“The portfolio of images Document Scotland presented last week to mark the 20th anniversary of the Braer oil tanker disaster in Shetland got me searching through my archives. Like most photographers whose career straddles the analogue and digital eras, much of my work remains hidden in negative cases, securely and safely stored away, waiting for that far-off day when I have enough time to study, scan and archive many years worth of work.
I did come across a selection of images which I found quite intriguing, as the date coincided with the Braer disaster. So while my colleague Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert was battling force-ten gales and sharing an hotel room in Lerwick with countless scribes and photographers, what was happening back in Edinburgh, where I was entering my last six months as a member of staff at the Evening News?
The News‘ picture editor was Rod Sibbald, an inspirational figure and a hard task-master. He believed that you could potentially get a great photograph out of any situation, however mundane or seemingly trivial (and a lot of the local news coverage was both!). He encouraged the photographers to create their own style and would often publish images we’d taken on our days off or on the way to and from assignment. The paper was happy to use both monochrome and colour and showed off the photographers work with great style and elan.
Looking at the photographs it seems as if simultaneously much and little has changed in Edinburgh in the last 20 years. We didn’t have a parliament back then, of course, the National Museum of Scotland hadn’t been built nor Trainspotting published. But we did have a third football team. The fashion trends may have changed, but the harsh, grey light of an Edinburgh January all those years ago still brings back happy memories.”
– Colin McPherson.