Oot Tae Play

The British Journal of Photography recently announced their shortlist of photographers for their Portrait of Britain photo project, and we’re delighted that photographers and work from Scotland made the cut. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert‘s portrait from Langholm Common Riding (from his Unsullied and Untarnished book of the Scottish Common Ridings) was selected, as are two portraits be Edinburgh-based Euan Myles (and here), and also a portrait (first image below) by Ilisa Stack from her series ‘Out tae Play’. We contacted Ilisa to find out more about her work and project…

 

Shortlisted image of Michaela, selected from 13,000 entries for the Portrait of Britain Award. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

Oot Tae Play, by Ilisa Stack.

I have always had a love and desire for photography from the days as a little girl who used to watch her dad developing film in the darkroom to taking everyday snap shots of my own family through the years, however it was not until 2014 when I was accepted into the Hnd photography course at City of Glasgow College that my photography exploration really began. I completed my Hnd and went on to study for the BA (Hons) Degree in which I recently graduated from in June.

The four years studying at COCG really was a joy. The first fast paced years of the course aided my photographic skill set tremendously. With all the given briefs completed I could really start to see the documentary path that my photography was leading towards. I could not wait to start the degree years for that path to develop further with the gentle guidance and support of the hugely talented lecturers at City, as well as inspiring talks from photographers such as Kirsty MacKay and Magnum photographer Martin Parr. The college really has such an atmosphere surrounding it and proved to me to be a wonderful creative hub.

The origins for the Oot tae Play series actually started when I was visiting Hartlepool in 2016 researching Daniel Meadows inspiring book ‘The Bus’. I was drawn to reading about Mary Clark one of his the subjects. Mary’s character reminded me of many of the great Glasgow women I knew. I walked along the beach at Hartlepool and took a few shots; however the area was very quiet except for my boys playing with an old rope they had found. I also came across a concrete play area at the sea-front and as I looked through my viewfinder, an eerie feeling came over me. Later that night everything made sense. My children walked in front of me into the entertainment area of the holiday park we had been staying, to the left of them was a brightly lit over the top stall set with toys galore and directly in front of them was a dance floor and stage full with children laughing and playing. At that very moment I realised it was children that had been vacant from the beaches and play areas. That was the point ‘Oot tae Play’ was created.
I wanted to create work that involved children and their environment, i realised that I could work on a project in my own city which was a revelation for me as a lot of my work consisted of projects that incurred many miles.

 

 

G32 | Age 3 | Scooter | 2018. © Ilisa Stack 2018, all rights reserved. 

 

I advertised the project on social media platforms with a poster that I had created to inform parents and carers who may be interested in their children taking part in the series to show the requirements of the project. The online presence was extremely successful and I had instant numerous responses.
At the start of the project I knew some of the children or I knew their parents, as the series has progressed that has changed and it is wonderful that people now are approaching me and wanting their children to be a part of the ‘Oot tae Play’ kids.
I choose to approach photographing the series in this way as I felt it is a modern way of communication. For me it is a very honest approach. I inform and explain to the parents before the shoot day that the proper releases will need to be signed.
The amazing children who have taken part so far all receive a high resolution image from the shoot, and a certificate to say that they have taken part in the ‘Oot tae Play’ series. It is much more than that though, they are now a community of children. One of the children Cari has now moved on to secondary school since I initially photographed her, her mum has informed me that she is planning on becoming a photographer. Michaela another child from the series’ mum informed me that she had went into school and enjoyed telling everyone about her shoot and showed the image to her class. Fifteen year old Declan’s mum was surprised that he wanted to take part in the project but because the shoot included what he does when he’s is outside, he was more than happy to take part and show his ball and team strip.

 

G32 | Age 6 | Scooter | 2018. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

The pictures tell a story of capturing a pictorial documentation of children today, how they play, what they play with and the outside environment in which they play. I would hope the images convey a positive representation of Glasgow children. (There also exists a short film of the children and their toys, from ‘Oot tae Play’)


Working on the series has outlined a huge shift in social change in regards to the photographic documentation of children today. These contemporary portraits may still be too current to show the lack of images being taken of children out with a studio environment or family online albums.

It is a tremendous privilege for me to photograph the ‘Oot tae Play’ children and the aim at the moment is to continue to build upon the body of work. It would be very interesting to see and photograph the children again in the future and is something for me to consider.

