A portrait of Tanera (Ar Dùthaich)

Tanera (Ar Dùthaich) is a project by Derbyshire-based photographer Kevin Percival which will be exhibited from this Sunday, 18th June, at Rhue Art in Ullapool.

The photographs featured focus on a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland, where Kevin lived and worked for several years. Like many of Scotland’s coastal communities, the challenges facing local people revolve around the struggle for employment, affordable housing and access to education and other services, and often uncertainty surrounding who actually owns the spaces and places around their homes. Tanera Mor is no different, having been bought and sold – and recently withdrawn from sale – several times over the last few decades. Nevertheless, people living on Tanera Mor, the largest of the fabled Summer Isles, work hard to make the place habitable and sustainable. As Kevin notes: “The island had a very small population when I lived there, but has a particularly interesting and close relationship with the local mainland communities. Many have lived or worked on the island, on the fish farm in the bay, fishing or running tours in the waters around the Summer Isles archipelago. As such Tanera occupies a specific place in hearts, minds and mythologies of the local people. The photographs are a ‘portrait of place’, shown through the people and the marks and effects they have on the landscape around them. Given the island’s small size, these traces often exist together, in close proximity, so you can see the effects of families living on the land 200 years ago, right next to what is happening today. Over time these traces build up, layered on top of each other forming a kind of catalogue of existence like a palimpsest. This becomes particularly evident in smaller, self-contained or continually populated landmasses, such as Tanera Mhor.”

Giving a voice to people in marginalised places, whether they reside in inner-cities or in Scotland’s vast, rural landscape, is often a calling for photographers. In many locations, history is buried beneath layers of time. Kevin’s interest and approach bears this out: “With this work I wanted to explore both this rich past, as a Viking sanctuary, and a fishing and crofting community, and its current state and the people who are leaving their traces today. Visually, I wanted to acknowledge the Romanticism of the Scottish wilderness, but contrast that with modernity – emphasising that this is a current workplace and home. Rural populations in Britain seem under-represented, both politically and photographically, and I wanted to present a project which encourages conversation around rural living and issues”

The project started in 2012 when Kevin moved to Tanera Mor for a job and it developed from there. He spent two years living on the island seasonally; eight months on, four months off and has returned to the island for at least a few weeks every year since. Shooting mostly on black and white film, Kevin’s aim was to reference the Romanticism and the photographers who have depicted Scottish islands before. As is common these days, Kevin’s approach sought to tap into the pace of life in the islands: “I also love using film because it slows me down, makes me really look at a scene and work through different compositions in my head. When every shot costs a few quid you quickly realise you can’t walk around with a motordrive going, you have to take your time with your subjects”

The project is not intended as a complete history of Tanera, nor a catalogue of everyone who has ever lived there or ever contributed to the fabric of the place. With a place like Tanera Mor, periodically inhabited for over 1000 years, such a task would be impossible. Kevin’s intention is to create a small but timeless snapshot, focused on the particulars of how the island has been managed for the past 20 or so years. Luckily, Kevin found the people he was living and working with supportive, as he explains: “I was really lucky that everyone was so welcoming, from the people who own/run the island to the local fish-farmers, course tutors and tour boat operators. I ended up photographing people from wildly different backgrounds, but for whom the island was a strong presence within their lives. Most people living in remote areas like the Highlands and Islands find they have to become modern crofters, or I suppose you could call it ‘portfolio workers’. In order to survive, most people work two or three jobs. Likewise, the island takes on very different roles for each person. For artists, writers and other creatives it is a gateway to contemplation or inspiration, for the scallop divers, creelers and fish-farmers it is their living”

Tanera (Ar Dùthaich) will be on show from this Sunday until 24th August, 2017.

 

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

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North Sea Fishing

In Scotland’s Season of Photography, the Scottish Fisheries Museum is delighted to be hosting a striking exhibition of black and white images shot by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert aboard the seine net fishing boats, Mairead and Argosy, in the North Sea in the 1990’s. These images capture the reality of the life at sea for the fishermen of Scotland’s North East fishing communities – the cramped conditions, the monotony, and the grueling work in harsh conditions.

 

Bill Smith secures the nets, aboard the 'Argosy' seine-net fishing boat in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

Bill Smith secures the nets, aboard the ‘Argosy’ seine-net fishing boat in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

 

12th November 2016 – 19th February 2017
Entry included in museum admission.

Here, Jeremy talks about how the work came about:

“Considering I come from a land-locked family I’ve done my fair share of bobbing about on the waves of the planet, and no sea has more bobbing than the North Sea (although going through the 40degress and 50 degree latitudes of the Southern Ocean was quite interesting). The North Sea – “a confused sea” as it was once described to me and, as one fishing trawler skipper told me, late at night, only the instrument panel lighting the bridge room, “the north sea, she’s a cruel mistress”.

I think my first experience on the North Sea was on a fishing trawler, on an overnight assignment photographing fishing trawlers for a paper. There was a fisherman’s protest, lots of trawlers all together, protesting latest EU rules and regulations, net sizes and quotas. I got sent out to photograph. It was a night of adventure: watch dawn rise, shoot the other boats, back to harbour, home by lunchtime. The skipper that night, Ronnie, was a decent chap. I asked him how long he usually goes out for at a time, “10 days”, was the reply. “Can I come next time?” I asked. He smiled, he laughed, he replied, “if you think you can handle it, you can come, but there’s no going back. If you’re sea sick you’ll be sea sick for 10 days”. Count me in.”

