Cafe Royal Books


We are delighted to announce that publisher Cafe Royal Books has produced a very special, limited edition box set of work by Document Scotland’s four photographers.

Timed to coincide with our exhibition entitled The Ties That Bind, which opens at the end of September at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, the compendium of work comprises four photo-essays, each with their own distinctive flavour.

The editions were produced as individual publications, but the man behind Cafe Royal Books, publisher Craig Atkinson, has gone the extra mile by bringing the four into one and presenting them in a slim, but stylish box.

The four stories featured are:

North Sea Fishing (Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert)

Aboard the seine netter Argosy. Photograph © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 1995, all rights reserved.

Aboard the seine netter Argosy. Photograph © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995, all rights reserved.


Dookits (Stephen McLaren)

A solitary dookit. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2015, all rights reserved.

A solitary dookit. Photograph © Stephen McLaren 2014, all rights reserved.


Tunnock’s (Sophie Gerrard)

Mr Boyd Tunnock. Photograph © Sophie Gerrard 2013, all rights reserved.

Mr Boyd Tunnock. Photograph © Sophie Gerrard 2013, all rights reserved.


Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw (Colin McPherson)

Monks at dawn prayers in the chapel at Sancta Maria Abbey at Nunraw. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

Monks at dawn prayers in the chapel at Sancta Maria Abbey at Nunraw. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996 all rights reserved.


Each edition will be available to purchase through Cafe Royal Books website and at the SNPG at the launch of our show. The box set – limited to an edition of 50 – is also available directly from the publisher. Grab one quick before they are all snapped up!

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Nothing Is Lost

We recently caught up a a Street Level Photoworks show opening with photographer Chris Leslie, who has been working hard these past three years photographing and documenting Glasgow’s East End and the transformation underway there. Chris has been working with 2 other artists and has recently published Nothing Is Lost, a box set of books. We asked him a little more about how it all came about… – Jeremy


Nothing Is Lost - the box set.

Nothing Is Lost – the box set.


Nothing Is Lost

“Glasgow’s East End is synonymous with poverty – some of the worst in Europe. With Glasgow’s winning bid for the 2014 Commonwealth Games came a promised legacy of change and regrowth, of rebuilding, economic and cultural investment – of a new East End, where gap sites were filled and populations returned.

Nothing is Lost: Three artists, three artforms, one city, a shared sensibility. Alison Irvine, Chris Leslie and Mitch Miller set out to document the East End before, during and after the Commonwealth Games. They met market traders, travelling showpeople, playworkers, community activists, cafe owners and local children. They gathered stories and sought out images from the places changed by the Games, those largely untouched, and those left behind.

Nothing is Lost is offered both as a question and a statement – Are things better for the East End? Worse? Much the same? Nothing is Lost offers no neat answers or comforting fictions. It offers up hope, complexity, nuance and doubt – a way for the reader to work out the truth of the post-Commonwealth city for themselves, through words, photographs and dialectograms.

Alison Irvine provides the words. Alison is a novelist who weaves stories from intensive research. She teases out stories, testimonies, moments, follows networks of friends, relatives and acquaintances. In her spare but textured prose the characters speak in select, but eloquent voices that speak from, and of the place itself.

Chris Leslie’s photographs chronicle Glasgow’s changing fabric. His beautiful, yet unflinchingly stark photographs document the breaking and remaking of the city, its broken bones, lost relics, inconvenient remnants.

Mitch Miller makes dialectograms, illustrations as idiosyncratic as the word suggests, the edges of the city drawn from on high, but as those at ground level see and live it – an intricate, entangled and glorious mess – place as something made up as we go along.


'Showman's Yard' dialectogram, © Mitch Miller, 2015, all rights reserved.

‘Showman’s Yard’ dialectogram, © Mitch Miller, 2015, all rights reserved.