G73 | Age 14 | Snow | 2018. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

I receive inspiration from various sources and it is extremely difficult to narrow that down but in terms of photographers work though I have to mention Thomas Annan, Bert Hardy, Oscar Marzaroli, Edith Tudor-Heart, Tish Murtha to Joel Sternfeld, Jim Mortram, Daniel Meadows, Kirsty MacKay and painter Joan Eardly, to name but a few. Whilst being a student you learn a lot of skills and one of those skills is confidence. It for me was really daunting to put work out in the world for others to see other than that of my lecturers. Credit for me entering the BJP really goes to Aileen Campbell my then lecturer. I was given so much encouragement to enter the competition. I am absolutely delighted that my image has been shortlisted for the BJP and that I will have an image printed in the Portrait of Britain book. I cried many a happy tear when I found out. I am in awe of the images that have been shortlisted and it is just lovely to be included in that part of the process. It has been wonderful sharing the news with Michaela and finding how excited she is that her image will be printed in the book. We look forward to the outcome of the shortlist, yes it would be a dream to make the final 100, however I really don’t think Glasgow has enough tissue paper for the tears of joy I would shed if that was the outcome.

 

G44 | Age 5 | Dinosaur | 2018. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

At this moment in time I am still working on ‘Oot tae Play’. I am however researching background information for two new projects.
I have also been extremely fortunate to have been contacted in June of this year to take part in an exhibition at the aff Galerie in Berlin this October as part of the Monat der Fotografie OFF- Berlin by Malcolm Dickson, Gallery Director at Street Level Photoworks. I’ll be giving a short talk on the work in Berlin on Sunday 14th, which is the opening weekend of the Monat der Fotografie OFF Berlin, which the exhibition is a part of. I am so pleased to be presenting some of the ‘Oot tae Play’ series.

I am delighted that recently I have had an image shortlisted for the Scottish Portrait Awards. This again was wonderful news and as one of the 30 to have been shortlisted the image will be exhibited at Edinburgh Arts Club, Saturday 3 November to Saturday 1 December 2018 and then again at the Glasgow Art Club on Monday 21 January to Saturday 9 February 2019.

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Wildfires: Somewhere Ahead I See You

To mark the Year of Young People 2018, WildFires presents three bodies of work by women who explore the whole – and varied – truths of what it is to be young, entering the tender places of their subjects’ private terrains, from where they form themselves and address the world. Flannery O’Kafka documents the profound physicality and mystery of heredity, while Sarah Amy Fishlock examines her father’s life after death in her own mind and in the images that remain of him. Kirsty Mackay’s new work examines the photographer’s own roots, the longing and sense of belonging to the place where she grew up – Glasgow.

image © Flannery O’Kafka 2017 from the series Thin Blood / Thick Water

Somewhere Ahead I See You is a resonant celebration of youth, its fluid and decisive moments, its fleeting darknesses and deep joys.

June 11th – July 21st 2018
FLOW Photofest Gallery Wall
Eden Court, Inverness IV3, UK
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PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES.

PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES: TRANSPORTATION PHOTOGRAPHS

FROM THE NATIONAL GALLERIES OF SCOTLAND 
2 June 2018 – 13 January 2019
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
0131 624 6200 | Admission FREE
#PlanesAndTrains

Part of Edinburgh Art Festival 2018

The extraordinary advances in the technology of travel over the past 170 years, and their wide-ranging impact on our lives will be the subject of a dramatic and inspiring new exhibition of photographs at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) this summer. Planes, Trains and Automobiles will draw upon the outstanding collection of the National Galleries of Scotland to consider the rapid expansion of transportation from the end of the Industrial Revolution to the present day. It will feature 70 exceptional images, including key images by Alfred G Buckham and Alfred Stieglitz, which demonstrate how the technologies of photography and transport have evolved in tandem, each of them broadening our horizons and radically altering our perception of our ever-shrinking world.

The exhibition will include iconic photographs such as The Steerage, a career-defining image by the American photographer Alfred Stieglitz (1864-1946), made in 1907, while he was travelling to Europe by sea; and Inge Morath’s striking portrait Mrs Eveleigh Nash, The Mall, London (1953). Walking on the first-class deck, Stieglitz looked down into the third-class steerage area below him. Immediately struck by the strength of the composition created by the group of travellers gathered there, he quickly retrieved his camera, and captured the jarring class divide. Celebrated both for its modernist composition and its social commentary, the resulting photograph is one of the most recognisable images in the history of photography. Similarly, Morath (1923-2002), one of the first female photographers to work for renowned photo agency Magnum, used the door frame of an open-topped car to artfully divide her composition, suggesting the social gulf between the wealthy Mrs Nash and her chauffeur.

One of aerial photography’s pioneers was Alfred G Buckham (1879-1956) who took breath-taking photographs in the skies above Edinburgh. Just as fascinating as his photographs, are Buckham’s dare-devil techniques to capture the perfect shot. He gave this sage advice to budding aerial photographers: ‘It is essential to stand up, not only to make the exposures but to see what is coming along ahead. If one’s right leg is tied to the seat with a scarf or a piece of rope, it is possible to work in perfect security’. Buckham also pioneered early layering of multiple negatives to create the perfect shot giving his photographs an ethereal, otherworldly quality.