The results of this expedition are captured in these striking images which serve as an important record of a period and style of fishing which is already passing into history and the Scottish Fisheries Museum is pleased to be able to provide our visitors with an insight into the working conditions for seine net fishermen, operating far from the safety and comforts of the shore.

We feel equally privileged to be hosting the inaugural display of this exhibition which will then tour other venues nationwide. The production has been made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of several organisations including Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, Scottish Fishermen’s Trust, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and Loxley Colour Photo Lab.

Aboard the 'Argosy' seine-net fishing boat, in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

Aboard the ‘Argosy’ seine-net fishing boat, in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum-partnered exhibition will then tour to the following venues across the country over the next year:

12th Nov. 2016 – 19th Feb. 2017 – Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther

23rd Feb 2017- End of March 2017 – Arbuthnot Museum, Peterhead

8th April – 13th May 2017 – Montrose Museum

20th May – 29th June 2017 – Signal Tower Museum, Arbroath

8th July – 27th August 2017 – Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland Isles

9th Sept – 21st October 2017 – St Fergus Gallery, Wick

28th Oct – 9th December 2017 – Thurso Art Centre

6th Jan 2018 – 24th Feb 2018 – Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

A related Education Pack developed by the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Learning and Access Officer will be available for subsequent venues to engage with their local young people.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum will host a talk by the photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and featured fishing boat skipper Ronnie Hughes on Friday 2nd December, from 6pm.

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The past present

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It would be easy to label Larry Herman’s work as ‘old school’.

His photography is indeed imbued with an aesthetic sense which resonates the past. Grainy, monochrome images which depict life at a time when Scotland’s Industrial Age was coming to an end and the new service economy and its illegitimate offspring, unemployment and job insecurity, had not yet pervaded everyday life. This would do an injustice to Herman’s work, however, the context of which is directly relevant to peoples’ lives today: our never-ending struggle for financial security and survival; the ceaseless toil of work; the quest to find justice in an increasingly unequal Britain.

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Clydeside 1974-76 currently on show at Glasgow’s Street Level Photoworks, offers us a glimpse of a world which, in strict terms, no longer exists: The men in the blast furnace at the Ravenscraig steel mill, the workers dwarfed by ships under construction on the Clyde; a woman, head bowed in concentration, sewing pockets to garments in a factory in Campbeltown, of all places. These locations, once the lifeblood of countless Scottish communities, swept away in the Thatcherite firestorm, now consigned to memory and preserved in a thoughtful, honest and soulful manner by Larry Herman’s photographs. They are intimate moments which humanise industry.

The title of the show may be geographically misleading, but the sentiments and honesty behind the work endures and cuts through this narrow definition of the life and land surrounding Scotland’s most famous – and infamous – river. By including images from as far afield as rural Argyll and Ayrshire, we are allowed to spy different aspects of life and work in 1970s Scotland. The pictures do not romanticise working life in Scotland, often the curse of the commentariat which likes to hark back to some ‘golden age’ when the world was Clyde built (neglecting to observe that this was all done on the blood, sweat and tears of the working man and woman). At the same time, Herman’s images do not portray a negativity and grimness of the occasional visitor or voyeur. His was a project, constructed over two years, which allowed him the time and space to develop his themes and narrate carefully a political strand to his output which subtlety and successfully takes a stand.

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If inequality is an oft-bandied word in today’s political lexicon, then some of Herman’s images in this show demonstrate starkly that it has always existed. The photograph of the fatted, ruddy country squires sits uneasily with a picture of family life in the vast, sprawling streets-in-the-sky of Glasgow’s Red Row flats. It is classic epic and everyday, woven together by a determinedly singular vision of the world, which has sustained a passion and fire in Herman’s work until this day, where he still shoots stories and projects with those same political themes at their core.

We emerge from the gallery, blinking in the early-October sunshine as people of all races, cultures and backgrounds colourfully tumble down Argyle Street, shopping bags swinging, music blaring. I remind myself that so much has changed for the better in this city and the regions surrounding it in the past 40 years, but at the same time, so much has remained the same.

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Larry Herman’s photographs are a reminder that photography can still prick our conscience and be a call to action, even after all these years. It is a timely rejoinder to anyone who thinks ‘old school’ is dated and irrelevant in the digital age.

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Clydeside 1974-76 by Larry Herman continues at Street Level Photoworks until 27th November, 2016. There will be a Q&A event with Larry Herman, Noni Stacey and gallery director Malcolm Dickson on Saturday 22nd October at 3pm, which is free to attend.

Gallery photographs © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

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Home and away with Albion Rovers

Booklet Cover

Cliftonhill is one of the most evocative grounds in Scottish football, yet one suspects hardly anyone in Scotland could describe what it looks like or even – given Albion Rovers’ name – where it is. Photographer Iain McLean has spent many years visiting the ground as a fan and a photographer. His project, entitled More Than Just A Football Club has recently been published in book form. Here he chats to Document Scotland’s Colin McPherson, himself an aficionado of lower-league Scottish football, about his striking images of the Coatbridge-based club.

CM: I have several memories of visiting Cliftonhill in the 1980s with the team I supported, Meadowbank Thistle. The rubble-strewn ground was in a ruinous state, with its dungeon-like toilets and crumbling main stand and an owner who seemed part of the problem not the solution. And yet… it was always one of my favourite away days. From arriving at the ironic-sounding Sunnyside station to a pint in Big O’s before the game, the trip to Albion Rovers was always eagerly anticipated. When did you first connect with the club?

