Friday Forum

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

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

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

About this Event

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

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

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

#FridayForumEdi

Our speakers for Friday Forum #4 include:

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

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

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

About Visual Arts Scotland

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

About Creative Informatics

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

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Documenting St Andrews – Open Call

Open Call

Documenting St Andrews: Spring and Summer 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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What Does Photography Mean To You?

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

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

Listen to Colin here:

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

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

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On call on Colonsay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jos, Thanks for agreeing to share some of your work with Document Scotland. We came across your images via Twitter a week or two back, where you seem to have been posting scans of old negatives. Can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and when you were doing these images?Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Kelvin Dock - Kids playing on ice © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen
Kelvin Dock – Kids playing on ice © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Glasgow swing park © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Jos Treen – The Glasgow set were taken during one-year 1978, first a bit of my history…

I was that kid in the early 1960’s who always took charge of the family camera. What seemed like a revolutionary move at that time persuaded my mother that the camera could take colour film.  I would race round to the local chemist by bike and race back a week or so later to pick up the pictures. Things went on that way right though my teens. Turning twenty my interest in photography was growing and for my 21st birthday I was given an SLR. I owe a huge dept of gratitude to the Hillhead Library, Byres Road in the West End of Glasgow. It was there, reading photobooks and photo magazines I received my photography education. Then one day I opened a photobook that contained some of the work by Henri Cartier Bresson. That was it – I was hooked, had to try and do something like this. In late 1977 my job came to an end, so I decided to spend the next year walking the streets with the camera.

I took my SLR with its standard kit lens and as much TRI-X as I could afford and started taking pictures. My darkroom was one of those that only got dark at night and the water for developing and printing went from cold to freezing…. At the time these things didn’t seem to matter.

Factory and flats, Glasgow. © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Maryhill Road, Glasgow. © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

I went out to record the lives and the environment of the people I lived with in Glasgow. I shopped at the same shops, signed on at the same Job Centre, visited the same pubs. I didn’t go out to specifically record the appalling housing and poverty that was a backdrop to their resilience and humor. I always tried to show people in the context of their environment or buildings and situations which were unique to Glasgow.

I discovered something about myself about 20 years ago, that explained all my issues with reading and writing – I’m dyslexic. A lot of photographers are. I suddenly realized why I felt naturally drawn to a camera. It was my way of framing and telling a story. Looking through a viewfinder made perfect sense. No letters jumping around just pure composition.  

‘Temptation’, Glasgow © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

Coffin, Glasgow. © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

A small number of the Glasgow pictures where shown at Strathclyde University Library in October 1978.  

In 1979 had a crisis of confidence, lack of money, needed a job so went back to chemistry. Spent the next 37 years in the Chemical industry……. Keeping up an interest in photography whenever I could.

In the pedestrian tunnel, Glasgow © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

On retirement tried a few things but never felt if it was right for me. Then in mid-2019 I found the negatives from Glasgow and Stromness in my loft, untouched for 40 years! Looking through the negatives, scanning and seeing them again brought it all back. Its fantastic that Document Scotland are considering showing some of these images.

 I knew what I had to next. Get back out on the streets with a camera. 

In 2020, I am emerging at 65 – I want to achieve something with photography that I was not able to do in the 70’s.

Glasgow Green, © 1977-2020 Jonathan Treen

See more work from Jos Treen on his Twitter feed.

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Peter Degnan’s ‘Mother Glasgow’

Trying to keep up to date with the current tumultuous news of life on Twitter it’s heartening to scroll to a Tweet which shows images and catches your eyes. Such has been the way this past week or so when I’ve discovered two photographers posting old images of Glasgow and beyond.  I dropped them both a note, and now have the pleasure of sharing some of their work and a few Q&A’s with them, over the coming days. Hope you enjoy them.

Today we start with the lovely work of Peter Degnan. I look at his images of the Jock Stein testimonial and get jealous; his image of the Granary building bring back memories of myself being on top of it photographing ship launches; and the whelk shop in the Barras, a place I was discussing with someone just recently… Great to see Peter, thank you for sharing it all. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Peter introduces himself on his website with these words: 

I have been involved with photography seriously since about 1976 when I bought my first SLR camera, a Russian “Zenith E” with a 50mm lens. I became involved with camera clubs in the early days and although I enjoyed my time in them socially, the competitive and prescriptive nature of them was not always to my liking.