The Industrial Revolution led to the rapid expansion of the railways, which had a huge impact on the way that people lived and worked and led to the expansion of many towns and cities. As early as 1845, the railway line in Linlithgow was photographed by David Octavius Hill (1802-70) and Robert Adamson (1821-48), who travelled by train to document the main sights of the town.

The Forth Bridge was the longest bridge in the world when it opened in 1890 and it is now widely regarded as a symbol of Scottish innovation and cultural identity. Radical in style, materials and scale, it marked an important milestone in bridge design and construction during the period when railways came to dominate long-distance land travel. Evelyn George Carey (1858-1932), a young engineer working on the construction of the bridge, made an incredible series of photographs as the building work progressed. In one of these photographs Carey records the amusing sight of two men demonstrating the cantilever principle – resulting in the boy sitting at the centre of the ‘bridge’ being lifted into the air. This series of photographs inspired the German contemporary photographer Dieter Appelt (b.1935) to make Forth Bridge – Cinema. Metric Space – a photographic montage of 312 separate silver gelatine prints which together offer a beautiful, lyrical interpretation of an engineering masterpiece.

Another innovation explored in Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the Victorian phenomenon of the stereograph. Made of two nearly identical scenes, which when viewed together in a special device, create a single three-dimensional image; this new photographic technology essentially mimicked how we see the world. It sparked curiosity and encouraged the public to view images of far-flung places from the comfort of their own home. The natural association between travel and transport meant that modes of transport were one of the most popular themes for stereographs. This exhibition will feature over 100 stereographs from the National Galleries of Scotland’s collection in a dynamic wall display, alongside digital interpretations.

524 million journeys were made by public transport in Scotland last year and Planes, Trains and Automobilesexplores this common form of travel. Photographers have been repeatedly drawn to the theme of commuting, fascinated by its ability to show humanity in movement, following regulated routes to work. Among these are documentary photographers Humphrey Spender (1910-2005) and Larry Herman (b.1942) who both made work observing Glasgow and Glasweigians on their daily commute.

From photographs of the iconic Forth Bridge to images of commuting, Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a photographic celebration of transportation in all its forms.

Christopher Baker, Director, European and Scottish Art and Portraiture, National Galleries of Scotland, said:  This is the third in a hugely popular series of thematic exhibitions drawn entirely from the outstanding collection of photography held by the National Galleries of Scotland. The carefully selected photographs on display show how technology and transport have impacted on so many aspects of our lives and provided such a rich and thought-provoking focus for outstanding Scottish and international photographers, from very earliest days of the medium to today’s innovators.”

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MacKinnon Collection

Pictured: Fairlie Album, 1860s by various inc. Julia Margaret Cameron. Collection: National Galleries of Scotland, MacKinnon Collection, acquired jointly with the National Library of Scotland with assistance from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Scottish Government and Art Fund.

 

100 years of Scottish photography secured for the nation

An exceptional collection of historic photographs that captures a century of life in Scotland is to be shared with the public following a special collaboration between the National Library of Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland.

More than 14,000 images – dating from the earliest days of photography in the 1840s through to the 1940s – have been jointly acquired with support from the Scottish Government, the Heritage Lottery Fund and Art Fund.

The collection covers an expansive range of subjects – including family portraits, working life, street scenes, sporting pursuits, shops, trams, tenements, mountains and monuments. Until now, it was one of the last great collections of Scottish photography still in private hands.

The collection was put together by photography enthusiast Murray MacKinnon, who established a successful chain of film-processing stores in the 1980s, starting from his pharmacy in Dyce, near Aberdeen.

He said: “The collection covers the day-to-day lives of Scottish people both rich and poor, the work they carried out including fishing and farming, in order to survive, and their social life including sport and leisure. These were turbulent times what with industrialisation, shipbuilding, new forms of transport, the social upheaval caused by the First World War in Europe and the Boer War in South Africa. The discovery of penicillin and radiography heralded the development of medicine and the pharmaceutical industry in Scotland.

“I would like to thank all the people involved in acquiring this collection for the Scottish nation, and for their great efforts in making this acquisition possible.”

Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop welcomed the public acquisition.

She said “The MacKinnon collection is one of the most remarkable collections of Scottish photography and an invaluable resource for researchers, students and the wider public. I am delighted that £300,000 of Scottish Government funding has supported the acquisition, curation, touring and digitisation of this collection, preventing it from being broken up or sold overseas.

“Our rich cultural and artistic heritage plays an intrinsic part in boosting our economy and tackling inequalities. I commend the National Galleries of Scotland and National Library of Scotland for their achievement in ensuring that this unique collection can now be enjoyed by the people of Scotland, enabling the public to learn more about our fascinating early photography tradition.”