IM: In season 2000/01 my friend and Rovers stalwart Bill Walker suggested coming along to the club when I was on the lookout for a longterm photo project. I had never been to Coatbridge before and knew nothing of its history never mind anything about Albion Rovers. I’ll never forget seeing the stadium for the first time – a blaze of yellow and red alongside a busy road. It had an oddly exotic appearance from the outside with the colours standing out against the cold North Lanarkshire backdrop. I was impressed. Bill secured me permission to take pictures and I got started immediately. I found the fans to be welcoming and despite the state of the stadium – as you say, it was in need of a bit of TLC – I had a good feeling about being there. I originally shot on film – HP5 – developing and printing in my shed, and in the first season produced a few decent prints from games against Peterhead, Dumbarton and East Stirlingshire.

Albion Rovers v Arbroath, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

Albion Rovers v Arbroath, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

 

CM: Ah yes, those evocative colours, bright red and almost luminous yellow, certainly stood out from the more familiar grey sky which seemed to be ever-present there. I was particularly fond of Rovers’ mid-1980s strip which featured a series of red diagonal stripes to complement the then sponsors Tunnocks. A design classic. Your images are monochrome of course, so we’ll just have to add the colour in our imagination. What was the rationale behind using black-and-White for the project?

IM: Despite the colourful exterior,  as soon as I saw the inside of the stadium I knew the photographs had to be mono as the inside harked back to another time. Black-and-white gives the pictures a more timeless feel and also gives the whole project continuity. Your own excellent pictures in When Saturday Comes are to an extent dictated by editorial needs, but I have a little bit more freedom when it comes to how the pics are presented.

CM: Actually the WSC images reflect very much my approach to photographing football – the magazine gives me complete autonomy, it’s just the style I’ve developed over the last decade. I’d be interested in photographing a football project in mono, but I’m so drawn to the colour palette that I can’t imagine ever doing it. I think your images work really well in black-and-white as the emotion of what you capture is laid bare more starkly. You have also had the opportunity to stay close to the story, as it were, and develop a strong narrative. I love the ups-and-downs you portray. Were the Rovers supporters aware of who you are and what you are doing?

IM: I started very anonymously, just quietly mooching around seeing what was happening. Slowly the fans have become aware of me and what I am up to and I suspect I am viewed with something between mild suspicion and vague curiosity. The pics have been exhibited a few times as well as been published in local and national press, so they are well used to seeing their photographs in the public domain. I also offer a free print to anyone who asks for one by way of thanks as it is the least I can do to repay people for their help. Given that our average gate is around the 400 mark, I’m a bit limited with potential models but try not to feature the same characters too often. There are some brilliant subjects though and amongst my favourites are Andy and Mary. They are real golden-hearted gems who are, as they say in football, 110% loyal to the club, attending fundraising nights and events. Mary swears that by taking her knitting to away games it brings the club good luck. The fans (hopefully) realise that I am not out to embarrass anyone or make them appear foolish – certainly there are often quirky scenes or incidents that present themselves, but I love showing the humanity and warmth this particular group of people have. I guess the project could be about anything – I originally approached a local rugby club – but lucky for me Albion Rovers came along at the right time.

CM: Have you ever thought about widening it to include the playing staff, management, etc. Albion Rovers have had a few great characters down the years: I can imagine a night out with the legendary Vic Kasule might have had the film spinning through your camera! I suppose what I am asking is are you intending to carry on the the series, or do you feel the book marks the final chapter? It’s always difficult to know when to draw a project to a halt. There are usually milestones, after which the photographer takes stock and decides whether it’s worth carrying on. Where are you with it all?

IM: At one point I attempted to contact local people with a view to photographing them and hearing their thoughts about living next to a football stadium. Sadly nobody replied to the leaflets I posted through doors, but it may be worth another push with this idea perhaps offering some kind of incentive. Every time I think about bringing the project to an end a new opportunity arises. This year we are playing some excellent football and are currently holding our own in League 1, which is surprising because we were everyone’s favourites for the drop. So I have had new opportunities to visit new clubs (who are not in League 2) and also had the chance to record last year’s League Championship win, which as you would imagine was a fantastic day for the club and also for photo opportunities. Eventually I’d like to have a large exhibition of the photos – but first need a location and a good editor! The club have been accommodating and really helpful towards me. Provided I am not a nuisance I am allowed to go about my business in a quiet and discreet manner. I have seen various directors, chairmen and managers come and go but I rarely have any dialogue with them, although last week I met one of the directors for the first time when he was helping serve tea and coffee in the players lounge! A recent request to photograph the home, away and referee’s changing rooms was granted without any quibble and I am sure the club see the positive side to the project when we get good media coverage and have exhibitions here and there.

CM: So where can we get a hold of More Than Just A Football Club then?

IM: The 50 page photojournal is available priced £9.99 (+ p&p) from my websiteIt is also available from: Street Level Photoworks, Albion Roversfootball club, Summerlee Museum and Battlefield Framers in Glasgow.

CM: Thanks very much Iain, it’s been great talking to you. Up the Rovers!

