A Contested Land: Behind the lens #2

As we approach our forthcoming exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol in January, 2019, each of the four Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into the work they have made for the show. Here, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert tells of his project ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’:

Pro-Scottish Independence march, organised in the ‘All Under One Banner’ name, through the streets and to the battlefield in Bannockburn on the 704th anniverary of the Battle of Bannockburn. It was estimated that 10,000 people took part in the march calling for a second independence referendum. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2018.

 

“I’ve always marvelled at the thought that walking down the street any one person you see has a multitude of experiences and stories to tell, you take that one person and the stories you could tease out of them, and multiply that by everyone in the street and then the city, the country. So many stories, so many nuanced versions of life all informed by different upbringings and experiences.

And so it is with political views, a multitude of nuanced political views abound, and this has never been more obvious than in the streets of Glasgow, and Scotland, over these past few years. 

After a decade of photographing in Japan I moved home to Glasgow in 2012, knowing the referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom was going to be gearing up as we approached the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum date. I wanted to be back in the country to see it all, to experience it, and of course to vote. 

 

A Unionist demonstration takes place as the Scottish Cabinet sits at the Fernhill Community Centre for the fifth in a series of meetings outside of Edinburgh following publication of Scotland’s Future, the Governments’s white paper book on Scottish Independence.  May 2014, in Rutherglen, Scotland. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2018

 

I attended the rallies and marches of both sides, pro-Union and pro-Independence, trying to understand both sides of the argument, photographing it all. Photographing what we were told at the time was a ‘once in a generation’ referendum. For me, trying to describe in pictures the colour, energy and anticipation of what would come before us was the greatest challenge, but also the most rewarding part of the experience. It felt as if anyone in Scotland could have been there, on those marches. For both sides it was a peoples’ crusade: the divisions cut across race, class, gender and location.  

Now four years on and not much has been settled, we’re still walking on daily shifting sands of political information. A second Independence referendum is still a debated issue, still on a hand of cards yet to be played and for the time being kept close to the SNP’s chest. The political game of cards has seen many other hands played: the chaos of Brexit; Scotland welcoming refugees (as it always has) seeking asylum and the extreme minority Scottish Defence League staging rallies to espouse their hatred against them; anti-Trump demonstrations taking place when the American President insults the people of Scotland, as elsewhere, with his below par versions of truth, except Scotland is home to two of his golf courses; and at Faslane peace protestors continue to link arms and sing against Trident missiles which are still the true monster in the Scottish loch. 

 

 ‘Nae (No) Nukes Anywhere’ anti-nuclear weapons rally outside HM Naval Base Clyde, home to the core of the UK’s Submarine Service, in protest against Trident nuclear missiles. The rally was attended by peace protestors from across the UK who came “to highlight the strength of support from many UN member states for Scotland, a country hosting nuclear weapons against its wishes.” Faslane, Scotland, September 2018. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2018.

 

There hasn’t been a shortage of political theatre in the streets to watch, to listen to, and to photograph. Some views you can understand, some you wince at when you hear them spoken, but the one thing we can be proud of and take from it all, pro- or anti-, is that the people of Scotland are awake.”

Document Scotland’s A Contested Land will have its first showing at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, England from 16th January until 16th March, 2019, before further showings in Scotland at Perth, Dunoon and Inverness.

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

Gallery opening times
Wed to Sat, 11am – 6pm
Sun to Tue, closed

Free entry to all exhibitions.

Touring exhibition dates

– Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh. 7th February 2019 (evening).
– Perth Art Gallery and Museum – 20th April 2019 – 23rd June 2019.
– Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
 FLOW Photofest, Inverness, September 2019.

 

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A Contested Land: Behind the lens #1

In the lead up to the opening of our forthcoming exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol in January, 2019, each of the four Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into the work they have made for the show. We start with Colin McPherson, who tells us about his project entitled Treasured Island.

“Last year, we sat down as a collective and discussed what the big issues were facing Scotland at present. Although it is blinding obvious to mention Brexit and all the ramifications and spin-offs from that, including the prospect of a second Independence referendum at some point, we wanted to look more broadly at what challenges and changes Scotland face, and how we could illustrate this through a collaborative photographic narrative.