I was predominantly shooting in black and white and processing and printing all my own work at this time.

I am self-taught in both my photography taking and processing and printing and I was fortunate enough to always have a darkroom at home, so more often than not I could be found in there working on new projects. Although I did not set out to profit from my work I did manage to sell a few images following a small exhibition of my work in The Paisley Arts Centre.

Around the late 1990’s until about 2002 I took a break from working at the level I had been for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a major move of jobs and living location, secondly the kids were growing up and finally the dawn of digital photography was starting to take a hold and I was watching with interest.

Although I still had my film cameras and lenses, my first digital camera was to be a Fujifilm Finepix. I was basically dabbling with digital until such time as I switched from Windows computers and bought an iMac and simultaneously took out an Adobe subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop and this gave me the encouragement to start back where I had left off.

Up until about 2012 my taste in photography was wide ranging and included taking landscape, portraits and transport photographs. My passion however is documentary and street photography. I have always endeavoured to record as I was going about my photography and still do to this day. Although street photography can take many forms, it is the documentary element that interests me most. In 2019 I produced my first photo-book entitled “Mother Glasgow” and some of the images it contains can be seen in my My Galleries. This was followed up with a Zine version and both of these can be purchased using the Publications like above.

In 2019, in order for me to try and progress with my documentary/street photography, I decided to end my association with Nikon equipment and purchase a Fujifilm 100X-F camera which is my first mirror-less camera and I am enjoying using it as it is so discrete on the streets. I have recently supplemented this with the purchase of the excellent Fujifilm X-T3 and some lenses.

 

 

Govan, July 1977. aken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

Govan, July 1977. Taken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Document Scotland – Roughly what period did you shoot these b/ws?

Peter Degnan – All of the photographs were produced between the mid 1970s and the late 80s. It was a very interesting time for Glasgow with lots of changes going on. It was also back in the film era and one regret I have is that I didn’t take more. I have resisted going public with a lot of the images because leaving a gap of over 40 years since I took them makes the contrast in people and places more noticeable.

 

The Barras, July 1978. This chap could be found roaming around The Barras at the weekend, and was one of many characters that frequented the area. There was so much underhand dealing going on at times in the Barras that his message I fear would fall on deaf ears. ©Peter Degnan.


What was the motivation behind you going out on the streets looking for images, and for attending events such as the Jock Stein testimonial?

From the outset my photography style has always been of the documentary/photojournalistic style. It wasn’t a conscious decision it was just something I felt comfortable doing and always had a fascination for old photographs that recorded life. I was always on the lookout for events. The Jock Stein Testimonial I knew would be a huge event given the love the support had for him so I was determined to get in on that. I have also taken pictures at political rallies, marches and some during the miners strike. I am glad for example that I took photographs of The Barras in its heyday, because it is just a shadow now of what it was.

 

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Was it easy getting access? You look very close to your subjects, and in amongst it all, what was your approach?

I was basically an amateur photographer trying to get the shots that I wanted so getting in close was required. I discovered that so long as I looked and acted the part nobody challenged me. For example the Jock Stein Testimonial. Myself and a friend noticed that the Daily Record photographers wore red Adidas cagoules when covering games so we bought these out of Millets Stores. On the night we entered the stadium through the turnstiles with our kit and red cagoules on and walked down onto the track around the pitch where the invalid cars would drive. The police just parted and let us through. That is why the pictures look close up, I was standing on the pitch trying my best to look professional and it worked. Probably impossible to attempt now due to security and issuing of accreditation bibs etc.

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Did the work get exhibited much or published back then?

No not really. I was basically doing my own thing and building up an archive of work. I was doing all my own darkroom work at the time as well. I did have a small exhibition of work in the bar of the Paisley Art Centre which resulted in a few sales of prints but that was about it. I never really pushed my work but I knew there could be interest in it at some time.

Were you looking at other photography back then? Who was inspiring you, if anyone?