Groundsman, Cliftonhill. Albion Rovers v Montrose, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

Groundsman, Cliftonhill, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

 

Albion Rovers v Montrose, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

Albion Rovers v Montrose, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

 

Albion Rovers mascot, 2015. Albion Rovers v Montrose, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

Albion Rovers mascot, 2015. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

 

Berwick Rangers v Albion Rovers, 2011. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

Berwick Rangers v Albion Rovers, 2011. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

 

Rangers v Albion Rovers, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

Rangers v Albion Rovers, 2014. Photograph © Iain McLean, all rights reserved

 

Colin McPherson is “In Conversation With…” writer Kevin Williamson on Thursday 7th April, 2016 at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh at 6pm. Entrey is free.

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Independent day

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To mark today’s final printed edition of the Independent, Document Scotland’s Colin McPherson talks about his contribution to the newspaper and the motivation behind the publication of a book of his photographs taken on assignment for, or published by, the paper.

Document Scotland (DS): Today, 26th March, the last edition of the Independent will hit the streets. What has been your involvement with the paper?

Colin McPherson (CM): I started working on a freelance basis for the ‘Indy’ in 1995. At the time, I was living in Edinburgh and photographing on a regular basis for the Scotsman and Herald newspapers. The first call I took from the picture desk of the Independent was to assign me the not-too-difficult task of taking a picture of St. Bernard’s Well, for a feature about writers’ favourite places. Given that it was a static object, it was pretty hard to get that wrong.

Peat cutters, Lewis, 1996. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Peat cutters, Lewis, 1996. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

 

DS: From those humble beginnings you quickly started working on a regular basis for the paper. Have you any other recollections of those early days?

CM: Yes. Almost as soon as the assignments came rolling in, my former picture editor at the Edinburgh Evening News and Scotsman, Rod Sibbald, took the reigns at the Indy. We always had a good relationship and we would talk on the phone early each morning to see if or what might be of interest to the paper. It would be too strong to say he relied on my suggestions, but he regularly took them up and sent me off across Scotland to get a stand-alone image or cover some major story. The Indy was still broadsheet format at the time, and the ethos of the paper still meant that pictures were as of much value as words.

DS: Were you shooting in colour then, or was it the trademark black-and-white, for which the Independent was famed for?

CM: It was strange. Right up until the late-1990s, the picture desk would allow you to chose. If I arrived on a job and thought, ‘this will make a cracking black-and-white’ I’d  shoot it like that. For some features, where time wasn’t an issue, I’d even have the luxury of making prints in my darkroom and sending them to London. Unthinkable nowadays. Gradually they wanted everything on the news, features and sports pages shot in colour, which they turned mono on the computer. It was then that the look and quality of the paper began to change.

DS: You must have covered some fascinating events and visited amazing places with your camera!

CM: Yes, I was really fortunate that in those days picture desks would have the trust in you – and generally the budgets – to back your ideas. I spent a few days in Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian in March 1996 based on persuasion. The result was a page of pictures in the features section on Easter Saturday, appropriately enough, given the subject matter. I loved travelling to the farthest outposts of Scotland and discovering ways of life which were either frozen in time or disappearing, such as peat cutting, salmon netting and doing a feature on Scotland’s last jute mill, in Dundee shortly before it closed.

Taxi driver, Moldova, 2004. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Taxi driver, Moldova, 2004. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

 

DS: It was a very explosive time politically in Scotland. And there were other major news stories. Did you cover big events too?

CM: Yes. I was at Dunblane on the day of the primary school shootings, which was really hard. And there was a lot of politics: the campaign to re-establish a parliament in Edinburgh was in full swing and there was Tony Blair’s victory in the 1997 General Election. Every day there seemed to be something going on and eventually it all led to the establishment of the Holyrood parliament and the infamous building project that went with it.

From the Independent Saturday Magazine, 26th March, 2016.

From the Independent Saturday Magazine, 26th March, 2016.

 

DS: You swapped Scotland for England in 2004, but still kept working for the paper. How easy was that?

CM: Not that straightforward. The daily had gone tabloid, not only in format but mentality. The picture editor at the time didn’t seem to value images as much and many of the ‘big beast’ photographers had moved on – the likes of Brian Harris, David Rose, Tom Pilston and John Voos. Luckily, Sophie Batterbury was in charge at the Independent on Sunday and still commissioned me regularly from my base in north west England. Eventually the picture desks of the two titles merged and I was able to work more regularly across both papers again.

DS: What made you decide to publish a book with your images taken on assignment or published in the Independent?

CM: I wanted to do something to commemorate the paper, to mark its passing. It’s an infrequent event, the death of a newspaper and I thought it might be nice to share some of my favourite images. I didn’t want it to be an authoritative history of my involvement, rather some snapshots of life and how its lived. And some humour too.

DS: The book came together quite quickly, how did you make it happen?

CM: The idea came to me to do something almost the day I heard that the Indy was closing. From that moment it was a bit of a scramble to get quotes for printing, decide on the layout and – most importantly and interestingly for me – select which images I wanted to show. I deliberately avoided including too many staged photographs, relying rather on individual pictures which could tell their own story. I wanted some humour in there too and I took a few liberties with the design to include a couple of pairs of images set against each other. At the end-of-the-day it’s a small, self-published book which I hope people will derive some enjoyment from. For me, it’s a keepsake, something to remember happy times out-and-about photographing for a wonderful, friendly newspaper, one which will be sorely missed by many people.

'An Independent Eye'. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

‘An Independent Eye’. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

 

DS: There’s already been quite a lot of interest in the book. Where can we get copies from?