The story they tell takes us from the glamour of the Barrowland Ballroom to the hidden communities caught in the crossfire of major regeneration. It taps into the hopes, fears and dreams of East End youth and the fading memory of demolished districts and East End entrepreneurs. We meet Games volunteers and visit the Adventure Playground built by Assemble Architecture in sight of the new Athlete’s Village in Dalmarnock. We find an East End of many faces, and many possible futures.” – Nothing Is Lost


The Barra's Market in Glasgow

The Barra’s Market in Glasgow


The Barra's Market in Glasgow ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

The Barra’s Market in Glasgow ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.


And of of his own approach to the photography, Chris tells us  “A two year residency to document the impact of the Commonwealth Games on the culture of the East End’ was always going to be a tall order.  In reality these photographs only scratch the surface on what could have been a long term / full time project on each area I looked at.

I photographed The Barrowland Ballroom – the 1960s decor jewel in the crown for the East End and its music culture. The Market – documents the Barra’s market in its long prolonged demise and The Wasteland shows the transformation of the historic Schipka Pass to the temporary Barrowland Park.

I had expected many things to change over the period – the way the media bigged it up – the East End was to become unrecognizable and a new utopia. Whilst some places disappeared altogether (Schipka Pass) – much of the Barra’s Market and Ballroom remained the same throughout the residency.

But change for the market is already underway – artist studios and pop up exhibitions are taking place so perhaps these photographs will become dated and more important if you were to photograph the same locations in 5 years time.  Perhaps that will be my next project – I hate the idea of only scratching the surface….”


The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

The Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

The Barra's Market in Glasgow ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.

The Barra’s Market in Glasgow ©Chris Leslie 2015, all rights reserved.


You can see the Nothing Is Lost website and order the limited edition box set here.


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Thomas Annan of Glasgow

An email slipped into our Document Scotland inboxes recently which we felt would be good to share with everyone, telling us of a new book out on Thomas Annan, Scottish documentary photographer.





“…latest Open Access book, Thomas Annan of Glasgow: Pioneer of the Documentary Photograph by Lionel Gossman, a study of nineteenth-century photography, urban life, and Scotland – the first account of Annan’s full achievement as a photographer.

The Old Closes and Streets of Glasgow, Thomas Annan’s photographic record of the slums of the city prior to their demolition in accordance with the City of Glasgow Improvements Act of 1866, is widely recognized as a classic of nineteenth-century documentary photography. However, Annan’s achievement as a photographer of paintings, portraits, and landscapes is less widely known. To repair this neglect, Thomas Annan of Glasgow offers a handy, comprehensive and copiously illustrated overview of the full range of the photographer’s work. Successive chapters deal with each of the main fields of his activity, touching along the way on issues such as the nineteenth-century debate over the status of photography — a mechanical practice or an artistic one? — and the still ongoing controversies surrounding the documentary photograph in particular.

Lionel Gossman, a native of Glasgow whose own graduation portrait was made, in 1951, at the studio of T. &. R. Annan in Sauchiehall Street, has spent his career as a teacher of literature at universities in the United States (Johns Hopkins and Princeton). Here he returns to his roots to produce a tribute to one of his city’s most talented and conscientious nineteenth-century artists. He chose to publish with the innovative Open Book Publishers so that Thomas Annan of Glasgow could be read for free online and reach the largest number of readers possible.

It is also available in interactive PDF and e-book versions.”


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The Bigger Picture


It’s always a nice way to start the day when a beautiful new publication arrives on your doorstep. What made yesterday even better was that the publication was unexpected, and that Document Scotland are featured in it.

The Bigger Picture: The Work of Impressions Gallery is a clever and comprehensive retrospective of Impressions Gallery.


“Since 1972 Impressions Gallery has changed the face of photography in the UK”. This beautiful book tells “the story of the gallery’s past, present and future; championing photography in Britain and beyond.”