National Librarian, Dr John Scally said: “Scotland has a unique relationship with photography which dates back to the work of the early pioneers such as Hill and Adamson. This acquisition is akin to buying Scotland’s photographic album of 14,000 pictures and bringing it home, and together with the National Galleries of Scotland, we were determined to make that happen. I am confident that every Scot will feel a connection with these wonderful photographs and we look forward to sharing them with the public over the coming months.”

National Galleries of Scotland, Director General Sir John Leighton, said: “This collection superbly demonstrates the important role Scotland had in shaping the history of photography. Our ability to tell this story is greatly enriched by this acquisition, and we look forward to the exciting partnership with the National Library of Scotland in making these artworks accessible to all.”

Heritage Lottery Fund, Manager for Scotland, Lucy Casot, said: “Taken in the pioneering days of photography in Scotland, these historical images allow us to glimpse our ancestors going about their daily lives. Thanks to players of the National Lottery, this valuable resource has been secured for us all to enjoy. It’s a fascinating collection detailing what life was like and how that has shaped us as a nation.”

Director of Art Fund, Stephen Deuchar said: “We are proud to be able to support both National Library of Scotland and National Galleries of Scotland in acquiring Murray MacKinnon’s unparalleled collection for the nation. It is incredible to have these photographs join a public collection where they can be enjoyed for generations to come through their display and tours as well as digitally.”

The photographs provide a visual record of how Scotland has changed physically, socially and economically since the 1840s.

Highlights include:

More than 600 original photographs from the pioneering days of photography featuring work from David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848), James Ross (d.1878) and John Thomson (d.1881), Cosmo Innes (1798-1874) and Horatio Ross (1801-1886).

Some of the finest work of Thomas Annan (1829-1887) and his son, James Craig Annan (1864-1946) including rare examples of their original albumen prints.

Fine examples of the work of Scotland’s successful commercial photographers including George Washington Wilson (1823-1893) and James Valentine (1815-1880).

Portraits of Scottish regiments from the Crimean War by Roger Fenton (1819-1869).

A series of albums and prints depicting life in the main towns and cities from the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Studies of farming and fishing communities in remote villages and hamlets.

Scenes of shipbuilding, railways, herring fishing, weaving, whisky distilling, dockyards, slate quarries and other working environments.

The collection contains an exquisite view of Loch Katrine by William Henry Fox Talbot, who travelled to Scotland in the autumn of 1844. Talbot was the inventor of the calotype, a negative-positive paper process that was patented around the world, but, importantly not in Scotland, allowing for free use and experimentation. As a result, early Scottish photographers, such as Hill and Adamson and Ross and Thomson, were encouraged to take up the new technology, becoming key figures in developing its potential as both document and art form within its first two decades.

As the photographic medium evolved, Scotland once again was at the forefront when, in 1883, Thomas Annan and his son James Craig Annan secured the British rights for the previously secret process of photogravure. The photomechanical process created prints in large editions, revolutionising the publication and reach of photography.

While photography is known for its reproducibility, many of the artworks contained within the collection are unique, including daguerreotype portraits and hand-made albums. One such impressive example is the Fairlie album, consisting of family portraits and photographs by known makers including Julia Margaret Cameron. Using elements of collage, drawing and marginalia, the pages are a one-of-a-kind celebration of the Fairlie Family, from Fife. Reginald Fairlie was the architect of the National Library of Scotland building on George IV Bridge.

A major exhibition of the MacKinnon collection will be held at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery next year, with touring exhibitions around the country to follow. The entire collection will also be digitised over the next three years and made available online.

#ScotlandsPhotos

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“No Ruined Stone” by Paul Duke

(c) Paul Duke

Paul Duke’s new book of photography, No Ruined Stone, reminds us that the places in which we grow up rarely leave us, they exert a pull across the decades and often force us in later life to re-examine how we have become the person we are today.

Muirhouse, built in the 1950s as a council estate to the west of Edinburgh has had a troubled recent history with substandard high-rise housing, chronic unemployment and endemic drug use among many of its younger residents creating seemingly intractable social problems. It has also had a reputation for strong community spirit and looking after its own as Scottish legends and former Muirhouse residents, Gordon Strachan and Irvine Welsh, can attest to. Photographer, Paul Duke, also grew-up in Muirhouse, and although he left to study and then work in London, family roots have repeatedly drawn him back and recently he decided that photography was the ideal way to re-connect with the community that dominated his childhood years.

In, No Ruined Stone, Paul’s black and white landscapes and portrait photographs are enigmatic and loaded with the kind of symbolism that only someone with a deep and complex knowledge of Muirhouse could achieve. Long-overdue re-development of the housing stock is re-shaping the estates and the clash between undergoing construction and the natural world that tenaciously clings on around these zones provides many of the strongest images in the book. Locals, who Paul encounters in and around the neighborhood, are photographed as they are found, the exchange seems natural and there is little attempt made to heroise.