CM:  Yes, it was featured by Phil Coombes on the BBC In Pictures website, and today’s final edition of the Independent Magazine carries a celebration of their photography which contains one of my images, which is very flattering. The book is available exclusively through my website. Get one, before it too disappears!

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Common Ground Exhibition – Part Two!

Happy 2016 everyone – to kick start this year Document Scotland have once again joined forces with our good friends the Welsh collective A Fine Beginning. Continuing our theme of collaboration and partnership to show our exhibition Common Ground.

The exhibition opening evening (to which you are all most welcome) is on Thuesday 4th February at 6pm at Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL.

The show was first exhibited at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow from August to October in 2014.

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It will now travel to Wales to be shown at The Millennium Centre in Cardiff from 5th February – 10th April 2016. Where Document Scotland and a Fine Beginning will also deliver a series of FREE talks and portfolio reviews.

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The publication to accompany this exciting collaboration, also called Common Ground, is on sale via our website, and at various retail outlets across Scotland.

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Here’s the press release for the Cardiff phase, Part 2, of Common Ground.

We hope you can join us at one or more of the events.

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As ever thank you to our partners and funders.

 

 

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‘Klondykers in Shetland’

*** New just in! There’s going to be a second edition of the book printed. Another 150 are being printed to meet demands! More news soon, once they’re available ***

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s fourth Café Royal Book was released last Thursday, and very nicely sold out overnight! Thank you everyone for your interest and support.

Klondykers in Shetland 1994‘ is the last collaboration from Jeremy and Craig Atkinson at Café Royal for this year. If you do wish to try and get your hands on one then Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, the shop at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, and possibly Foyles in London, have limited numbers still I believe.

Klondykers, Shetland 1994
Release Date 18.11.15
28 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Edition of 150

 

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“There’s blue on red, red on red, green on black, and that one over there is just rust on rust”, chortled the Coast Guard helicopter pilot as we flew over the waters of the Shetland isles and looked down on the fleet of East European ‘Klondyker’ fish factory ships all moored, all awaiting the arrival of the silver fish.

It was the early 1990’s, Communism had collapsed and new economies were struggling in Eastern Europe. Ships had been sent to Scottish waters to buy up the mackerel and herring catches, and take them back frozen or tinned to feed Bulgaria, Romania and the countries of the former Soviet bloc.

But the arrival of the Klondykers as they were known was gaining unwanted attention, ships were running aground all too frequently on the rocks of Shetland, and on visits into port others were detained, deemed as being unseaworthy. With ships impounded, and without work, crews went unpaid, and the men speaking no English drifted to the garbage dumps to look for items which could be salvaged, recycled, and taken back to Eastern Europe.

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I went to the Shetland twice, around 1994, to photograph, both times on assignment, badgering fish merchant agents to take me out to the ships on their speedboats when they visited to cut deals with Bulgarian skippers. Or another time I agreed with the Coast Guard to be used as ‘live practice’, to be lowered by harness and winch onto a moving ship in exchange for getting up in their helicopter to shoot aerial shots of the Klondyker fleet. I readily agreed, for the excitement, for the adventure, and for the access knowing that Colin Jacobson, then picture editor at the Independent Saturday Magazine, would never hire me a helicopter.

Cyrillic signs hung in Lerwick town centre, telling the men of the Klondykers where they could find the Fisherman’s Mission, where they could find God, cups of tea and some help, and you could spot the men as they walked the town, in their Eastern European fashions of leather jackets and jeans. Up at the garbage dump I photographed as islanders drove up to offer the Klondyker men old televisions and electronics, or just to stop by and bring them cigarettes and gifts.

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Out on the ships I got lucky and found myself on a ship crewed by Romanians, and I managed to use the little Romanian language skills I’d learned while working on another project outside of Bucharest. I chatted with the ship’s doctor, and he played his accordion for me, we toured the ship, and I photographed as men and women worked, cleaning the mackerel which had just arrived, or played table tennis as they awaited more fish.

The ships have gone now, but the word Klondyker still holds resonance in the Shetland, and of course upon the rocks are the ships which never left. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

 

Visit Café Royal Books website.

 

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Nelson Mandela, Glasgow 1993.

I’m very pleased to let you know that the black and white images I took of Nelson Mandela, in Glasgow in 1993, when he came to here to receive the Freedom of the City (and which I’ve written about previously), have been published as a little book by the industrious Craig Atkinson at Café Royal Books.

On November 21st at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, I’ll be doing a Q&A about my recent publications with Café Royal, as well as my Unsullied And Untarnished book. Fellow photographers Sophie Gerrard, Chris Leslie and Simon Crofts will also be there talking of their recent publications.

Many thanks,  Jeremy.

 

Jeremy Sutton—Hibbert
Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993
05.11.15
28 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Edition of 150

Available from Café Royal Books, in limited numbers.

 

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert— Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert— Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert— Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert— Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert— Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993

Jeremy Sutton Hibbert— Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993

 

A few copies are also on sale at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, where the Document Scotland ‘The Ties That Bind‘ show continues, and Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, have some of the Mandela books also.

 

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Cafe Royal Books

IMG_2417

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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Collecting The Gorbals.

A Stroll Through The Gorbals

To walk in the Gorbals area of Glasgow is to walk through a district of this city immortalised in iconic photographs, a district whose name is known far and wide, for better or for worse, and whose history has been captured in silver by some of the great photojournalists of the British post-War years. I couldn’t help but ruminate on this while there, in the Gorbals (and why is it always the Gorbals, never just Gorbals?), during a recent photographic assignment.