One theme that we kept on coming back to was ‘land’. Taken in its broadest context, the relationship between our history and people has always been connected to a sense of place in Scotland. Whilst the issues around land-ownership and management, with its relevance to the environment and economic growth, are often debated, these subjects are best illuminated when narrated either through people, communities or by the photographer themselves. We wanted to show the diversity of Scotland within the idea of a project based around ‘land’ and to be able to stretch the imagination of our audiences to think beyond the obvious. As always, that’s a difficult task, but one I think we have achieved through A Contested Land, the title we settled on for the four individual bodies of work.

From ‘Treasured Island’, 2018. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

The problem is there are just so many interesting aspects to our ongoing relationship with the physical landscape of Scotland. Misty-eyed romanticism often clouds our judgement about where we live and how we relate to our surrounding environment. For myself, I wanted to tell a personal story, one which could resonate beyond the confines of where I made the work, and which would challenge me to re-examine my relationship and place within a very special community in Argyll.

My connection with the tiny, car-free island of Easdale goes back three decades. I first visited on holiday, and having fallen in love with the place, subsequently built a house and lived there for a year. It is a location best known for its history as the centre of the Scottish slate quarrying industry of the 19th century. Easdale slate was said to have roofed the world, and this industrial legacy is still very much in evidence today, with abandoned buildings, piles of slate spoil and disused flooded quarries configuring the landscape. I was more interested, however, in the parallels of life then and now, more specifically by looking at the difference in men’s lives in the past and today, and how memories of a bygone age still resonate today.

Life was indeed hard in the days when teams of men quarried for slate. The work was relentless and the conditions harsh. But life on Easdale was embellished by a strong sense of communal life, with a school, evening classes for adults and other activities. Paradoxically, it is much harder for islanders these days to engender the same sense of community, although Easdale today boasts a pub, has an active residents group and organises events such as the annual World Stone Skimming Championships. The main connection with the past, however, lies in the challenges and difficulties faced by the population today: the unpredictable weather and tough economic conditions both locally and further afield mean that life and living are almost as precarious today as during the quarrying heyday, when over 400 people lived on Easdale.

From ‘Treasured Island’, 2018. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

Making the work for Treasured Island allowed me to engage with the community on a new level personally. Although a frequent visitor to Easdale, I have seldom previously used my camera as a means of exploring and narrating life on the island. My family has played a small part in the regeneration of the island (the population now stands at 65, having decreased to just a handful in the 1960s), so this project, shot entirely in 2018, has been my way of rekindling my connection with the place, whilst reflecting the immense sense of pride and care people take for the island. They may not always agree on what’s best for Easdale, but the sense of ownership and a love for the island’s unique landscape is never far from any conversation with local people.

I aim to continue the work I began this year. I believe that it is important to keep documenting the changes around us. We cannot say with any certainty where Scotland, or Easdale, will be in five or ten years’ time, but whatever happens we will still look back to the past to inform ourselves about the present, and hopefully the future…”

Document Scotland’s A Contested Land will have its first showing at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, England from 16th January until 16th March, 2019, before further showings in Scotland at Perth, Dunoon and Inverness.

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

Gallery opening times
Wed to Sat, 11am – 6pm
Sun to Tue, closed

Free entry to all exhibitions.

Touring exhibition dates

– Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh. 7th February 2019 (evening).
– Perth Art Gallery and Museum – 20th April 2019 – 23rd June 2019.
– Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
 FLOW Photofest, Inverness, September 2019.

 

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A Contested Land

A Contested Land – new work and exhibition from Document Scotland. 

Set against the current political backdrop, Document Scotland’s four photographers examine the complex relationships between the nation’s people, history and landscape.

Showing at The Martin Parr Foundation, 15th January 2019 – 16th March 2019.

‘All Under One Banner’, Scotland. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2018.

 

“The Foundation supports and preserves the legacy of photographers who made, and continue to make, important work focused on the British Isles.” – Martin Parr.

 

A Contested Land.

When taking part in a tournament, competition or any sort of contest, it is usual to know what the prize is for winning. Whether it is a shiny medal or golden trophy, the outcome is usually something pre-determined or tangible, even if it is not ultimately obtainable by everyone competing. To the victor, the spoils: to everyone else the scars of defeat or the satisfaction not of winning but of having taken part.

If this description of where Scotland is as a nation today is somewhat allegorical, it is worth considering that the current and ongoing debate about the nation’s future hides the many layers of its story. Life continues to change and evolve, often in-spite of rather than because of the debates around the merits of becoming an independent nation, the ramifications of Brexit or the challenges posed by climate change or other seismic global events.