To find out more about this new body of work, Document Scotland asked Paul to elaborate on the impetus for returning to Muirhouse to shoot the photographs which make up No Ruined Stone.

(c) Paul Duke

DocScot: Tell us about your history with Muirhouse? How has it changed since your early days there?

PD: I was raised in Muirhouse and lived there for the first eighteen-years of my life. Despite the fact that poor social conditions made it a very tough place to grow up, I had a very happy and loving childhood there. My formative years were greatly shaped by a strong maternal influence and two inspiring and very brilliant young art teachers at school, Richard White and Maldwyn Stride. My mother brought up two boys on her own, it wasn’t easy for her emotionally nor financially, but she was determined to keep us out of trouble and instilled in us both, strong moral values. My brother, like me, went onto study at the Royal College of Art in London – that meant everything to her, to break the mould of expectation for young men from a deprived Scottish housing estate.

My father moved back close to the area some time after my mother left, so I returned fairly frequently to visit him. I still have relatives who live in the area to this day.

The physical change has been significant – my house, school and a big chunk of the original Muirhouse estate have been razed to the ground as part of an urban regeneration scheme. However, many of the social ills that dogged the area back in my early days are still unfortunately prevalent.

DocScot: When and how did the idea come to you to take a series of photos? Were you focussed on what you wanted to achieve or were you just seeing what you saw?

PD: I knew during the making of the ‘At Sea’ project that I wanted to return to Scotland to make more work. Both my parents passed away around that period of time therefore it felt timely to continue to explore my own Scottish identity as well as this notion of national identity, which interests me greatly.

There was a strong pull to go back to my roots and I knew from the beginning that I wanted to make a body of work that celebrated the fighting spirit, dignity and hope of the residents living there today – I was very focused on that but always kept my eyes open. I made the project over two years so it was a very organic and intuitive experience. Working with a large format camera slowed down the process of making photographs – this was intentional. I also wanted to play with the visual language, to create a narrative that struck the balance between objective documentary and a subjective project.

(c) Paul Duke

DocScot: How did you explain to interested observers what you were upto?

PD: Muirhouse is a small close-knit community and word gets around quickly. I made early visits to walk around and meet people before I started making any photographs. After that, I made regular monthly visits and never missed a trip over the whole period of making the project – it was really important to be consistent. Residents therefore got used to seeing me around, trust and familiarity followed. The warmth, kindness and support I experienced when I explained what I was doing, was humbling.

DocScot: Was it important to shoot in overcast or non-summer weather?

PD: The most important thing was to always keep things free. I never allowed myself to get caught-up in lighting preference as I had no control over that – everything was shot with natural light. I made the most of the light I had to work with on any given day and enjoyed the challenge.

DocScot: How did the book come about?

Last year, I approached German photo book publisher, Hartmann Books. Markus Hartmann was previously director of photography at Hatje-Cantz before setting up his own publishing company. Markus was raised in Berlin and I think the photographs and subsequent social message I had created struck a personal chord with him. Markus and his team were therefore very keen to publish the series.

DocScot: What kind of future do you think Muirhouse has and are you likely to have any role in that?

PD: In terms of the residents, yes, Muirhouse has a good future. I had the great privilege to make friends with a handful of dynamic, committed and inspiring community activists. If developers and politicians consult these individuals and others like them over the course of time, then I am confident that Muirhouse will successfully deal with the pressing social inequities that exist, but only with their consultation.

I have no immediate plans to take on any active role but I have expressed some future involvement. However, I do hope in the interim that the content of the book highlights social inequity, challenges deep-rooted class prejudice and offers a far-reaching insight into a deprived and disenfranchised community.

(c) Paul Duke

DocScot: What you are up to in the short-medium term and how is your photographic practice developing.

PD: I am currently developing a new project, again based in Scotland. It’s still in the germination period so not a lot to expand on at this stage, but I do hope to start shooting in earnest this coming September. This project will form the third and final part of a trilogy of works exploring modern day Scotland.

Many thanks to Paul for the interview and for sharing his work. The book, No Ruined Stone, is published by Hartmann Projects and can be bought here…http://www.hartmannprojects.com/publications/paul-duke-publication

(c) Paul Duke

(c) Paul Duke

(c) Paul Duke

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Nevertheless, She Persisted by Mhairi Bell-Moodie

Mhairi Bell-Moodie’s work, Nevertheless, She Persisted telling the stories of women who have faced adversity is currently being exhibited at Out of the Blue in Edinburgh.

Mhairi worked closely with 25 women who have overcome child loss, domestic abuse, rape, self harm, body dysmorphia, suicide attempts, breast cancer and much more. We spoke to Mhairi about the work and her exhibition….