Radical Independence Campaign mass canvassing in support of Scottish independence, in the Gorbals, Glasgow, Scotland, June 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.

Radical Independence Campaign mass canvassing in support of Scottish independence, in the Gorbals, Glasgow, Scotland, June 2014. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2014, all rights reserved.

 

I was there to photograph canvassing and leafleting by supporters of the Radical Independence Campaign during the run-up to the recent referendum on Scottish independence. It was a sunny day, a Sunday, the streets had colour from the flowers people tended in gardens and from the colour of the shutters on a modern-designed apartment block. It was a million miles from some of those iconic images I carried with me in my mind, of Oscar Marzaroli’s fifty-odd Shades of Grey, or Bert Hardy’s two little ragamuffin boys forever linked arm-in-arm heading off on an immortal chore.

 

The Gorbals, © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2014, all rights reserved.

The Gorbals, © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2014, all rights reserved.

 

The Gorbals, © Chris Leslie 2008, all rights reserved.

The Gorbals, © Chris Leslie 2008, all rights reserved.

 

As I walked the streets it was impossible to recognise any landmarks from those iconic photographs, all had changed, all had gone, buildings torn down and their inhabitant’s memories moved on. All that was left to remember of those earlier times were the black and white images and the infamous tales they tell of poverty and deprivation, of children finding hope and entertainment on heaps of rubble and within chalked games on walls.

No one perhaps knows these Gorbals images better that Neil Carragher, a native of Hamilton, Scotland, but now retired and living in Canada. For the past decade or so Neil and his wife Blanche have worked hard amassing a collection of vintage photographs of the Gorbals and know the streets well. After my own sojourn around the same-but-different streets, photographing in digital colour, I spoke with Neil about their print collection.

Neil’s interest in these photographs stemmed, perhaps not so unsurprisingly, from originally collecting over a 30-year period art work by the Scottish colourists, and from owning “six or seven Joan Eardley paintings, one of which was a little boy with baggy pants hitched up, an old belt, an orange sweater and a skelly eye. It was so touching. I bought that one just when my mother died which was about 1993 and I still have it here in my collection. I love Joan Eardley’s work.

“I’ve travelled fairly extensively and left Glasgow immediately after my first degree, and I went to London and then to Switzerland. Putting that Scottish collection together helped me keep in touch with Scotland I guess. I knew all the dealers and auction houses over the years, but when my mother died I bought that little Scottish Joan Eardley. It was a chalk drawing on glass paper. And as I kept looking at that I kept remembering the areas of Glasgow that I knew when I went to university between 1956-1960 in Glasgow, which was just about the end of the Gorbals.”

I wondered if Neil had moved onto collecting the prints of Marzaroli’s street waifs and Bert Hardy’s street urchins as he had been one himself. But no, Neil explained, “I think you have to give that to Joan Eardley, as I had about half a dozen of her drawings and paintings, and the more I looked at them the more I remembered my childhood. So I wasn’t part of the Gorbals, but I did observe and when I was at university I stayed in Townhead, so used to see those children playing around outside. So when I started, I’m a keen photographer myself, mostly a travel photographer, so I decided that there had to be some remnants or there had to be some record of the Gorbals and Glasgow at those times existing. So I started a search which during the first few years was very painful indeed because I couldn’t get anything. I went to all the newspapers… but I discovered all, most of the newspapers as they were taken over by English and American companies, destroyed their old images. It’s scandalous, it’s the heritage gone. Those reporters should have been in the middle of it…”

But to be a collector is to not be put off easily, the hunt is after all sometimes the reward itself. Neil continued, “so I managed to contact Oscar Marzaroli’s widow, through a film maker friend and she was very reluctantly to see me but after a while she realised I was quite serious and I met her several times and she gave me access to the files that, the photos that Oscar left, which are a good part of my collection. Some of them, he did his own printing, so some of them are not brilliant, but certainly they are the original stuff. I loved his photographic eye. So I think I got more or less the cream of the crop from her and she told me basically he only had one showing since the time he died and he didn’t sell any from that, so it thought that was pretty scandalous too.” As with many artists it seems to achieve success or fame, Neil remarked, “you have to die first.”

But Neil’s collection has grown large over the years, Marzaroli’s images were “the start and I had to go to England to find photojournalists who had been sent up to Scotland after the war to photograph the worst slums in Europe. And through various methods I managed to contact one or two of the widows of those photojournalists. And I also got a collection, which had come from the old Picture Post magazine, which ended up in Chicago. And I bought a bunch of those from a professional photographic dealer in Chicago and also in New York. But none of those old photographs came from Glasgow or from Scotland full stop.”

To peruse the images of Neil’s collection is to be reminded of the great power of photojournalism in the post-War years, of the great names of Picture Post, or of pre-eminent photographers Bill Brandt, of John Bulmer, Grace Robertson, Margaret Watkins and many more.

Neil reminisced, “As I continued looking for old Glasgow photographs I found that Glasgow wasn’t unique of course, Liverpool was the second port and had just as many problems with immigration and resettling people as Glasgow had. Then I went on to collect photographs of London after the Second World War with children playing in the streets. The fact was I just couldn’t find any more Gorbals photographs but I liked the theme and I thought it was concentrated enough to continue picking up those older photos.

