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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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 firstname.lastname@example.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!
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.
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.”
The inaugural Flow Photography Festival took place across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in September 2017 with the theme ‘People and Place’. The festival launched at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, with several other galleries hosting work by internationally-acclaimed and award-winning photographers from Iceland, Finland, Scotland and Norway, icluding work by three Document Scotland photographers. In addition, the festival staged a series of concurrent events throughout the North of Scotland and the larger collections have just begun a tour of other venues. The man behind the festival, Matt Sillars, looks back on their first festival foray…
“As I write the main exhibitions from the inaugural photography festival in the Highlands and Islands are all bubble wrapped and packed in storage. However, An Lanntair in Stornoway, St Fergus Gallery in Wick and Timespan Gallery in Helmsdale all have shows with longer finish dates, so there is plenty to see well into November. The festival has been a real success with a set of comment books burgeoning with positivity!
After two years planning the FLOW Photofest launched in September with a host of exhibitions from some of the leading photographers in the North including work by three Document Scotland members. Work from ‘When Saturday Comes’ by Colin McPherson and ‘North Sea Fishing’ by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert was on show along with the St Andrews University exhibit ‘Scotland through the Lens – 175 years of documentary photography’ featuring work by Sophie Gerrard. It was a real pleasure being able to show school groups the work of Sophie and discuss the photography of Franki Raffles, who was also in the 175 years show, in the context of contemporary documentary work.
Designed as a biennial destination festival, showing in galleries and spaces across the Highlands and Islands, FLOW has set itself the task of showcasing challenging and exciting photography by photographers ‘from the North’, ‘based in the North’ or ‘making work in the North’. We featured work by 19 photographers – Ragnar Axelsson and Sigga Ella (Iceland), Iiu Susiraja (Finland), Andrea Gjestvang and Tonje Boe Birkland (Norway), Dominique Gais (France), Mat Hay, Kieran Dodds, Alex Boyd, Chris Friel, Evija Laiviņa, Tom Kidd, Robin Gilanders, Ross Gilmore, Colin McPherson, Jeremey Sutton-Hibbert, Mary Overmeer, Nicky Bird, Kevin Percival (all Scotland) and the St Andrews University Special Collection exhibit. We also featured the work of a rediscovered Inverness photographer from the 1930s, Andrew Paterson.
Talks and workshops featured Alicia Bruce and the Paterson Collection while the over subscribed portfolio review sessions were conducted by Malcolm Dickson. Katherine Parhar and James Pfaff. These were very well received and we hope will be a regular feature. A series of films on Photographers were shown and photogravure workshops were held by Highland Print Studio. This was all finished off by a ‘small walls trail’ featuring local shops and unusual walls.
Most importantly the festival organisation had a real collegiate feel with everyone involved coming on board with enthusiasm and commitment, from the Highland Council, who saw real merit in the ‘cityness’ of such a festival to the photographers who all contributed their work, at times, in the case of Andrea and Kieran, making new work for our festival.
We are now in the process of developing the positive links established and working towards a ‘curated’ gallery wall dedicated to photography in Inverness. Quite soon there will be the opening of a Community Darkroom in Inverness and this, allied to the exhibition space, will see the profile of photography becoming more established in the North.
Our next official outing will be September 2019 – across the Highlands and Islands. Please come and see what we will have on show!”
Title image: The Faroe Islands. Photograph © Andrea Gjestvang, 2017 all rights reserved.
In recent weeks Sarah Amy Fishlock has been working on a series of workshops with the Glasgow branch of the UK charity Child Bereavement UK, based in Maryhill. Devised in close collaboration with the organisation, the workshops coincide with the first meetings of the Glasgow Young People’s Advisory Group, modelled on the existing setup in branches south of the border. These meetings encourage young people aged 11-25 to work together in a supportive environment, using their own experiences to work on projects focussing on ways to help themselves and other young people who are grieving. Throughout September 2017, Sarah worked on a range of collaborative creative activities with the young people and CBUK staff, using photography, collage and zine-making techniques to both explore the process of grief and build resilience and self-care skills in the here and now.
Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement.
On the day the Catalonian government announces it plans for independence from Spain, Stephen McLaren recounts his experiences from there in the week leading- up to the tumultuous vote.
That scrawl of graffiti on the Ramblas from 1991 which alerted me to the idea that Catalonia is not Spain is now being replaced across Barcelona with more aggressive assertions of Catalan separateness . However it remains far from certain that these demands will come to fruition in the face of a bullying state which insists on the indivisibility of Spain above all else. In the following days which will be tense and doubtlessly full of bellicose political posturing It is to be hoped that the democratic impulse and a negotiated settlement is not allowed to flounder in this most culturally rich part of Europe.