I would have to say that the biggest influence on my work has been Oscar Marzaroli. I became aware of his work early on in my photography journey and have been an admirer to this day. I met him briefly at the Third Eye Centre in 84. I was looking at one of his photographs and I became aware of him standing beside me. We chatted about his work and I asked him for advice on how maybe some day I could get work exhibited. His simple advice was, “Just keep taking photographs”. I have also been a big fan of Don McCullin. Not so much his excellent war photography but they way he would capture every day life.

 

Govan, 1981. I took a number of shots in and around Govan capturing the change to that part of Glasgow. It was in the process of loosing its tenement community and ship building industry. This was taken just after a snowfall and captures two policemen wandering down one of the oldest streets in Govan, Water Row, towards what was the ferry landing. ©Peter Degnan

 

Govan Subway, 1977. As Glasgow was modernising above ground the same could be said for below ground with its Subway system. Major reconstruction meant the old Victorian era wooden rolling stock had to go and this shot was taken capturing this process at the Broomloan Road works in Govan. It shows workmen stripping the bogies off of the carriages and preparing them to be scrapped. ©Peter Degnan

 

Did you have contact with other photographers, or for in any collective way at all?

Not really, apart from the usual Camera Club experiences early on. I am self taught in both the taking and processing of my work and haven’t studied photography in an academic way. Everything I know and practice has been through experience and trial and error. Social media can be a good way of meeting like minded photographers and I have recently attended a couple of workshops on Street Photography, followed up by sharing my work with the StreetSnappers Collective both on-line and through contributing to a book we recently produced.

 

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

You’ve made a book recently ‘Mother Glasgow’, how did that come about and what was the process?
Did you edit that yourself?

As previously mentioned, I resisted sharing many of my B&W negative film images until I decided the time was right. Last year I decided that the time had come to do this and given it is so easy these days to produce photo books I decided to bite the bullet. I chose around 50 images depicting Glasgow in the 70s and 80s, including a section on The Barras. I edited the book and laid it out using the Book module in Adobe Lightroom. The resulting PDF of the book was uploaded to Mixam and in a couple of weeks time I had my first book which I had titled “Mother Glasgow”. It was really quite emotional to see my work like this after all these years. I realised that not everyone would want to go for the expense of a hard backed book so I decided to produce a Zine of “Mother Glasgow” and these have sold very well. The feedback I have received over “Mother Glasgow” has been very rewarding.

 

The Barras, April 1985. Taken through the window of one of the many mussel and whelk shops at The Barras. This woman wearing her headscarf whilst working inside the shop was typical of most women at the time. The absence of pre-packed food and scales for weighing loose produce is a sign of the time. ©Peter Degnan.

 

The Barras, October 1977. At this time The Barras was great for photography, but it could also be a dangerous place with traders often asking if you were from the DSS (Social Security) and even getting “Heavies” to stand beside you watching what you were photographing. This chap had just pointed me out to the crowd as being from the DSS. It gives the picture a sort of Thomas Annan feel with all the people just staring into the camera. ©Peter Degnan

 

Where can people buy your book?

The hardback version of “Mother Glasgow” is available from Blurb at the following location:
https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/9436438-mother-glasgow

The smaller Zine (A5) version is available to order through my website by ordering using the Contact Me form.  https://peterdegnanphotography.com

Are you on Social media, if so, what are the accounts?

I have the website as mentioned above and I am also on Twitter @peterdegnan2.

 

 

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Archive feature: Jute Spinning in Dundee

There is a lot of debate these days about the role of journalism in our daily lives. Questions are asked as to where we get our information from, and the all-pervading accusation of ‘fake news’ is something which causes a real stooshie amongst the general public and also in the journalistic trade.

It’s easy to look back and imagine that there were glory days when everything we read and saw was trustworthy and of maximum veracity. This week, as the unfolding nightmare of COVID-19 surrounds our every move, the role of the journalist in narrating these historic events should not be undervalued. My mind drifted back to an assignment I did for the Independent newspaper in 1998. It’s not so much the subject (more of that later) which made me nostalgic, but rather the location. The city of Dundee, famous in modern history for the ‘Three Js’ – jute, jam and journalism.