I think I view the collection as an historical statement which should be preserved and used for research into historic social issues that Scotland and even part of those blitzed areas in London and Liverpool have. The reason for that is I found people, my contacts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, were not in the least interested in that time period. It was almost like it was a black era. Scotland may have had that but it was only a microcosm of the society and therefore we should forget about it. And I don’t think it should be forgotten at all, because these places like the Gorbals produced people who worked extremely hard, whom a lot of them emigrated and have done extremely well. We should take that as being a significant positive rather than being a negative.”

Did Neil class himself with these people I wondered? “I do. I had to leave Scotland in order to get on because the opportunities within Scotland itself were very limited.”

But those opportunities he went on to find enabled him to build, in time, his large collection of photographs, “I think it is about 300 prints. I’ve never sat down and counted, but someone told me, I said there must be 200 and they said no there is 300 here. But that is somebody who was going through it with a toothcomb with the objective of taking it and putting it into an archival collection.

Well it ended up as not just Gorbals, Gorbals was the principal theme and as I said I ran out of work to collect or people who would give me some work. My objective now is to give it away in one piece.”

I was intrigued to know of the options available to a collector specialising in vintage prints of one particular city neighbourhood, from a very particular era. What images existed, was it solely waif-like children playing on street corners, or was there more to be seen? Neil explained, “Oh, quite a few, I wasn’t interested in particularly general landscape work, but there is one or two showing the demolition of the Gorbals but that is enough just as the background. I was more interested in the social side of it. How the children amused themselves, you know children have a capacity to enjoy themselves no matter what the conditions are. And I had to have photographs of the situations in pubs, now you see some older ones there. I actually commissioned a young photographer, Johan Campbell, who comes from Glasgow, to go back over and photograph, to go inside the pubs of Glasgow, and of Celtic supporters, and also to photograph outside the games. I also have work by David Gillanders, I got to know him quite well. I just love his work. I think he is the only serious social photographer that I’ve encountered in recent years. So I thought I had to include his work. So it’s not just about children, I mean Glasgow on a Friday night it shows the vicious side of it, but then that does exist. And I think it should be recorded. It’s not meant to be a sweety confectionery type of collection. It’s meant to be hard and tough. I’m not sure if that comes over.” He continued, “I’ve got a series done by a South African artist of men coming out of the shipyards and in the pubs, standing there you know with a pint and a half, they’re getting drunk before they go home and give what’s left to their wives.”

I asked Neil what his wife Blanche, who hails from Ayrshire, thinks of his collecting habit, “…my wife has put a stop to this for the time being. She says I have to find a home for it, you know preserving photographs is not an easy task. They have to be in terms of temperature and humidity well preserved. I’ve done my best here but now I need storage. So I’ve certainly paused it for further reflection. Let’s put it that way and this collection as such stands on its own and I think my next job is to find a home in Scotland for it.”

I was intrigued as to whether or not his wife lends a curatorial eye when viewing work to purchase, Neil laughed, “Ha! She’s a good critic, let’s put it that way!”

And what of the work that escaped, sometimes even good collectors can’t find everything. Without pause, Neil replied, “yes there was a guy– Joseph McKenzie. I met Joseph half a dozen times in his home. I viewed his collection. I would have died to have some of those works. He was not budging. And we kept a correspondence, over several years.”

And now in the era when everything is limited edition and aimed to be collectible, with the internet and it’s plethora of selling and buying sites, auction houses and yard sales, is it easier now to collect these prints? “Getty bought most of the Picture Post and it is easy to look at those photographs and buy modern prints but that was not my interest. So yes you can. I was interested in getting older prints as original as possible, as close to the date as I could that they were photographed. That’s part of the art of collecting I think and that’s why I think the collection has a little bit of heft. Yes you could put together a modern print version of the collection very easily indeed.”

As a working photographer here in Scotland myself, and as a co-founder and member of Document Scotland – a collective of four working photographers in the documentary field, I was intrigued to ask Neil his view of the industry here. He was happy to share his insight, “I found very few contacts in Scotland that I was able to make that were the least interested in photography. You’re a photographer yourself you correct me if I’m wrong. I contacted half a dozen of the photographic clubs and so on, pah, they wouldn’t give me the time of day. I don’t know why, when, if I do that in North America I usually get some sort of feedback, it’s easier to make contacts. I don’t know.

In terms of my art collection, none of the people who you’d regularly go to for let’s call it fine art, were interested in photography. I think the one exception is the Fine Arts Society that put a collection of Marzaroli’s work three or four years ago but it was just a six week ‘let’s see if we can sell some of these’ type of thing…Why there is not a deeper interest in, let’s call it fine art photography, I don’t know.”

“When I talked to David Peat before he died, I bought his collection, he hadn’t sold any. So I bought the whole collection that he had and he kept the original which has been given to the National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh, but I bought the only copy that he made. He was of course in the business for a long time and he was echoing what you’re saying. Nothing has changed and Marzaroli was the same, and essentially died in poverty. Tough field photography for a professional. That’s not the case in North America, or France, Germany. I think it is easier if people understand it is a fine art and to be encouraged. It will come but you know Scotland always was a wee bit behind.”

And is there a difference between collecting within Scotland and England? “My experience of England is mostly London, which is a bit of an international microcosm.” And with a smile in his voice, “there’s three or four people there over the years who I’ve dealt with, thieves and vagabonds, but never the less they do try.”