We’re delighted to be included in such a publication and in such esteemed company as Anna Fox, Murray Ballard, Tessa Bunney, Melanie Friend, Paul Reas and many more. The book includes a spread about Document Scotland’s exhibition “Beyond The Border: New Contemporary photography from Scotland” in the summer of 2014, curated by the gallery’s director, Anne McNeill and is accompanied by a quote about the exhibition from Brian Liddy, Associate Curator of the National Media Museum, “Document Scotland occupies the latest in a long and rich tradition of Scottish documentary photography… the imminence of the vote only makes the exhibition even more pointed and offers a refreshing antidote to the hectoring of politicians on the subject.”





Learn more about Impressions Gallery, their current and previous exhibitions and projects on their website

See more images of the book’s creative design and content here


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Identity, Future and Belonging


Guests at an orthodox wedding ceremony, Garnethill synagogue, Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Guests at an orthodox wedding ceremony, Garnethill synagogue, Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.


Published some years ago by the World Jewish Congress, Jewish Communities of the World is a slim anthology providing a snapshot of the history of Jewish people in each country of the world at the end of the 20th century. In dates and numbers, it lists how many Jews are living in their respective countries and details how many have ‘made aliyah’ or in other words emigrated to the state of Israel. Tucked away in a sub-section chronicling the United Kingdom, mention is made of the small, but thriving, Jewish community of Scotland, one whose roots stretch back to the late 18th century, many of whom have played significant roles in Scottish life in the intervening two centuries.

Jewish  analytical chemist at a whisky distillery, Fife. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Jewish analytical chemist at a whisky distillery, Fife. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.


Scotland’s Jews have never been the most visible of the country’s immigrant communities, yet their contribution to public life has been immense. From the legal profession to artists, politicians and even distillers and salmon farmers, Jewish people have contributed to and enriched Scotland’s story since the first Jews settled in Edinburgh over two hundred years ago. It is against this backdrop that Glasgow-born writer Michael Mail created a project entitled Tartan Arts which recognises and celebrates the story of the Scottish Jewish community, and which commissioned a study of contemporary Jewish life in Scotland by award-winning documentary photographer Judah Passow. Shot throughout 2013 in locations from Shetland to the Borders, the result is a superb book and an exhibition entitled Scots Jews – Identity, Future and Belonging which is currently touring Scotland and being simultaneously shown at various venues across the USA.

As Michael Mail explains: “I was looking for a way to recognise and celebrate the story of the remarkable, yet little known, Scottish Jewish community. When I came across Judah Passow’s photography, I immediately realised that he had the skill, sensitivity and artistry to take on this subject and create a truly memorable piece of work, which is precisely what Judah has achieved with Scots Jews.”

The Rabbi of Edinburgh’s Liberal congregation. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

The Rabbi of Edinburgh’s Liberal congregation. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.


Passow’s work gets to the heart of the community; we see social occasions such as weddings and Burns Night celebrations and depictions of prominent people and ordinary working environments. Passow’s ability to capture the mood of the subject is enhanced by the use of monochrome imagery. We feel the history, yet the setting is contemporary. The people, places and ceremonies look familiar, but with a particular, subtle twist which informs us that we are outsiders looking in. It is a warm, compassionate and at times humorous study of a community in Scotland at ease with itself, its identity and its surroundings. As Judah Passow himself notes: “This project has been a real voyage of discovery across the spiritual and cultural landscape of Scotland. One of its more remarkable features is the warm, proud Jewish community that has become so tightly woven into the national fabric. I hope people looking at these photographs will see what I saw – a people deeply devoted to their heritage both as Jews and Scots.”

Burns Night at the L’Chaim kosher restaurant in Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Burns Night at the L’Chaim kosher restaurant in Glasgow. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.


The exhibition is currently on show at Aberdeen Central Library until December before it comes to Street Level Photoworks for an eagerly-anticipated run at the Glasgow venue in the new year. Gallery director Malcolm Dickson, who was involved in advising Michael Mail about the project, is in no doubt about the importance of Passow’s work: “I have always liked Judah’s work as a photojournalist; Scots Jews proposes a narrative and display that will appeal to a wide range of people. Importantly, it tells a moving story of Jewish everyday life in the Scottish landscape, and how deeply embedded they are in the twin dualities of their identities, as Scots, and as Jews. The prospect of the project linking up regional venues added further appeal to its reach.”

