to the great stacks of prints that had come before. The result, as his son Frank puts it, is “one of the largest single artist photographic archives in the world”. In addition to tens of thousands of pictures, a great many unseen, there is an unpublished autobiography, a diary, poetry, and footage of McKenzie talking about his work; all the ingredients for the major retrospective exhibition, books and a documentary which the family hopes will follow.

“We’d like to get recognition for what he achieved,” says Frank. “We are also going to try to get an OBE posthumously for him. He deserves it.”

Frank is 57, the eldest of five children. We meet in the Victorian villa where Joseph McKenzie lived and worked and raised a family. Frank leads the way through the kitchen, opens a door, pulls back a curtain, and reveals the darkroom. Here is where all of McKenzie’s most celebrated work emerged from its chemical crucible, those moody, melancholy black-and-whites of 1960s street life: pie-sellers and gossip-mongers in cobbled Dundee; petrol-bombed homes in troubled Belfast; the Gorbals Children series, in which kids grimed in snot and jam play merrily in the Glasgow slums.

The darkroom has a low ceiling and white wood-panelled walls. McKenzie feels present through his tools. Two old Leicas rest in their case. A magnifier stands on top of an enlarger, and it is easy to imagine the photographer hunched over, squinting into the lens. A pair of white linen gloves sit on a cabinet, one placed neatly on top of the other. His hands, his eyes, his vision. This feels like a shrine, a place of relics and transubstantiation – flesh into film into art. Brown bottles of sodium metaborate stand, sacramental, on a shelf. Listen carefully and you can almost catch Tangerine Dream and Benjamin Britten and recordings of the John Peel show, the music McKenzie used to listen to here, drifting in from the past.

“Joe was a master printer,” the artist Calum Colvin had told me a few days earlier, emphasising how important, almost sacred the darkroom had been for his former teacher at Dundee’s Duncan Of Jordanstone College of Art. “He invested an emotional quality in the printing. They are visual poetry, really. I think he felt that there would be a revealing of his greatness after his death.”

Frank McKenzie nods when asked about this. Did his father wish for his work to be seen once he was gone? “He always wanted the recognition, but on the other side he was almost frightened of recognition. My personal analysis is he feared rejection. Because he’d had a lot of rejection in the early parts of his life. All the turmoil that he’d been through, I think he felt rejected. Parentally, he felt rejected. He always felt that he was a mistake and his mum didn’t really want him. There were some deep psychological fears of rejection.”

Joseph McKenzie was born in the east end of London in 1929. His father was a clockmaker left bankrupt following trouble with a business partner. The family knew real poverty and the sadness that came with it. Material possession were few. When, aged ten, McKenzie was evacuated to Dorset, he did not even own a bag and had to carry his pyjamas in a pillow-case sealed with tape.

“He felt his life had been a struggle from the day he was born,” says Frank, but it was struggle which gifted him an empathy for the difficult lives of others. “Because of my own deprived background I could identify with the children’s feelings; there was a rapport between us,” he wrote in the preface to his book Gorbals Children. An impoverished upbringing was not, he went on, insurmountable; then, thinking, perhaps, of his own childhood, “It is the hang-up of being unloved, unwanted, which is a real and permanent disadvantage!”

In 1947, McKenzie was conscripted into the RAF and spent three years as a corporal in the Photographic Corps. While stationed in Germany, he met his future wife, Shelly, who is Dutch and Catholic and inspired his conversion to that faith. In 1954, the year in which he joined the Royal Photographic Society, he began to teach at St Martin’s in London. Ten years later, he and his family moved to Scotland, where he headed up the new photography department at Duncan of Jordanstone. That year, 1964, also saw him embark upon his Gorbals Children study, inspired by the paintings of Joan Eardley; the show toured in 1965, marking the start of a run of work and exhibitions in which McKenzie was established as a soulful and sympathetic chronicler of the working class.

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In the early 1970s, there came a fork in the road. McKenzie had spent the last years of the previous decade travelling within Ireland, taking photographs – titled Hibernian Images – which contrasted the peaceful rural life in the Republic with the sectarian violence of the North. For a show of this work in Aberdeen, he submitted a catalogue statement which he claimed was then altered by the gallery to remove text which the curators seem to have felt appeared sympathetic to the idea of armed struggle against the British state.