Let’s muddle them up and take a look at jam first. There is indeed still a traditional Dundee marmalade maker which identifies itself with the city, although production takes place a few miles outside the city, up the Angus coast. The sweet smell of Seville oranges being lovingly cooked and permeating the city streets is, alas, no more. And ditto jute. And this is where my photographs come in.

Part of my brief as a photographer working for the Independent in Scotland was to ferret out interesting local stories which would be of relevance to the newspaper’s wider readership across the UK. In those days, the ‘Indy’ was very much image-led. More-often-than not, a story would be published on the strength of an interesting or arresting image. It was not uncommon to find the story itself wasn’t actually part of the package, rather the photograph would be emblazoned across the broadsheet’s page with nothing more than a deep caption to aid navigation and inform the reader. For a photographer this was a great challenge – and opportunity. Having to constantly think not only about an interesting story, but also whether the illustration would be strong enough to make the paper meant you were always on the look out for little gems and nuggets which would first-and-foremost make a good picture.

I stumbled across Tay Spinners in the way I discovered many of my stories during that period. A small item was mentioned in the local paper in Dundee telling us that Europe’s last remaining jute spinning mill was about to close, due to delays and red tape with the delivery of the raw material from Bangladesh. With supplies no longer reliable, Tay Spinners in the city’s Arbroath Road, took the decision to close its door for good at the end of 1998.

Jute spinning had begun in Dundee in 1838 and at its height the city – which was nicknamed Jutopolis – boasted 150 mills with a workforce of around 40,000, both men and women. The steep decline set in during the 1950s with the invention and manufacture of cheaper, less labour-intensive synthetic alternatives to jute, mainly used in the carpet industry. Ironically, when Tay Spinners closed, it was seen as a modern and profitable factory, far removed in atmosphere from the famed ‘dark, Satanic mills’ of old. Nevertheless, the sad decision to close did present me with an opportunity and I was lucky to be allowed into the facility, to meet and mingle with the workers and photograph undisturbed.

Like many such assignments, the priority was to get a photograph which could hold a page. Beyond that, any ideas of shooting a wider feature would have to wait for another day – if that day ever came. In the world of an endless, rolling cycle of news, chances are I would be on to the next story the following day and the opportunity to return quite often couldn’t happen due to work pressures and distances involved. On the day of the original assignment I shot everything on colour film (this was in the pre-digital age) and used a local newspaper office to process the negatives and wire it to the picture desk in London. It duly appeared – with a three-line caption – the following day. As I had a gap in my diary, I returned a few days later to Dundee and managed then to spend more time getting to know the workforce and the processes involved in their jobs without the pressure of a deadline. This time, maybe with an eye to producing something more lyrical and with a more historical feel to it, I chose to shoot not only in monochrome with my 35mm camera, but using my beloved Hasselblad XPan, my favourite-ever machine. Using it on a day-to-day deadlined assignment was a non-starter (the negative, with dimensions of 65mm x 24mm couldn’t be scanned on my portable device). Instead, with time not an issue, I produced a small body of work which built on the colour images I made on the original trip.

Although the black-and-white images have not been published or exhibited at all widely, they did eventually come to the attention of the National Galleries of Scotland and a set of four were purchased for the nation’s photography collection. Given the opportunity I do wish I could have spent even more time at Tay Spinners, but sometimes you just have to be grateful for what you get. I was on that occasion.

Which leads me finally to the last of the Js in Dundee: journalism. It’s still there, although it too is in a much slimmed-down, denuded form. I suspect I would not recognise what passes for a newsroom or picture desk these days. All my work is done remotely if I do shoot assignments for newspapers. And with decreasing dimensions of publications and shrinking circulations, the opportunities to showcase a simple story and mark an important moment in a city and country’s history are becoming almost as extinct as the ‘Three Js’ are in Dundee.

There’s certainly no prospect of jam tomorrow!

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

 

Tay Spinners, Dundee. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1998 all rights reserved.

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The Great Football Grounds of the North by Brian Sweeney

It’s Saturday afternoon during the coronavirus outbreak and I have the blues. Our football grounds, like the cities and towns across the country, are silent and empty. Like everyone else, I won’t be going to a game today.