Jewish and Muslim pupils studying the Torah together in a religious education class at Calderwood Lodge Primary School. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.

Jewish and Muslim pupils studying the Torah together in a religious education class at Calderwood Lodge Primary School. Photograph © Judah Passow, 2013.


Scotland’s Jews may be regarded as a somewhat subliminal community, happy to get on with their lives and play their part away from the public glare. This long-overdue book and accompanying exhibition shines a light on them and brings them to the fore and we as a society are richer for it.





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New book by Marc Wilson

We interviewed Marc Wilson and featured his impressive project ‘The Last Stand‘ on the Document Scotland site a while ago. His project beautifully documents some of the physical remnants of the Second World War on the coastlines of the British Isles and northern Europe.

When we first spoke to Marc, he had already travelled to over 100 locations and was in the process of crowd funding  to complete the project and travel to further locations all over Scotland, England, Wales, France, Denmark, Belgium, The Channel Islands and Norway. The result is a beautiful book and an impressive document of the various bunkers, gun emplacements and observation posts which exist on these coastlines. Many of these locations are no longer in sight, either subsumed or submerged by the changing sands and waters or by more human intervention. At the same time others have re-emerged from their shrouds.

In Scotland, the building of coastal defenses was concentrated on Scotland’s east coast as anti-aircraft defenses existed to protect strategic locations on the west, such as the Firth of Clyde, the region’s industries, the shipyards and the city of Glasgow. Some of the locations Marc photographed in Scotland include Lossiemouth, Newburgh, Findhorn, Loch Ewe, Hoy, Flotta, Northmavine, Unst and Lerwick.


Marc sent us some information about the book which you can pre-order here – we hope you enjoy it…


Stanga-Head, Unst, Shetland, Scotland image © Marc Wilson 2013 all rights reserved

Stanger Head, Flotta, Orkney, Scotland, 2013 © Marc Wilson 2013 all rights reserved.  To protect Hoxa Sound, the main entrance channel to Scapa Flow, new coastal defences were established during WW2. They included gun and rocket batteries, boom nets, searchlights, also anti-aircraft and barrage balloon sites. The Navy’s signaling and observation station on Stanger Head was also enlarged.



Lamba Ness, Unst, Shetland, Scotland, 2013 © Marc Wilson 2013 all rights reserved. Because of their proximity to occupied Norway, where the Germans had established U-boat and Luftwaffe bases from which they threatened Allied shipping in the North Atlantic, it became urgent for Britain to extend the range of the radar covering Orkney and Shetland. A Chain Home Low radar station (RAF Skaw) was set up at Lamba Ness in Unst, the most northerly island of Shetland. It could detect enemy aircraft flying at a minimum altitude of 500 feet.

marc-wilson-last-stand-book-5 marc-wilson-last-stand-book-4


You can click here to see more of Marc Wilson’s project The Last Stand on his website

Marc is also on Twitter here.





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Common Ground – our new publication

We’re delighted to announce that to accompany our ‘Common Ground’ exhibition at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, we have self-published an 84-page colour publication, and one which we can offer exclusively for sale here.


Including two photo essays from each Document Scotland member, Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Colin McPherson and Stephen McLaren, ‘Common Ground’ takes a look at contemporary Scotland as the country stands on the verge of making a political decision which, whatever the outcome, will resonate through the ages. From the common riding festivals of the Scottish Borders, to the women farmers who work the land, a walk along the Scottish-English border or a car road trip through the streets and daily life of Scotland, this publication showcases new projects completed with assistance from Creative Scotland, for our current Street Level Photoworks exhibition.