 

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

 

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

DS: Can you introduce us to the project project Mhairi –  why did you start this, what’s it about?
The idea to create a body of work around women came to me in November 2016. In one week, I’d photographed two women who gave me some really positive feedback – both on the process of being photographed and with the end results.  They’d both been going through a tough time (chemo and bullying) and I wondered how I could use my skills as a photographer to help other women feel stronger.

One of the women was a friend of a friend.  Mette ended up being in the project but it was still a few months before I had a fully formed concept.  In early 2018, I researched as many women’s issues as I could think of and contacted several charities asking if they would be interested in teaming up to help me make some meaningful work.  SANDS Lothains, Breast Cancer Now, Edinburgh Women’s Aid and Changing Faces all put me in touch with women who were keen to be involved.  The rest of the participants answered my socail media shout outs.  Before I met any of the women, I told them a bit about myself, showed them my previous work, and explained what I hoped to achieve with this project.  I reassured them that anything they told me would be kept confidential until they decided to commit, and always made sure to give them time and space to think about it before deciding.  It was important to me to spend time building a relationship with the women as they had trustsed me with some very intimate details of their life.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

DS: “Nevertheless, she persisted” became something of a strapline in the US last year, is this why you chose the title? How do audiences respond to it here?
I wanted a title which could encompass many stories.  With 25 women involved, it was important that the title was relateable to all of them – and to audiences.  The response to the title was very positive – many of the women said they felt like it fitted them perfectly.  Many of my friends said it was also appropriate for my own journey.  Several people have also commented that the loved the title and that the words have given them strength.  It was great to have such a positive response before I’d even released any of the images.  When Chelsea Clinton tweeted about the exhibition, I saw someone comment that they had never understood the title of her book (She Persisted) until he saw my series and realised the struggles we face.  That really touched me.

 

 

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

DS: Can you talk a little about your approach visually and how the images help tell these womens’ stories.
The aesthetic of the project ended up quite different from the original idea, but I think I made the right decisions in the end.  Almost all of the women were photographed in their own homes.  My first shoots were wider, including more of their environment.  However, apart from Nicky, whose portrait was taken in her stillborn son’s empty nursey, I found it hard to visually communicate their stories through their envirnoments.  I decided that it would be more effective to create strong portraits and tell their stories seperately.  I asked the women to write hand written postcards with comments on their journeys.  It was important to me that the women had some ownership of the project and I think doing this worked well.

The project has taken me on my own journey.  I’ve been affected by all the stories and the women have become very important to me.  They trusted me with their stories and I felt a huge responsibility to share them respectfully.  Because I worked with each woman one-on-one, they weren’t really aware of the scale of the project or the other stories.  It was really rewarding to see them support each other when I started sharing their stories on social media.  They have all said how honoured and privileged they are to be part of something with so many other strong women.  I think many of them women didn’t know their own strenghts when I first met them, but I have really seen them grow in the few months I’ve known them.  It’s been a rollercoaster ride for all of us and I’m delighted that the project – and the women – have received so much support.

From the series “Nevertheless, She Persisted” – portraits of women who have overcome domestic abuse, child loss, breast cancer, gender and sexual identity issues, mental health issues, rape, chronic illness and much more.

 

 

Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us Mhairi and congratulations with the exhibition.

Nevertheless, She Persisted telling the stories of women who have faced adversity is currently being exhibited at Out of the Blue 30–36 Dalmeny Street, Leith, Edinburgh, EH6 8RG until 18th May 2018.

www.outoftheblue.org.uk

See more of Mhairi’s work here

 

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10 From The North | 10 bho Tuath – an An Lanntair exhibition

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Paul Walton’s ‘Hum’, reviewed by Frank McElhinney

This week I attended the opening of Paul Walton’s Hum, which runs until 9th February in an exhibition space on the 5th floor of Glasgow University’s St. Andrew’s building. I have been an admirer of Paul’s work for a number of years, and was impressed to see this collection of over 70 hand printed silver gelatin prints, brought together as Hum: Dispatch from the Lower Anthropocene. Walton, an ecologist and environmental campaigner by profession, uses photography to break down distinctions between science and art and explore a personal understanding of the human place in nature, of the history of life, and of environmental processes. The exhibition is reviewed here by Frank McElhinney, another contemporary Scottish artist whose work we have long admired, and has himself been interviewed for this blog (link below).

Hum: Dispatch from the Lower Anthropocene – an exhibition of photographs by Paul Walton

5:29am July 16th 1945, the precise moment of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon and, Paul Walton proposes, the commencement of the Anthropocene. It is this release of radionuclides imprinting directly upon geology that marks the crossing of the line into a new epoch when human impact on the environment becomes the defining characteristic of the period we currently live in.