“My father went berserk,” Frank recalls. “He said, ‘This is censorship. You have no right to do this.’ And that’s when things really busted up. He just withdrew. He said, ‘Well, if I can’t show my work in the way I want to show it, I’m not showing it.’”

This was when McKenzie stopped exhibiting new work in public. Between 1974 and 1980, he turned part of his home into a gallery which could be viewed by appointment, and in 1987 there was a retrospective in Glasgow, but after that – nothing. This feels, looking back, like an act of self-sabotage, even a sort of martyrdom. “Joe was a great one for thinking about sacrifice,” says Calum Colvin. “He felt that his integrity had been sacrificed by that incident to do with Hibernian Images. He felt that he was suffering, in a sense, for his artistic beliefs.”

Albert Watson, who went on to have a high-profile and successful career in the United States, was a student of McKenzie’s in the mid-1960s. He finds his old teacher’s decision frustrating. “He had a lot of self-doubt. But you can’t blame the world. You love photography? You pick up a camera and shoot.”

But can’t one counter that with the JD Salinger argument? We can choose to be frustrated that he wrote stories and then hid them away in a drawer, or we can be grateful that the few books that do exist are exquisite. “Yes,” says Watson, “in a way you are right. You can say, ‘Well, the Gorbals Children – he did that.’ And I do think those pictures are terrific. I feel very positive about Joe. But my observation is that he could have done more.”

Anna Robertson, head of fine and applied art at Dundee’s McManus Gallery, which owns a major collection of McKenzie’s photographs, believes he backed himself into a corner with his decision not to show new work publicly. “As a very honourable man who lived by a series of beliefs, it would have been difficult for him to come back from that,” she says. “To say he saw the world in black and white is a trite thing to say about a photographer, but he did. He had a highly developed sense of what was morally right and wrong, and what was right and wrong for him. There weren’t shades of grey in his own life, and he felt he had to take these stances.”

It’s an interesting thought: the stubborn, awkward, damaged, morally outraged side of his personality which drove him to take such brilliant photographs of poverty and turmoil may have been the very character traits which made him unable, or at least unwilling, to keep on taking and showing them. For, although he continued to work, his photographs were very different from what had come before.

“His work became more introvert,” says Frank. “He started looking more around the home. He took pictures of family. He took a lot of stuff around the local area. He liked taking walks along the Braes in Tayport, and down the harbour.

“So, yeah, he carried on photographing, but it was closer in. You can see that he went from being a man who challenged the world to a man who imploded – gradually, gradually, gradually until he condensed down to the immediate vicinity, and you can see what he ended up doing. Everything he did in the end was around here in the garden.”

These, then, were the last photographs of Joseph McKenzie – careful, tender, even obsessive studies of flowers and leaves and overgrown paths. Humans are absent, but his own humanity is not. They are in colour, they were taken on digital cameras, and they seem to contain within them an infinite sorrow.

Perhaps, though, it is wrong to see these pictures as sad. McKenzie loved his garden, according to his priest and friend Father Aldo Angelosanto, and he would have regarded photographing it as using the gift God gave him in the service of representing the mystery of God’s creation. “He felt his Catholicism deeply,” says the priest. “He put his soul into his photographs.”

Father Aldo conducted McKenzie’s funeral at Our Lady Star Of The Sea in Tayport, a service attended by family, students and friends. Among them was Graeme Murdoch, former chief executive of the proposed Scottish National Photography Centre.

“One of the hymns had the words, ‘You fear the light may be fading. You fear to lose your way,’” Murdoch recalls. “I think that was Joe; why he kept taking pictures right up to the end.”

A selection of Joseph McKenzie’s photographs from the Women Of Dundee series, on loan from the McManus, will be shown at Stills: Centre For Photography, Edinburgh, February 6-April 10th, 2016

©Peter Ross 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Read also:

‘Joseph McKenzie, An Appreciation’ by Alan Taylor. 

‘Oscar Marzaroli’s Castlemilk Lads’ by Peter Ross.

Peter Ross website, and his ‘Daunderlust, Dispatches from Unreported Scotland’ book.

Peter Ross on Twitter.

Thanks to Peter for graciously allowing us to reproduce this article, which had first appeared in the Journal Magazine of the Royal Photographic Society.  And thanks to Adam Elder for allowing us to use his portrait of Joseph McKenzie.

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