This publication also introduces work by our colleagues and friends at the Welsh photography collective A Fine Beginning – James O Jenkins, Abbie Trayler-Smith, Gawain Barnard and Jack Latham, work which can also be seen in the ‘Common Ground’ exhibition.

We are delighted to also include essays by Malcolm Dickson, curator and director at Street Level Photoworks, and Anne McNeill, director of Impressions Gallery, Bradford and curator of our ‘Beyond The Border’ show which runs at Impressions Gallery until September 27th.



We are very proud to be able to present two photographs by Glasgow-born photojournalist Harry Benson CBE, who has graciously accepted an invite to become Document Scotland’s Honorary Patron. Stephen McLaren recently journeyed to New York to meet with Harry and his wife Gigi, and in an essay he recounts this meeting, along with the two historical photographs Harry chose for the publication from his archive.

The 84-page, A4-sized, full colour publication, which has a print run of 1,000, was designed by Cabin8Design – the same artists who beautifully designed our first two newspapers.

To purchase a copy please use the buttons below, if you have any problems just give us a shout!  It costs £10.00 GBP per copy, plus postage.

We are pleased to make this contribution to Scottish photography in this landmark year for our nation’s history, and we hope you too will enjoy the work within it.

Cost incl P&P

Many thanks indeed,

Sophie, Jeremy, Colin and Stephen.





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Stone Built by Gunnie Moberg, rebuilt.

It was with pleasure that I followed a link on Twitter today, that great oracle, and found out news that a book of Scottish photography is about to be reprinted. Always joyous news here in Document Scotland.

The book in question is Stone Built by Gunnie Moberg, so with kind permission of the Gunnie Moberg Archive we reproduce below their blog post which tells the story of the reprinting, and they have kindly allowed us to show a few of Gunnie Moberg’s photos from the book also.  – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert


Knap of Howar. ©Gunnie Moberg.

Knap of Howar. ©Gunnie Moberg.


Stone Built, by Gunnie Moberg

Great news. The Orcadian have just published a facsimile copy of Gunnie Moberg’s 1979 publication Stone Built. This book (originally published by Stromness Books & Prints, which in 1979 had just been taken over by Gunnie’s husband Tam) has been out of print for some time. And so it is great news to see this, Gunnie Moberg’s first book, being made available again.

This edition has been made using new scans from the original black & white negatives held in the Gunnie Moberg Archive. The beautiful compositions, it transpired, were not achieved through later cropping of the photographs but were there on the neg – Gunnie was a full frame photographer, making her decisions through the lens, and all this hundreds of feet up in a small plane.

The Orcadian have included a section at the back which updates some of the information on the sites while leaving the original captions intact. The 18 photographs inside are an aerial tour over some of Orkney’s remarkable archaeology and some lesser known places – one no longer exists, having been claimed by the sea. Gunnie Moberg’s feeling for stone makes this a visual essay on shape and structure. A treasury. A small book of Gunnie’s monumental vision of Orkney.


Sheepfort Ruskholm. ©Gunnie Morberg.

Sheepfort Ruskholm. ©Gunnie Morberg.


Eynhallow. ©Gunnie Morberg.

Eynhallow. ©Gunnie Morberg.


Churchill Barriers. ©Gunnie Morberg.

Churchill Barriers. ©Gunnie Morberg.


This was Gunnie Moberg’s first book published just three years after she moved with her family to Orkney.

The book is made up of 18 full page black & white photographs of aerial images of archaeology across Orkney. The photographs spread across the islands and across time from 19th Century agricultural buildings to Neolithic chambered tombs. The earliest stone structure is Papa Westray’s Knap of Howar (3,500B.C) and the latest is the WW2 Churchill Barriers. The photographs were shot on 35mm Ilford HP5 and FP4 film.


Maeshowe. ©Gunnie Morberg.

Maeshowe. ©Gunnie Morberg.


In the acknowledgments Gunnie thanks Andy Alsop the pilot who flew Gunnie around the islands in the Loganair small Islander plane. To find out more about Gunnie’s aerial photography visit here.