Into this miasma steps Document Scotland: four photographers passionate about dissecting their nation and disseminating their viewpoint beyond the border at Berwick in order to stimulate, inform and educate. By looking past the tired tropes and casual cliches which often cloud an accurate view of what Scotland is today, they aspire to offer a passionate yet dispassionate take on aspects of the nation unseen.

The past is ever-present in each of the collective’s four new individual projects which meld together to form A Contested Land, the title of Document Scotland’s forthcoming exhibition. 

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

Easdale, Scotland. © Colin McPherson 2018.

 

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

Anti-nuclear demonstration, Faslane, Scotland. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2018.

 

For decades, Scotland’s largest city has been a hotbed of radical ideas, protest and, at times, insurgency. From the 1919 Red Clydeside rebellion, to opposition to the Poll Tax, from support for Spanish Republicans opposing General Franco to the hero’s welcome afforded to Nelson Mandela, politics has never been far from the surface in Glasgow. Today, set against the prospect of Brexit and a possible second referendum on Scottish independence, Glasgow is alive with political activity. The city has a long tradition of integrating people from elsewhere. In the past, Irish immigrants sought refuge from the Famine whilst Highlanders fled the brutal Clearances. In modern times asylum seekers have sought safe haven in the city. These events have helped shape Glasgow and given it a sense of identity and purpose and a pride that its people are ‘Clyde built,’ like the magnificent ships once manufactured on the river which snakes through the heart of the city: resilient, proud and unique.  As an insider, photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert has spent a quarter-of-a-century documenting the raw and powerful political theatre which plays out in Glasgow’s public places. Saltires, tricolours and Union Jacks compete for space in vibrant and lively displays of standard-bearing, demonstrations and protests. Placards are waved, slogans chanted and the passion and belief on show evoke and provoke a visceral reaction based on one’s own point-of-view. What intrigues is not what divides the different sides of these arguments, but what, ultimately, unites: they are all Glaswegians. Strip away the banners, confiscate the flags, put them side-by-side on their marches, and you cannot tell these adversaries apart. It is what makes this work so poignant and beguiling. And offers the tantalising possibility of an undivided future, whatever the ramifications of current political discourse and disagreements.

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

Sophie Gerrard’s work focuses on the gentle and undulating peat lands of Scotland’s Flow Country. Eschewing sentimentality, the photography looks at how this precious environmental resource has been desecrated and denuded over generations and how these almost magical places are being revived and reinvigorated through careful and considered conservation.  This is no abstract notion: survival of the peat bogs is a touchstone for the health of the nation. Once seen as ‘fair game’ for industrial-scale exploitation, Sophie poses a metaphorical question, asking us to consider our relationship with local and national areas of outstanding beauty and how these places of natural resources fit into Scotland’s topography and consciousness, linking people to the land, and vice-versa.

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

Building on previous work which looked at the historical ties that bind Scotland with slavery through the sugar industry, Stephen McLaren returns to the theme to explore and examine the hidden and almost forgotten link between Edinburgh’s wealth and the slave trade with Jamaica. In the immediate aftermath of this year’s Windrush scandal, it is a timely and forceful reminder that the past, in all its forms, is immediately around us. Behind the front doors of Edinburgh’s New Town lies the legacy of British colonial exploitation. With each pound passed down through the generations, Scotland distanced itself from its inheritance as architects and perpetrators of the widespread and cruel exploitation of many thousands of bonded and chained men, women and children. Stephen’s work does not exist merely to prick our consciousness, but to start a national conversation about acknowledging an historical wrong and discussion about reparations. It should also force Scotland to examine and re-evaluate the relationships with people and communities within and outwith its own borders.

Easdale, Scotland © Colin McPherson 2018

History is the starting point for Colin McPherson’s visual exploration of life on Easdale, the smallest permanently-inhabited Hebridean island on Scotland’s long, varied and sparse west coast. Once the epicentre of Scotland’s renowned slate quarrying industry, this fragile parchment of rock, sitting two hundred metres off the adjoining island of Seil, has become a by-word for repopulation and reinvention as its current community continues to battle traditional adversaries: economics and the environment. At its height in the 19th century, Easdale housed four hundred people; the quarrying provided work for the men and the slates they produced roofed the world, from the cathedrals in Glasgow and St. Andrews to the New World. When an epic storm decimated the island in the 1880s, the island went into decline and depopulation, only for a new band of pioneers to resettle and revive Easdale nearly a century later. The photographer’s personal connections with the island date back thirty years, and in this series he offers a contemporary commentary about the parallels with the past and how many of the 65 current residents live their lives.