In his exhibition of more than seventy hand made silver gelatin prints, Walton shares with the viewer his silent, slow burning rage. Cobwebbed daddy long legs and snail feeding trails, coexist alongside distressed plastics and metals. All show traces of decay and whether organic or manmade all are imperceptibly dusted with radioactive isotopes, touched by the cold winds blowing in from Siberia. All are strikingly presented in threes – triptychs, little trinities, the Trinity test, Jornada del Muerto desert, New Mexico 5:29am July 16th 1945.

Mabel Barber’s marine plankton, © Paul Walton 2017

In justified rage there is also a glimmer of hope. The hope that others will see what the photographer sees if his vision is communicated well enough. Photographs are anchored in stillness. Paul Walton’s photographs ask us to stop and think about time and humanity, to think about our place as aberrant species on this planet. If we see what he sees, that the Anthropocene is upon us, then surely we will change in ways that might yet stop the rot? That is one proposition or heartfelt plea of the work. And how much work, how much labour is vested in these photographs? This exhibition is Walton’s first but he has spent five years worth of weekends in the darkroom of Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, slowly accumulating and developing the skills and the imagery to construct this rich multilayered narrative. This exhibition shows us his vision of the contemporary, precariously poised between the blind march toward End time and a conscious step away from the precipice.

Crane fly, © Paul Walton 2017

Re-photographed archival images are presented alongside new and unusual still lives that were made throughout Scotland. A nuclear blast in the Nevada desert, Paleolithic cave drawn men from Spain, and microscopic slides of marine plankton originally made by a woman who was run over by a coal truck on her bicycle after ten weeks of marriage to the photographers father. These vie for attention with sea torn aluminium from Seil, beached plastic on Tiree, bullet riddled steel plate from Perthshire and spilt milk in the Gorbals. Still life triptychs are bounded on a very long wall by grids of snagged carrier bags, little archaeologies of detritus flying in the wind like torn flags of forgotten nations. The perceived physical feat of production in such volume also plays its role in expressing the maker’s obsession with his subject. The viewer responds to the material reality encountered as well as to the visual aesthetic of the closely observed inter-connected still lives.

Slug feeding trails, © Paul Walton 2017

Hum: a low steady continuous sound. Jornada del Muerto: journey of the dead man. In a talk given at the exhibition opening Walton spoke about the influence of his late geologist father on his world-view, his obsessions and indirectly his photography. He spoke of his own professional interest in declining sea bird species and tracing root causes back through the food chain to the impact of global warming on marine plankton. Climate change and the power games humans play with nature hum, ever present, weaving their way into the fabric of our lives through our environment and eventually into our bodies themselves. Walton’s quiet photographs signal a mortal struggle. He remembers as a boy more than forty years ago, standing on a hill with his father, being inspired by stories of the wide-open plains of Siberia. This was a space of freedom and ‘fresh air’. Air that blows across Europe from the east, air that carries low level radiation: “he and I breathed in the cooling soviet isotopes, gyred in from Siberian test sites, down into our bellies, and there they stay, as geology hums, shrugs like the eider, and a new epoch begins.”

 – Frank McElhinney

Hum: Dispatch from the Lower Anthropocene  is on display at St Andrew’s building (5th floor), Eldon St, University of Glasgow, until February 9th. Mon – Thur 7.30 – 21.00, Fri 7.30 – 17.30.

Frank McElhinney was interviewed by Sarah in January 2017 – read the feature here.

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Photography Courses in Scotland

Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson will be once again running a series of photography courses this summer.

Based on the tiny car-free island of Easdale, 15 miles south of Oban, Colin and fellow photographer, Liverpool-based Adam Lee, will host the short residential courses, where photographers of all levels will be guided and assisted to create a small photo story about the island, its environment and people.

The course is designed to ‘re-set’ your creativity by looking at some ideas which can help to bind a series of images into one coherant narrative. Both Colin and Adam will draw on their own experiences to deliver a stimulating and fascinating insight into how participants can improve and finesse their work. The emphasis will be on collaboration amongst the six participants, who will be accommodated in two cottages on the island, both of which boast all the comforts of modernity with the historical charm of this former slate-mining island in Argyll. There is ample time to devote to each individual and their photography whilst sharing and exchanging ideas and suggestions amongst the group.

Each course lasts two-and-a-half days, with three nights accommodation and all meals included in the fee. There are six dates starting at the end of June and into July, 2018 and anyone interested is encouraged to book early as places on the courses are already starting to fill up.

Full and further information can be found on the courses dedicated website.

All photographs © Colin McPherson, 2018.