Stone Built is available now through The Orcadian bookshop and Stromness Books & Prints priced at £7.99.


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6 Percent in Inverness


Rose was proud to show the book to her schoolmates. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014

Rose was proud to show the book to her schoolmates. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014


An exhibition of black and white photographs called ‘Six Percent’ is currently showing at the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness. The work, by Perth based documentary photographer Graham Miller, was carried our over two years in conjunction with Down’s Syndrome Scotland who then funded a print run of the book and the framed images which are now on display.

The title refers to a statistic published in 2010 which stated that of all pregnancies diagnosed as Down’s Syndrome 91% were terminated, 3% of babies died during pregnancy or at birth with 6% of live births.


Sylvia 52 a medal winning powerlifter. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014

Sylvia, 52, a medal winning power lifter. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014


In his practice Graham interviews sitters, whilst photographing them, as a way of encouraging them to revisit past life events when he can then try and capture something of what is was like for them at the time. The framed photographs are then accompanied by extended captions using the words of those he has interviewed.

The work was first shown at Summerhall last year and Graham can be seen here being interviewed by Summerhall TV.


Darby doesn't need the feeding tube anymore she has just become used to it. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014

Darby doesn’t need the feeding tube anymore she has just become used to it. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014


Copies of the book by the same name are available at the exhibition, by contacting Downs Syndrome Scotland or from Beyond Words. The profits from the first 500 copies go to the charity.

Graham Miller is an MA documentary stills photographer who focuses on challenging stigma. ‘Six Percent’ is his second major project in which Graham worked with families and extended families who had children with Down’s Syndrome. This followed his first major project ‘ Honesty: The Most important people in the World’ which was featured in two solo exhibitions, one being part of the Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF). That project looked at a group of workers with mental health issues who attended the Wall Garden within the grounds of Perth’s Murray Royal Hospital.

Ruby with her Dad. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014

Ruby with her Dad. Photograph © Graham Miller, 2014


Graham now has two new projects running in parallel. #Broken explores what happens to people as they deal with the trauma of a major life-changing event and how that impacts their mental well-being. The second project, as yet unnamed, returns to a theme first developed during the Walled Garden project, that of power relationships and challenging the role of celebrity in society.

‘Six Percent’ is being shown at The Gallery, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, until 31st March, 2014.

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EPA winner announced

Screen Shot 2014-01-06 at 13.31.08The latest winner of the European Publishers Award for Photography – ‘One Another’ by Alisa Resnik – is now available.

‘One Another’ features images mainly taken at night in St Petersburg and Berlin. Leaden-coloured scenes, greasy spoon cafés, empty halls and old hotel rooms that seem to echo with traces of the past. And people’s faces…… hurried glances, small awkward gestures, hands searching for support, the signs of grief or desparation in the corner of an eye – people breaking through the glass of loneliness.

For Resnik, photography is the way to stop a moment and look deeper into reality, to step past the often painful dichotomy between subject and the object: “You roam the world looking for the moments you can stop and turn into an act of perception, looking for a revelation, looking for a mirror.”

Alisa Resnik (b. 1976 in St. Petersburg, Russia) moved to Berlin, Germany, in 1990. After studying Art History in Berlin and Bologna she began photographing in 2008. Her work has been exhibited in Rome, Milan, Madrid and at Les Rencontres d’Arles. She was also selected for the Photoespaña 2009 Descubrimientos and among the new talents at the Musée Suisse de l’appareil Photographique in Vevey.

Established in 1994, previous winners of the European Publishers Award For Photography have included Bruce Gilden, Simon Norfolk, Paolo Pellegrin, Ambroise Tézenas, Klavdij Sluban, Christophe Agou, Davide Monteleone and Alessandro Imbriaco. The winning book is published simultaneously in five editions, in five languages.

The hardback book, is available for purchase at Dewi Lewis Publishing at a cost of £30/$48 and features 67 colour photographs.