There’s something particularly sad and sombre for a football fan to see our stadiums unused and redundant. No cheering crowds or chanting. The weekly routine of supporters making their way to see their favourites, criss-crossing the country in support of their heroes, has been paused. Local pitches, which would normally echo to the exhortations of amateurs are deserted. Turnstiles locked, kiosks closed, bars devoid of punters. It’s a desolate scene being played out across Scotland and beyond.

As a photographer and football fan who spends a lot of my time combining both activities, this current period or furlough (where did that word spring from?) has allowed me to look at work on the subject of our national game by a number of other photographers. It’s always interesting to see work that approaches a subject from a different angle to oneself. For me, there is no game without the fans, and the architecture of the grounds and stadiums remains soft-focused in the background. Others take a different view.

I was delighted to discover a series of photographs by Glasgow-based Brian Sweeney in the new edition of Nutmeg, the Scottish football periodical. In an oddly prescient feature, one conceived, no doubt, before any notions of a lockdown of society and a shutdown of sport, they have reproduced a selection of Sweeney’s images from his project entitled The Great Stadiums of the North. The title is somewhat ironic. It is a playful documentation of football’s far-flung outposts in Scotland, the Faroe islands and Iceland. It is a lyrical look at venues which we wouldn’t normally associate in our minds as being hotbeds of football, but serves as a reminder just how important the game is to local communities in sparsely-populated areas on the fringes of the North Atlantic. An avid football fan and proferssional photographer himself, Sweeney has been shooting the series for over 25 years and it has been shown at various locations across Europe. A planned show at Sogo Arts in Glasgow, however, has been postponed indefinitely due to the current situation.

The images resonate charm and individuality and take us on an odyssey from fog-filled Paisley to snow-covered Akranes. Some grounds are merely rectangles hewn out of the rock. Others are mini-Hampdens, with neat rows of terracing and ramshackle stands. They are all theatres of dreams. The linear collides with the wonky in grounds which look home made and fragile. On the edge, in more sense than one. What marks the photos out is the northern light: penetrating and freezing, even when the sun is shining. It has you reaching for the Bovril, toes curling with cold. As Sweeney states in Nutmeg: “There’s no frills and flourishes on these stadiums. They’re put together in the most practical way possible, matching the local environment and often using local materials. Not too much design has gone into them, yet they have such beauty.”

When this is all over, whenever that is, then we can populate the football grounds again and enjoy the Saturday afternoons we have become accustomed to down through many decades and generations. Maybe it will be a time too to discover these wonderful little grounds, tucked away, anonymous, but still a beautiful part of the beautiful game?

Isle of Eriskay. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Forres Mechanics. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Embo, Sutherland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Akranes, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Reykjanes, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Wick Academy. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Keflavik, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

John O’Groats. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

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Portrait of Place: Orkney Sophie Gerrard exhibition

Earlier this summer Sophie was commissioned by The New York Times Style Magazine to photograph a craft makers’ residency on the Orkney Isles. Sophie’s photographs are featured in an exhibition “Portrait of Place: Orkney” at The New Craftsmen Gallery as part of the London Design Festival in London until the end of September 2019.

Read the published piece in the in the New York Times Style Magazine

“LAST MAY, THREE England-based craftspeople — the basket makers Mary Butcher and Annemarie O’Sullivan and the furniture maker and designer Gareth Neal — were sent by their London gallery, the New Craftsmen, for a weeklong residency in Orkney, a chain of about 70 small islands off the northern coast of Scotland. They explored Mainland, Orkney’s largest island, as well as North Ronaldsay, a three-and-a-half mile spit of land (population approximately 50) rich in farmland, marram grass, seaweed-eating sheep and Neolithic ruins. They also met with the Orcadian furniture maker Kevin Gauld and the sculptor Frances Pelly, both of whose work is deeply bound up with the islands’ history and landscape.”