Recently as a group we were delighted to be invited to spend time at the University of St Andrews, taking a look at what goes on behind the scenes, seeing the little moments which make the historic educational establishment run on a daily basis. From gardeners to waiting staff, from members of staff to the choirs and students themselves, little glimpses of daily life are being captured building into a larger set which will in time we hope be exhibited or published. But for now the chronicling of the corridors of education in St Andrews continues…
Here We Are, an exhibition of over 200 photographs of British documentary work by 30 photographers, including work from Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s North Sea Fishing series, has gone on show in London, until 1st October. The show is curated by Christopher Bailey, President and Chief Creative Officer, Burberry; Lucy Kumara Moore, writer, curator and Director of Claire de Rouen; and co-curated by photographer Alasdair McLellan.
HERE WE ARE – EXHIBITION OVERVIEW
A major photography exhibition exploring the British way of life and character on display at Burberry’s new show venue, Old Sessions House.
* ‘Here We Are’ will bring together the work of over 30 of the 20th century’s most celebrated social and documentary photographers, from 18 September – 1 October 2017.
* The exhibition will be displayed over three floors of Burberry’s new show venue Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell, which will open to the public for the first time since its restoration.
* The exhibition will feature over 200 works and will be divided into themes which reflect different aspects of the British way of life.
* The exhibition will showcase important bodies of work by individual photographers as discrete, monographic presentations, alongside the thematic displays.
* Inspired by the spirit captured in British social portraiture, Burberry’s September collection for men and women will be presented at Old Sessions House on Saturday 16 September at 7pm.
Exhibiting photographers – ‘Here We Are’ will feature over 200 works by over 30 photographers including Alasdair McLellan, Andy Sewell, Armet Francis, Bill Brandt, Brian Griffin, Charlie Phillips, Chris Steele-Perkins, Colin Jones, Colin O’Brien, Dafydd Jones, Daniel Meadows, Homer Sykes, Ian Berry, Ian Macdonald, Ian Tyas, Jane Bown, Janette Beckman, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Jo Spence, Karen Knorr, Ken Russell, Mark Power, Martin Parr, Olivier Richon, Peter Marlow, Roger Mayne, Shirley Baker, Stuart Franklin, Tessa Traeger, Tom Wood and Tony Ray-Jones.
More information and further interviews and work from the show can be explored via the Burberry App for smartphones.
‘Here We Are’
18 September – 1 October 2017
Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green
PUBLIC PROGRAMMING & EVENTS
In addition to ‘Here We Are’, we will run a varied programme of events and activities and will include temporary versions of Burberry’s all-day café Thomas’s and a Claire De Rouen book shop.
We are endeavoring to curate a programme of events in collaboration with exhibiting photographers and key creative partners which will respond to key themes of the exhibition. Drawing upon the specific expertise of each partner, the programme will include a rich and varied selection of talks, tours, workshops, conversations and book signings. Visitors will be able to sign up to the public programmes and events via Burberry.com.
OLD SESSIONS HOUSE
This September, Burberry’s show will be taking place at a new venue, Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell. The space will be opening its doors to the public for the first time since its restoration. As well as being the home to the ‘Here We Are’ exhibition, the venue will run a programme of events and activities and will include temporary versions of Burberry’s all-day café Thomas’s and a Claire de Rouen bookshop. Old Sessions House will be open daily, from 10am–9pm, 18 September – 1 October 2017. Old Sessions House is an 18th-century Grade II* listed building, for which construction started in 1779. It opened for use in 1782 as Middlesex Sessions House and was once the largest courthouse in England. With an architecture that has attracted attention from artists and topographers over the years, the building is Palladian in style, with a facade constructed in Portland stone and an interior featuring a grand coffered dome at its centre. Visit www.theoldsessionshouse.com for further information.
We’re delighted that the next photography exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, ‘When We Were Young’, will include work from the Scottish photography archive by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert. Included in the group show will be Jeremy’s images of Roma children, photographed in Sintesti Roma camp in Romania in the early 1990’s, part of his multi-year project photographing the Roma settlement on the outskirts of Bucharest, ‘Satra, The Roma of Sintesti.‘
WHEN WE WERE YOUNG:
PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHILDHOOD FROM THE
NATIONAL GALLERIES OF SCOTLAND
14 October 2017 – 15 April 2018
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
nationalgalleries.org | 0131 624 6200
The magic and wonder of childhood will be the subject of a new exhibition of photographs at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) this autumn. When We Were Young will delve into the rich collection of the National Galleries of Scotland to explore how the lives of children have fascinated photographers from the earliest days of the medium to the present. More than 100 images, which capture children at play, at work, at school and at home will reveal how the experience of being a child, and the ways in which they have been represented, have changed radically in the past 175 years.