 

 

 

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Seedbed – new work in progress

Document Scotland was delighted to receive support recently from an organisation called Seedbed, which supports projects with start-up funding. The support has allowed two of our photographers, Sarah Amy Fishlock and Sophie Gerrard to each undertake a small project looking at different aspects of land use in Scotland, with a view to developing the work into a broader and wider series of Document Scotland projects over the coming months.

Sarah’s project focuses on community gardening in Glasgow, exploring how urban gardeners engage with the land around them and the social and cultural effects of green spaces in residential areas, while Sophie’s work introduces us to a number of young farmers based in and around Edinburgh and The Lothians, exploring their unique landscapes and every day working lives as well as the financial, logistical and industrial challenges of working in an ageing industry.

Document Scotland are extremely grateful to Seedbed for their support and look forward to sharing the completed projects.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved

 

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved

 

Cameron, East Lothian © Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved

 

East Lothian © Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved

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Fresh Focus at Stills

Last month Sarah took part in CONNECT FOR Photography Graduates at Stills, a day of talks focussed on supporting graduate and emerging photographers. As well as insightful talks by Melanie Letore, Mat Hay, Morwenna Kearsley and others, the event included a presentation by Christina Webber, Zoe Hamill and Erin Semple on a new initiative being run out of Stills, Fresh Focus. Work in progress by the three artists was shown at Stills in September as part of Working Title, which aimed ‘to bridge the gap between concept and finished product by exposing the process behind the pictures.’ Sarah speaks to Christina, Erin and Zoe here.

© Fresh Focus 2017, all rights reserved

SAF: Hi everyone and thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Can you tell me about yourselves, and how Fresh Focus came about?

ES: Fresh Focus came about from feedback from the Stills 2016 Connect For event. Feedback from recent graduates called for opportunities to discuss work with others – as after college/university you are often left without a support network. As recent graduates ourselves, we agreed that after university it becomes increasingly more difficult to stay motivated especially if you don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. We want Fresh Focus to emulate the peer group that many people are now missing but to also connect people from different institutions and year groups.

© Zoe Hamill 2017, all rights reserved

SAF: What do you perceive as being the main issues facing emerging photographers in Scotland today?

CW: Emerging photographers are immediately faced with a lack of opportunities. There is no grad scheme waiting, no easy career ladder to jump on and climb rung by rung. More often than not they are working part or full-time to support their practice and still have to compete within an over-saturated industry for the few jobs/internships/competitions that are there. Leaving a creative institution, you also lose access to the facilities you have been taught to work with. Equipment is expensive, space is expensive, time is expensive. There is a distinct difference between being taught how to use specialist facilities and being taught how to source/ finance them for yourself. The consistent nag of self-doubt and money trouble, the isolation incurred from free time spent on personal work or applications, and the day-to-day stresses of a day job do not (without some effort) lend themselves to a productive creative environment.

SAF: How does the initiative address some of the challenges you’ve identified?

CW: What we aim to do with Fresh Focus is to make the bridge between education and industry easier by creating a space for discussion, collaboration and support. This environment is a catalyst to help establish critical confidence in project work by receiving feedback and engaging in a wider photo community. The monthly meet-ups and online space will also serve as a resource pool – a way of using individual networks to each-other’s benefit. Building a career is difficult – but we believe it gets easier when we support each other!

© Erin Semple 2017, all rights reserved

 

SAF: I can see there being a lot interest in this kind of peer-led discussion. How can people who’re interested in taking part get in touch with you?

ZH: If you’re interested in joining the group, we ask that you visit the website and fill in a brief application form. This is so you can tell us a little about yourself and why you think joining the group would benefit your practice. If you have any questions about the process or would like to find out more about the group, you can email nic.rue@stills.org. You can also follow us on Instagram @freshfocusatstills to give you an idea of what we’ve been up to so far, and keep up to date with our plans for the future.

SAF: Thanks all for chatting to me. We’re excited to see what comes next!

© Christina Webber 2017, all rights reserved

 

© Fresh Focus 2017, all rights reserved

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Colin Templeton’s Glasgow.

Photographer of Glasgow, Colin Templeton, is exhibiting work in a group show Photography Now, at the Brick Lane Gallery in London, from 8th – 20th November. There’s an opening night on the 8th Nov, 6.00- 8.30pm.

 

Rear Window – A face glimpsed through the steamed up window of a car. © Colin Templeton 2017

 

Of the work he’ll exhibit Colin says, “The city is in constant flux. Right now in Glasgow the shipyard cranes and tower blocks are vanishing. The pubs are closing or becoming gentrified. Everything disappears and, once gone, becomes fascinating.

I’ve come to realise that the city is my inspiration to pick up a camera. It seems to me that the fabric of the buildings and places are the perfect backdrop for the people. There is darkness and drama in the most everyday places, and I enjoy the challenge of finding and capturing it.”

 

Red Road – Final days of the Red Road flats. © Colin Templeton 2017

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