In one sense, Scotland is not unique in that the problems it faces are identical in many other nations: environmental dangers demanding urgent governmental and public responses; poverty and lack of opportunity blighting a country of great natural wealth; inequality in all its forms scarring society, holding back peoples’ potential and draining the public purse. Viewed from afar, Scotland appears to be no different from any other country as the world evolves in the 21st century digital dynasty. However, drill down below the surface and what is revealed is a multi-layered tapestry, a hopscotch, hotchpotch history where the ebb-and-flow of power and wealth, emigration and immigration and an often rudderless sense of direction leaves the impression seen from within of a nation sailing precipitously through low-hanging haar towards an unknown destination. That is not to say there isn’t a strong sense of what constitutes Scottishness to guide the country. It pre-determines the national conversation, and if the 2014 Independence referendum highlighted one thing through the debate, discussion and diatribe, it was that those who live, work and breathe the air in Scotland feel first-and-foremost Scottish above all else. Scotland may not be colour coded like so many nations, including its much larger, more powerful and influential neighbour to the south but the sense of Scottishness runs through its citizens veins as strongly as the clear waters of any burn cascading its way down a craggy Munro into one of those fabled lochs or glens. So, whilst the direction of travel might be clear the ultimate destination remains tantalisingly unseen.

Scotland is mired in inconsistencies and contradictions. Vast tracts of its famous wilderness have been scarred by generations, centuries even, of public and private mismanagement, leaving a brutalised landscape, barely fit for human habitation and endeavour. The country’s precious marine resources are controlled by a mere five all-powerful fishing families. The wealth of the wealthiest is 250 times that of the poorest. Whilst the population of its major city conurbations continue to grow and expand, population growth in many areas is flatlining or even falling, leading to an unsustainable drain of the best and brightest from some of the most iconic and far-flung locations. The public response to this has been confused. During both the Independence and European Union referendums, the word which dominated the discussion was ‘change’. It became the go-to for anyone dissatisfied or desperate, demanding or downtrodden.

Although still rooted in many traditions of the past, one-eyed, lopsided romanticism has given way to glorious reinvention and innovative thinking. From the games designers of Dundee who brought the world Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto to Pride marches in the Outer Hebrides giving a voice to marginalised individuals, slowly but surely Scotland is loosening the grip of its moral masters, that toxic combination of power, vested interests and religious intolerance. The visual expression of this may be the flag-clad combatants who take to the streets to announce their political allegiances, displaying a fervour and belief long since lost by the footballing foot soldiers of the Tartan Army, but in quiet corners, small bedrooms and whispered conversations, Scotland is proving itself to be capable of radical thinking, a seed bed for creatives, dreamers and idealists.

The prize remains undefined and Scotland does not know is what it looks like. It is hard, if not impossible, to predict where and what Scotland will be in a generation’s time. The political tectonic plates are shifting and individuals and communities will be forced to adapt and survive in new and as yet unseen realities. With the game still very much in progress and the final result to be determined in remains an exciting time to be in Scotland, after all.

Document Scotland’s A Contested Land will have its first showing at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, England from 16th January until 16th March, 2019, before further showings in Scotland at Perth, Dunoon and Inverness.

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

Gallery opening times
Wed to Sat, 11am – 6pm
Sun to Tue, closed

Free entry to all exhibitions.

 

Touring exhibition dates

– Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh. February 2019. Date to be confirmed.
Perth Art Gallery and Museum – 20th April 2019 – 23rd June 2019.
Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
FLOW Photofest, Inverness, September 2019.
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The Guisers by Margaret Mitchell

Over three Halloweens (2015-7), Margaret Mitchell photographed children who visited her home as Guisers. Their highly individual costumes displayed not only their originality but also conveyed aspects of the inner world of the child. Sophie spoke with Margaret about the project and took a look through the newspaper that Margaret has published in time for Halloween.

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

DS: We enjoy your work at Document Scotland, Stephen wrote about your projects ‘Family’ and ‘In This Place’ for the Document Scotland site in 2017. Your portraiture and long term projects feature children frequently, how did this project get started?