The resulting work is exhibited at The New Craftsmen, London until the end of September as part of London Design Festival

Seaweed drawing, North Ronaldsay, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

Orkney Seas, Between North Ronaldsay and the Mainland, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

Makers (l-r) Mary Butcher, Kevin Gauld, Gareth Neal and Annemarie O’Sullivan, North Ronaldsay, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

Bundles of gathered seaweed, North Ronaldsay, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

Artist Frances Perry in her Orkney studio, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

Bundles of gathered grasses, North Ronaldsay, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

North Ronaldsay, June 2019 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

 

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A Contested Land – behind the lens #5

‘Untitled, 2019’ from Treasured Island. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

In the lead up to the opening of our latest showing of A Contested Land, which takes place as part of FLOW Photofest in Inverness in September, Document Scotland’s photographers give an insight into the work they have made for the show. Here, Colin McPherson, tells us about one of his favourite images his project entitled Treasured Island.

“Serendipity is one of the great pleasures of photography. Some might confuse it with the famed and often-debated ‘decisive moment’ but in order to get into that space and place to click the shutter at the correct time, the photographer does rely on what in everyday life can be termed good luck.

And so it was with this image. I was nearing the end of making the work for my contribution to Document Scotland’s A Contested Land exhibition which was due to launch at the end of January this year at the Martin Parr Foundation. Being from an editorial background, I always believe in shooting until the very last available moment, and was fortunate enough to be given the time over Hogmanay to finish of the project with some key images at what is a very important time annually for the people of Easdale Island, the subject of my work.

The small inner-Hebridean island is famed for its flooded slate quarries, a legacy of a once thriving industry long-since moribund. One of the quarries is the venue each year for the World Stone Skimming Championships and in recent years, the quarries have become ever more popular with locals and visitors alike looking for cool places to swim. With the explosion in interest recently of cold water or wild water swimming, Easdale has become a destination for those prepared to dip their toes – and more – into its cold, clear water.

The photograph featured here was taken on New Year’s Day. Twenty-nineteen had dawned bright and blue, and as always with the first day of January, there seemed to a mood of optimism in the air. A time to clear out the bad memories and start afresh. Everything that day appeared quiet, calm and perfect, like the undisturbed surface of the water in the quarries. First-footing is still a tradition on Easdale island, where shortly after midnight people visit their neighbours, wish them well and head off into the night. Just before midday, I came across my own group of first-footers, intrepidly about to take their first steps into what the islanders call ‘the swimming quarry’.

At that moment, as the group moved in unison towards the water, it was time to forget the trials and tribulations that the world faces. Climate change, Brexit, austerity, whatever your political poison, was lost and forgotten in that magical, optimistic moment when a phalanx of young people went where no-one else had so far ventured in 2019.

Set against the open sea, the quarry’s water appears as if it is made of a different substance. The mountains in the background gives the image its scale and drama. I composed the frame to allow a sense that the group were walking towards, or into something. Their pale skin marks them out brightly against the blue background. I took about three or four shots, but this one was the only one in which their bodies are all balanced and natural, although a couple of them are obviously trying hard to stay upright as the cold water hits them. I love the way their clothes are all piled up on the water’s edge, metaphorically they are leaving their cares behind them.

It was a bit of luck that I’d been first-footing the back shore of the island and therefore  happened to be there to see this scene with my camera. Serendipity, indeed.

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A Contested Land, at FLOW

 

The next showing of Document Scotland’s current exhibition, A Contested Land, featuring work by Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Stephen McLaren and Colin McPherson, will be at FLOW Photofest 2019, and held at Inverness College UHI.

FLOW Photofest 2019 – the international photography festival running across the Highlands & Islands and Moray in the North of Scotland, will launch on 6th September in Inverness.

 

FLOW would be delighted if you would be able to attend their official opening on the 6th September (6:00-8:00 p.m.) at:

Inverness Museum and Art Galley (IMAG)
Castle Wynd
Inverness
IV2 3EB

On show at IMAG will be work by Michael Flomen, Jana Romanova and Hannah Laycock. At Eden Court Theatre, a short walk away (and open till 10.00pm) we have work on show from:

Beka Globe
Jen Kinney
Tini Poppe
John Farrell
Adam Panczuk
Jeff J Mitchell
Daniel White
Sarah Riisager
Elena Chernyshova

At Inverness College UHI we have a major show from Document Scotland – A Contested Land.