The photographs not only reveal the shifting attitudes towards children and their representation, but also show the evolution of the photographic processes from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital prints.
Opening on 14 October 2017 at the SNPG, When We Were Young is the second in a series of thematic exhibitions being held to inspire a new appreciation for this extraordinary art form.
One of the earliest works in the collection is a daguerreotype of a family photographed by James Howie (1791-1858). Having trained as an artist, Howie was known as a portrait and animal painter; he switched to photography and established the first professional photographic studio in Edinburgh in 1841 (only two years after photography was first introduced). His customers had to climb multiple flights of stairs, then use a ladder to access a skylight leading to the roof of his outdoor studio, where they would then perch several floors above a bustling Princes Street below and were told to “sit as still as death”.
Some photographers’ directions for children were more amenable. Julia Margaret Cameron’s literary and religious evocations of the 1860s brought an imaginative element to the depiction of childhood. In her portrait of Kate and Elizabeth Keown, titled The Red and White Roses, the two sisters are shown close up with one clutching a sprig of flowers, the other has hands clasped as if in prayer. The work was not intended as simply a portrait of the photographer’s neighbours on the Isle of Wight, rather it was a metaphor for youthful beauty and the passage of time. Cameron has posed the girls to create an artistic scene and deliberately records them in soft focus so as to create a dreamlike, ethereal quality in the photograph.
Some of the photographs show young children at work or in a work environment—apprentices at ship yards, fisher girls on the beach, or children working family farms and crofts, such as Larry Herman’s 1974 portrait of John Watson at work on a dairy farm in Ayrshire, and Paul Strand’s portrait of John Angus MacDonald on his family croft on South Uist in 1954. In the work of MacMahon of Aberdeen, the photographic studio captured three young boys at a fish processing plant in the town in order to provide a sense of proportion and scale for the giant cod that was being shipped overseas to Portugal. The picture shows the smallest boy in the middle of the composition, dwarfed by gargantuan fish.
From uniformed school pictures to class outings and lessons, another selection of photographs shows children within an educational context. Among the works on display is a series of images by Edith Tudor-Hart (1908–1973), whose intimate pictures of teachers and pupils from Camphill School, Aberdeen, were originally commissioned for a magazine essay in 1949. Tudor-Hart explored the teaching philosophy of the institution which is displayed in the tenderness of the work that addresses the school’s ethos of providing support and education for children with developmental disabilities, mental health problems and other special needs.
The exhibition also explores the notion of play, a subject synonymous with childhood. From portraits of Victorian children with their dolls and books to explorations of today’s virtual playground, the photographs reveal that while children may have vastly different toys from the past compared with the present day, there is still the desire to escape into a world of make-believe and imagination. Many photographs reveal the street playgrounds of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Roger Mayne’s Children playing on a lorry, Glasgow (1958). Like so many of Mayne’s highly contrasting, black and white photographs, it captures perfectly the children’s vitality and abandon in a simpler time, whereas Wendy McMurdo explores the state of modern play which often is situated both in the real and virtual worlds. Inspired by the recent phenomenon of Pokémon GO, which involved young children searching out computer-generated characters inhabiting physical sites and landscapes, McMurdo photographed a number of children and utilised digital technology to obscure their faces and create a splintered portrait—symbolic of their fractured play between two worlds.
When We Were Young is also a chance to see, for the very first time, new works recently acquired by the Gallery from artists including; Wendy McMurdo, Glasgow-based Margaret Mitchell and leading South African photographer Pieter Hugo. The carefully selected photographs, all from the national collection, celebrate the notion of childhood as recorded by the camera since the 1840s with a delightful and engaging selection and coinciding with the Year of the Young Person in 2018.
“This is the second of our thematic exhibitions drawn from the photography collection here at the National Galleries of Scotland. This fun and engaging display of childhood from all over the world will feature iconic images alongside less well known works, old favourites and new acquisitions—essentially something for everyone, no matter what your age!”
Anne Lyden, International Photography Curator, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.
Part of Photography Scotland’s, Season of Photography 2017, a lively series of exhibitions and events taking place across Scotland from September to November 2017.
Part of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival
Luminate runs a diverse programme of creative events and activities throughout the year, including a nationwide festival of arts and ageing. Luminate’s sixth festival takes place 1 – 31 October 2017.
About the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery
When We Were Young: Photographs of Childhood from the National Galleries of Scotland is being shown in the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery and is part of a continuing series of photographic exhibitions (including Lee Miller & Picasso and Ponte City) in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery, named after the renowned American photographer, is supported by a very generous donation from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. The gallery is the first purpose-built photography space of its kind in a major museum in Scotland.