MM: All my photography is generally concerned with the intricacies and complexities of people and their lives. Other work has looked at issues around family, childhood, social geography and equality, of people and their lived experiences – all stories of people basically. This work presents a particular childhood experience within a centuries old tradition that continues to be practiced in Scotland.  Through the tradition of guising at Halloween and the costumes– the disguises – worn by over 60 guisers, we are given an insight into a child’s world and also a document of a time.

‘The Guisers’ started out back in 2015 as a reaction to what I observed as a parent living in a community where the tradition of guising is very strong in childrens’ lives here in Glasgow. I realised some people in the UK believed Halloween to be a recent American import which surprised me as I went guising as a child in the 70’s and my son continues to do so. Guising has been a tradition in Scotland and parts of the UK and Ireland for hundreds of years with its roots suggested to be in the Celtic Samhain festival. It was taken to America by emigrants from these various Celtic origins and added to other cultural influences to become the American trick-or-treat.

So this brings us back to nowadays and what contemporary children are doing in Scotland. What the tradition of guising and visiting neighbours’ houses means and within that what they choose, plan (often weeks in advance) and then create, to disguise themselves as and then perform a ‘party piece’ just as I did as a child. So I decided to start documenting this important and intriguing tradition but also to provide an insight into a child’s world through their costume, and within that, their fantasy and play choices.

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

DS: Guisers are a familiar site at Halloween in Scotland, and as a child I remember dressing up and going around the neighbourhood. The scale of this project though seems quite incredible to me – there are so many, who are all these characters?

MM: In my community there is a strong tradition of guising and we get an abundance of visitors every year – last year alone I counted over 80 guisers. I am sure it is different for different areas even within this city. When my son was younger, I would host Halloween parties and as he got older, guising itself took over. But it’s significant to remember that this is local children who are visiting our home, children whose parents you know or whom you know through friends of friends, who come as a group, or with parents and this is a sense of celebration, of excitement and of a community sharing. The photos only represent a relatively small number of the guisers who visit because I cannot take photographs and also listen to their songs and dances and jokes, manage apple-dooking and also do a photo. Some children visit me between school getting out – where they go dressed up for Halloween and celebrate during the day – and them starting guising proper at about 6 pm. Other children are photographed during guising itself when they come in, do their joke, dance or song and then do a photograph.  Someone called it my ‘Guisers Studio’ and I like that idea, that these children in that time of being in that emotional space in their mind, pop in and get their portrait taken. This day that becomes an exciting and celebratory evening during a distinct and important childhood experience. As mentioned, I know these children or they come with parents, friends, and friends of friends, so their participation is often spontaneous.

 

DS: The expressions suggest a pride in their costumes, and a seriousness – how do they behave during the portraits, what’s the exchange between you like, any funny stories? 

MM: I wouldn’t say anything particularly funny happens as the children are really quite serious in both the costumes they choose and also in the party piece they choose to perform. It is something they often plan a long time in advance – parents have even told me what their child starts planning just after Christmas is over! So very obviously, it is a major event in some children’s lives, greatly loved by them and with a lot of significance.

When children visited, I would ask about their costumes and why they chose that particular disguise. The reasons can be incredibly detailed and complex and through this, little insights are given into how a child is thinking when they choose to dress as they do. For example, some want to be creepy, they want to adhere to this idea of a ‘spooky’ Halloween and within that confronting darker undertones of life.

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

Others become more intricate, more abstract and subsequently more revealing in their reasoning. Some of this is evident in their appearance, added to by some information they shared with me when asked. One child told me he was a ‘Victorian Gentleman’ because he liked to speak 18th Century English. I find this fascinating that these interior worlds of a child’s play are then presented on this evening of guising. Another told me he was ‘Untitled’ when I asked who he was which I thought was intriguing as he looked like he had been in an accident. Most of the costumes are home-made, mash ups of fantasy play. Some are as expected: the zombie, the witch, the movie characters. Others are slightly darker, more invented, something that tends to appear as the children become a little older and inventing more, not reproducing certain common strands.

We have to remember too though that we are looking at these photographs through adult eyes, perhaps taking our own knowledge and experience of the world and laying those onto these children when it may not be the correct interpretation. I try to remain mindful of that but at the same time I believe some costumes are incredibly revealing into these childhood worlds, into a world of play, of fantasy, and for some, the consolidation of the darker elements in life.