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Brought to book

The Salmon Fishers

Although it has been a number of years since Document Scotland’s Colin McPherson produced the main body of work in his Catching the Tide series, the photographs of his long-term project documenting the lives of Scotland’s remaining salmon net fishermen continue to be published.

The Salmon Fishers

A new book entitled The Salmon Fishers – a history of the Scottish coastal salmon fisheries by Iain A. Robertson features 14 monochrome images taken from the series. The book is a detailed summary of the history of the ancient tradition of using nets to catch salmon and sea trout for the commercial market and recalls the many twists and turns the industry has had to negotiate to survive into the 21st century. It talks of the lives of the fishermen but also of the bureaucracy and parliamentary strictures which have reduced a once-thriving industry to near-invisibility in many parts of the country.

The Salmon Fishers

Colin’s work with the fishermen began in the mid-1990s when the fisheries were still principally owned and managed by great companies which had exploited the salmon for over a century. Firms such as Joseph Johnston & Sons owned the leases to many profitable netting stations and employed hundreds of men. With dwindling fish stocks, the flooding of the market by cheaply-produced farmed salmon and an aggressive buy-out campaign by angling interests, the days of salmon netting seemed numbered. It was this which spurred Colin on to making as complete a record as possible of salmon netting which has lead to many years travelling and photographing the fishermen and their stations from the Solway in the south to the north west tip of Scotland in Sutherland. Companies such as Johnstons are long gone, but the record of their fisheries is in part preserved by Colin’s work.

The Salmon Fishers

If Santa brings you a fist full of book tokens at Christmas, what better way to invest them than by ordering a copy of The Salmon Fishers and reading up on a previously ignored part of Scotland’s rural history and tradition?




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“At Sea” by Paul Duke

Paul Duke, a Scottish photographer who now lives in London, has completed a series of black and white portraits of the men and women who work in the fishing industry on the North East coast.  Each subject was shot uniformly, standing against a dark backdrop in a portable studio which Paul set-up in shipyards, factories and fish processing sheds. The resulting project is called, “At Sea”.

Paul’s portraits let you know immediately that these are people involved in arduous work. You get the sense that although they are still for the portrait, that their minds are still on the job, wondering when their colleagues will call them back to the task at hand. Although the sea, the source of these livelihoods, is never seen, its smell and wetness lingers in each picture.

No sense of nostalgic hero-worship for people living arduous lives stifles the project. Paul’s generous approach to his subjects and his simple straight-on compositions remind us of that very real people still rely on the sea’s bounty for work and a wage whether they be mums or dads, school-leavers or seasoned professionals. Document Scotland was excited to hear that Paul has an up-coming book and a couple of exhibitions are about to take place also, so we wanted to  find out some more about the origins of At Sea.


When did you realise you wanted to do this project?


My wife’s grandfather was born in Macduff.  As a child she went back for summer holidays with her family along the Moray Firth.  Like myself, she is a Scot – we met at the Royal College of Art – like many young people who go to London to study – we got stuck, had a family, and have lived here ever since.  I’m sure it’s an age thing, but we started to get very homesick a number of years ago – we decided then to buy a seaside cottage along this coastline, we had an overwhelming need to have one foot back in Scotland.

Over the years I started to make friends with people from the local community.  Many, if not all, had connections or family who worked in the fishing industry in one-way or another.  I was well aware through media coverage that the fishing industry was experiencing a decline – it was the first hand stories that made me realize that it would be timely to document this community during this critical period – I didn’t want to present a nostalgic viewpoint of the industry, my intention was always to offer a pertinent comment on the present – a slice of time, if you like.


What made you go for the lit portraits with backdrop approach?