The Launch night will also feature a visual display of work being shown outside Inverness in Thurso, Stornoway, Elgin, Findhorn, Uist and Ullapool by:

David Buchanan,
Iain Sarjeant (in association with Street Level Photoworks)
Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte,
Kacper Kowalski
Linda Lashford
Paul Glazier (in association with Street Level Photoworks)

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Drawn To The Land – Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Sophie was commissioned by Perth Museum and Art Gallery to continue her long term project Drawn To The Land, the resulting work is currently being exhibited at the gallery until the end of October.

Anna MacKinnon rolling fleeces at Amulree, Perthshire. June 2019

Anna MacKinnon rolling fleeces at Amulree, Perthshire. June 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Laighwood, Perthshire, May 2019

Laighwood, Perthshire, May 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Lucy gathering ewes, Foswell, Auchterarder, Perthshire, June 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Mary, Connachan, Perthshire, April 2019.

Mary, Connachan, Perthshire, April 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

Drawn To The Land continues to be a fascinating journey for me. For this chapter it took me to Perthshire, where I also worked with Perth Museums’ photographic archive, following the journey of John Watt who documented Laighwood, a hill farm near Dunkeld, in the late 50s. I returned to that farm and met and photographed Elizabeth, who features in some of Watt’s earlier images. I also continued to work with Mary, a farmer who featured early in Drawn To the Land, revisiting her and continuing her story. Anna and Lucy are in their 20s and work as contract shepherds in Perthshire, their lives are an important new addition, giving alternative perspectives and a fresh approach to a traditional farming way of life.

The exhibition includes images made earlier in the project, around 2015, these new works and archive images from John Watt’s collection made at Laighwood and other locations in Perthshire from 1959 – 1961.

 

Shepherd moving blackface sheep at Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

Shepherd moving blackface sheep at Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

 

Elizabeth Bruges, Perthshire Highland Show. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

Elizabeth Bruges, Perth Highland Show. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

 

Elizabeth Bruges, shown above in a photograph by Watt, at a time when her father oversaw the hill farm, is now herself an owner of Laighwood, alongside with her brothers, I met and photographed her for this recent chapter of the project. Hers is an interesting story and one which highlights in many ways the hurdles many women in agriculture faced at the time.

Elizabeth, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, May 2019.

Elizabeth, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, May 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

A photograph of Elizabeth gathering sheep, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, April 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Elizabeth Bruges of Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire with copy of The Story of a Scottish Black Face Sheep.

Elizabeth Bruges of Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire with copy of The Story of a Scottish Black Face Sheep. © Paul Adair, Perth Museum & Art Gallery 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

 

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Paul Adair of Perth Museum said…

 ‘My  first encounter with Sophie’s exhibited work was at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2016. The Ties That Bind was a Document Scotland group show and Sophie was exhibited work from her Drawn to the Land series. I loved everything about her work. The quiet stillness of her studies- portraits of lives through carefully observed details. The colour palette of her film-based work seemed so right for the material she was recording.

Sophie’s series on women working the land included Mary McCall Smith’s farm near Crieff in Perthshire. I saw an opportunity to work with Sophie to develop her Perthshire work for a display at Perth Museum & Art Gallery. I am delighted that Culture Perth & Kinross has been able to commission Sophie to work with additional Perthshire women in farming. As well as making a fantastic exhibition, acquiring some of Sophie’s work is a valuable addition to the photographic archive here at Perth Museum & Art Gallery. The archive already has a strong documentary theme and this cross over between art and social document inherent to photography fulfils makes for a potent combination.’

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

 

It’s important to me to continue this work, and I’d grateful that Perth Museum saw an opportunity for collaboration. Working with the archive has been a fascinating addition. Women who work the land in Scotland are under represented, they have been for centuries, indeed representations of landscape, landscape photography and farming have often been presented through a male viewpoint. I hope that this project can continue to explore these themes and continue to take me to the far corners of Scotland.

Sophie Gerrard’s Drawn to the Land is on until 31 October 2019 at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Admission is free. Read the full press release here.

Perth Museum & Art Gallery, 78 George St, Perth, PH1 5LB

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