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

DS: I agree, it’s fascinating, especially seeing them in such a huge number, to interpret the images and their underlying narrative, what do you feel the project communicates in a wider context, what do you see here?

MM: Essentially, this work looks at the complexity of being a child as presented through their chosen costume – their disguise – at Halloween. In a wider framework this is a portrait of these children at this specific time, within this ongoing tradition in Scotland. It presents not only the varied disguises they are choosing and making (often with the parents’ help of course) but also offers us the viewer a little entry point into their world and their minds; to their experiences of being a child –  a guiser – in Glasgow, in Scotland in our present time. They are continuing this tradition that I myself did and all those who preceded through the years of guising and making lanterns from turnips, visiting their neighbours and performing for some nuts, sweeties and fruit in return. It is very much about community, about sharing. It is also about the experience of childhood and confronting darker elements and dealing with them. It is interesting that some children chose not to deal with or confront the ‘scary’. For example, one boy dressed as a footballer (‘I had a beard but it washed off’) because he does not like ‘scary stuff’. Another younger child also dressed as a footballer but had blood running down his legs in zombie mode. A good amount of these costumes are not based on anything factual or character-based but are invented by the wearer. There is a unicorn (two children inside) who I know walked to school and home again dressed as this fantastic unicorn. They told me they dressed as such so that if people got scared at Halloween, they might be happy when they saw them. A lot of thought and reasoning goes into this one night. A lot of childhood experience.

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

DS: Are planning to continue? This year will there be a queue of 50 guisers outside your door whilst you lie on the floor with the lights off?

MM: Haha well, I am not sure. I didn’t think I would last year and then I set up my ‘Guisers Studio’ at the last minute. So yes, perhaps I will. It usually comes from children and parents asking me so we will see. My son is getting older but he is still guising at least for one or two more years. Children in the project range from about 3 up to about 14, so there comes a time, a cut off, when they no longer want to go out guising.

 

Thanks Margaret for taking the time to talk to us in such depth about this project

To accompany this series Margaret has made a publication of all 60 guisers from the past 3 years that she photographed. All those involved will receive a free copy as a way of thanks for being involved and as a keepsake for this time in their lives, for their creativity and their intriguing presentation of being a child at Halloween.

Copies are available to purchase through Street Level Photoworks and online from Margaret at the links below.

https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/the-guisers/
https://margaretmitchell.bigcartel.com/

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We Feed The World

Sophie Gerrard’s images from the Western Isles are featured in the exhibition We Feed The World from The Gaia Foundation at The Bargehouse Gallery, Oxo Tower, London until 21st October.

Angus MacDonald moves his Highland Cattle across the bay towards his croft at low tide, Ardbhan, North Uist, Outer Hebrides, October 2017 image copyright © Sophie Gerrard 2018 all rights reserved

 

Ena, in her croft, Ardbhan, North Uist, Outer Hebrides, October 2017 image copyright © Sophie Gerrard 2018 all rights reserved

 

Curated by Cheryl Newman and bringing together an international team of world-renowned photographers, farming communities, farmers’ movements and civil society groups, We Feed the World is a unique and far-reaching communications initiative led by Gaia. It is designed to demonstrate the vital role of agroecology and food sovereignty for climate change resilience. Through powerful imagery and amazing stories of small scale, family farmers and local communities, We Feed the World will take this message out to the wider public.

Over the last two years, 40 award winning photographers including Rankin, Martin Parr, Pieter Hugo and Gabriela Iturbide, have documented the lives of nearly 50 farming communities across six continents. The aim of these iconic images is to celebrate the work of the small, family farmers who provide over 70% of the world’s food in ecologically and socially just ways, and to highlight the challenges they currently face. By putting the spotlight on these farmers and their diverse cultures and landscapes, we counter the image of the poor, struggling farmer with a truer picture that celebrates their knowledge, resilience and overwhelming success.

The images were featured in The Telegraph article Ideal Husbandry with words by Lucy Davies.

 

We Feed the World is open to the public at the Bargehouse Gallery on London’s Southbank from October 12th – 21st 2018, from 11 am to 6 pm daily. An inspiring programme of talks, workshops and films from farmers and communities from the food sovereignty movement, international activists, photographers and business leaders will run alongside at the Gallery and other venues.