Strangely enough most of my previous project-work has been made using available light. The decision to use location lighting for this project was easy actually – one I was most comfortable with during the early stages of making the work.  I knew the project would be done over a long period of time and at different times of the year.  I had to achieve continuity in the set and I knew this approach would ensure this – I also had to make sure that every shoot was productive, and I couldn’t rely on the weather.  It was also important for me to gain parity amongst the sitters – applying a constant, in this case, quality of lighting, was both a technical and aesthetic device employed to achieve this.  The plain backdrop reinforced the idea of commonality – many of the locations I used were busy places with lots of activity and clutter – it was necessary therefore to remove these distractions, to democratize the portrait and encourage the viewer to focus on the sitter, the gaze.  Again as another measure to support this I shot in black and white – I needed to strip it down to its core – I wanted to simplify the language.


How did you find your subjects?


One of the first things I had to find and organize before I started shooting was good locations.  This was a slow process and it took time to get the trust and permission to set-up my portable studio in these busy working environments.  There were certain key people who made this possible, and with their help, I started to find good spaces.  I quickly found a routine, I would set-up early in the morning, get everything ready, then go out and chat to people.  I would let them know where I was based for the day, and they would come and find me.  It’s fair to say, there was a lot of hanging around, I had to be patient and some days were better than others.


Were you seeking-out specific kinds of faces?


During the making of the work I was happy to engage with everybody and couldn’t be too choosy about whom I wanted or didn’t want to shoot.  Although people were warm and accommodating, it was a challenge finding subjects comfortable enough to have their picture taken.  It was a very alien task for many to down tools, so to speak, to stand in front of a camera in the workplace, in front of their friends and workmates and it was hard to keep the sitters attention.  I worked very quickly and always on my own – 6×7 medium format camera, one roll of film per sitter – 10 shots.  Each portrait was done in a 5-minute time span – there was no choice really, it was the only way to get the portrait in frenetic surroundings.

After I stopped shooting, and during editing for the exhibitions and book, I made decisions regarding the type of faces and people I wanted to use.  During the process of shooting I wanted to concentrate on getting the portraits – it took time, focus and energy just doing this, so I understood quite early on in the project that I wouldn’t over analyse the work in progress – I was aware of what I was producing, but I wanted the development of the work to be as organic and as honest as I possibly could. It wasn’t until the final stages of editing that I had clarity.  There are always many factors that influence choice in editing, but with this work, I approached the task in anthropological terms also – it is the people who make the industry after all – through careful selection I wanted to provide representation that would create the narrative.


What did your subjects think of the experience?


I make a point of always giving the subjects a print of their portrait – it only seems fair to me.  The reaction was positive and supportive.  I think the community in general understood that my motives were genuine.  I worked on this project over a three-year period and shot in excess of one hundred portraits – I spoke to many people and heard various accounts and stories about the decline of an industry – it was a humbling experience and a privilege to have the community embrace the project – it was their collaboration that saw the project through.


Tell us about the exhibition and the book


The book was never my main intention to start with. I always thought that the exhibition would be the final outcome and the most appropriate thing for the work.  The exhibition format is exciting, it’s always satisfying to present the work to an audience but, nevertheless, it is a transitory experience.  The culture of the ‘photography book’ as an artifact has grown in recent years, and I realized through discussion with my contemporaries that a publication was valid and, would offer the project longevity. Peter Willberg, an old friend from the RCA, designed the book.  Peter is a celebrated book designer and, at the top of his game  – he has produced many fine books for major artists, galleries and museums – I was very fortunate that he agreed to take the project on.

John Bellany, who sadly died last month, kindly wrote a very poignant and heartfelt piece earlier this year, as an afterword for the portraits – I feel very honoured and proud that his words are included in the book – John more that any other Scottish artist understood the significance of the fishing industry and its people.

On 1 November, the project will go on show at Duff House, Banff – 10 life-sized prints from the series.  This majestic country gallery is central to the community and it will give me great pleasure to hang the work in this noble space – on a personal level it offers the opportunity to give something back to the community – an offer of gratitude to the people who helped me realize my initial goals.

More images from Paul’s project can be seen at his website….

His exhibition open at Duff House – Banff, 01 November 2013 – 17 January 2014

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