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@EverydayClimateChange

@EverydayClimateChange photographic collective are bringing their images off the popular Instagram feed and onto the gallery walls of Trongate 103, Glasgow, this month, in an exhibition running from 4th Oct – 4th November. The exhibition is an off-site show from Street Level Photoworks. An opening reception will be held on 4th October, from 6pm- 7:30pm, with an introductory talk by Document Scotland’s Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert who produced the show.

 

The @EverydayClimateChange group, which was founded by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano with co-founding member Glasgow-based photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, National Geographic contributing photographer Ed Kashi and others, depicts the causes, effects and solutions to climate change and is contributed to by 20 photographers on 6 different continents.

This exhibition brings the photographic works of 14 of the contributors off the renowned Instagram feed onto the gallery walls. The exhibition includes panel images by Ashley Crowther (based in South Korea), Sima Diab (Syrian, based in Egypt), Georgina Goodwin (based in Kenya), James Whitlow Delano (USA / Lives in Tokyo, Japan), Matilde Gattoni (Italy), Nick Loomis (based in Senegal), Ed Kashi (USA), Suthep Kritsanavarin (Thailand), Mette Lampcov (Danish, based in USA), John Novis (England), Mark Peterson (USA), J.B. Russell (USA, based in France), Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert (Scotland), Elisabetta Zavoli (Italian, based in Indonesia).

The exhibition, curated by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, features as part of the Season For Change, a UK-wide programme of cultural responses celebrating the environment and inspiring urgent action on climate change. It commenced on 1st June and runs until 16 December, coinciding with the COP24 UN Climate Negotiations in Katowice, Poland.

Panel design and exhibition support by Yuko Hirono / Cabin 8 Design.

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Nelson Mandela, Glasgow 1993.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s images shot during the visit of Nelson Mandela to Glasgow in 1993, go on display this month at the City Chambers in Glasgow. Coinciding with Black History Month, the small exhibition has been made possible with the support of Street Level Photoworks, and depicts the events of the visit of Mandela to Glasgow to receive the Freedom of the City.

Exhibition runs at:
Glasgow City Chambers
82 George St, Glasgow G2 1DU
Mon – Fri, 8.30am – 5pm

 

Crowds await Nelson Mandela, Glasgow, 1993 – © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1993.

 

From Street Level Photoworks:

2018 marks 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela. Known and loved around the world for his commitment to peace, negotiation and reconciliation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected president (1994 to 1999). Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, as well as a philanthropist with an abiding love for children. In 1963 he was imprisoned by the Apartheid government of South Africa and was sentenced – with seven others – to life imprisonment in 1964.

Glasgow was the first city in the world to honour Nelson Mandela with the Freedom of the City, in 1981, nine years before he was released from prison. In a bold move to send a message to the then apartheid regime, the Glasgow City Council also renamed St George’s Place as Nelson Mandela Place in 1986. This was seen as highly significant as this then became the address of the South African Consulate, which was based there.

In October 1993, two years after his release from prison, Mandela came to Glasgow, where he was described by the then council leader Jean McFadden as “a symbol of the fight for equality and freedom across the world”. The event famously saw Mandela dancing on stage in George Square, to the delight of the crowd of 10,000 people who had come to see him.’

Award winning Scotland-based editorial photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert was one of the photographers there that day, and these images are a record of that event. Previously published as a pocketbook by Cafe Royal Books, this is the first time these images have been seen in Glasgow.

In his acceptance speech in October 1993, Nelson Mandela said of Glasgow, “…It is a privilege to be a guest of this great City of Glasgow. It will always enjoy a distinguished place in the records of the international campaign against apartheid.

The people of Glasgow in 1981 were the first in the world to confer on me the Freedom of the City at a time when I and my comrades in the ANC were imprisoned on Robben Island serving life sentences, which in apartheid South Africa then meant imprisonment until death.

Whilst we were physically denied our Freedom in the country of our birth, a City, 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free. And in a real sense we were free, because however cruel the treatment meted out on us in prison, we never lost sight of the vision of a new South Africa as enshrined in our Freedom Charter. The City of Glasgow in granting us the Freedom of the City also took upon itself a very special obligation. It resolved to do everything possible to secure our freedom from the prisons of apartheid. It took up our plight in Britain and internationally. For example, the following year the Lord Provost co-ordinated a Declaration signed by over a thousand Mayors from 56 countries across the world which called for our freedom. Then in 1985 it joined with over 100 British local authorities in petitioning the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to press for my release. Such initiatives were thankfully successful…”

 

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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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