And from these thieves and vagabonds, I wondered does Neil collect any contemporary Scottish photography? Why only stop in the days of Picture Post, even life in the Gorbals now comes in glorious technicolour? “I haven’t tried, nor would I know how to source it. That’s really what I’m saying to you. I did have a contemporary Scottish art collection, young people, contemporary, looking for a sale. What I loved about that was meeting the artist and him explain his work and how he went about it. Now if there was such a medium available in Scotland for contemporary photography I think that would be very encouraging, but I didn’t find it.

Scottish contemporary art is very expressionist, they are certainly very different to what is produced in England and that is why I loved it. I found Scottish contemporary art to be very creative and I’m sure that is exactly the same with photography.”

I assure Neil at this point that there is good contemporary photography being produced here, Document Scotland have been showing work by many photographers at our salons, in our publications and shows. We, as a photography collective, try to enable one viewing platform where collectors like Neil can see work from the young and enthusiastic, as well as old and experienced photographers who are still out there, still walking the streets, carrying colour digital or old school black and white and who are still producing work in Scotland. I mention to Neil that Document Scotland recently had the honour of Glasgow-born photojournalist Harry Benson CBE generously accepting our invitation that he become the collective’s Honorary Patron, and I had noticed that Neil, in his collection, has a few of Harry’s prints.

“I met Harry in New York, when we’re talking about contemporary photography and contemporary art and I said I like to meet the artist and talk of why they’re doing their work. I met Harry in his apartment in New York and he told me of his life and I took a few prints from him. Particularly the one in Kelvingrove Park, the kids in the fountain, which is a famous one, I wanted to get it from him. That made a big difference, and he talked about how tough it was for him and how it’s only in recent years he’s been accepted as being a social photographer in Scotland. He’s just a lovely man. He’s a survivor too. For me meeting him made me enjoy his photography more. That’s the link I think.”

Glasgow-born photographer Harry Benson, at home in New York, © Stephen McLaren/Document Scotland 2014. All rights reserved.

Glasgow-born photographer Harry Benson, at home in New York, © Stephen McLaren/Document Scotland 2014. All rights reserved.

 

And with that Neil accepted my invitation to join Document Scotland for a salon event next time he is home in Scotland, an evening when Scottish contemporary photographers who walk the same streets as Bert Hardy did, entering similar houses as Bill Brandt and Thurston Hopkins, can share work, share thoughts and hopes and raise a glass to those who went before but whose prints still reflect the way ahead.

All text © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/Document Scotland 2014. All rights reserved.

The images reproduced above do not form part of Neil Carragher’s Gorbals collection and are used as examples of contemporary work from the Gorbals area, by contemporary photographers.

Sarah Amy Fishlock‘s image comes from her series ‘Citizens’ – ‘During my time as Artist in Residence at the Citizens Theatre between July 2013 and February 2014 I worked on a range of participatory photographic projects with theatre staff, audiences and community members. Citizens documents theatre staff in their unique working environment, as well as the changing landscape around the theatre, situated in the Gorbals, Glasgow.’

Chris Leslie has been documenting the changes in the east end of Glasgow in his project Glasgow Rennaissance, and in his new book ‘Nothing is Lost‘.

Thanks to Marc Boulay, formerly of the St. Andrews University Special Collections Photography Archive, for the introduction to Neil Carragher and his collection of Gorbals images.

And of course thank you to Neil Carragher for sparing time to chat and his kindness in allowing us to write about his collection. Thanks Neil!

See also The Gorbals, by photographer John Claridge, from Cafe Royal Books.

 

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“Belated praise for Joseph McKenzie.”

Journalist and editor Alan Taylor has kindly given us permission to republish his appreciation of photographer Joseph McKenzie who recently passed away, aged 86. This article first ran in The National, on July 20th 2015. (See also The Herald obituary of Jospeh McKenzie.)

Joseph McKenzie, photo by Adam Elder. ©Adam Elder, all rights reserved.

Joseph McKenzie, photo by Adam Elder. ©Adam Elder, all rights reserved.

 

Belated praise for Joseph McKenzie – a neglected pioneer of Scottish photography, by Alan Taylor.

‘DON’T it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.” Never were Joni Mitchell’s words more fitting than in the case of Joseph McKenzie, who died a few days ago, aged 86, and whose funeral will take place on Friday at Tayport. His obituarists routinely described him as “internationally acclaimed”, “one of the most ambitious and prolific post-war photographers”, and “the father of modern Scottish photography”. No one would have enjoyed the irony of these posthumous hurrahs more than McKenzie himself, for he had long since stopped exhibiting publicly and had just cause to believe he was suffering from that terrible disease that can afflict even a towering talent, namely neglect.

But if the wider world was unaware of McKenzie’s achievement, he did not want for admirers among those who view life through a lens. Graeme Murdoch, former chief executive of the Scottish National Photography Centre, recalls once asking him if he possessed a digital camera: “His harrumph could have been heard across the Tay.” Albert Watson, who is feted for his portraits of celebrities and whose work has often graced the covers of Vogue and Rolling Stone, was one of McKenzie’s students. “Joe was a wonderful teacher,” he says, “passionate and intense. From the minute I picked up a camera I felt the same.” Another who was taught by him is the artist Calum Colvin. “His technical skill was profound and the quality of his printing was stunning,” he says. “As a student of his I remember him speaking little about the history of photography but his attention to the poetic voice of the print was immense.”

Those who took the trouble to visit McKenzie at his Tayside home were at first greeted gruffly, as if by a man who was not used to company other than that of his immediate circle. His gaze was steely and his tolerance of fools non-existent.

As the hours wore on, however, he defrosted and welcomed inquiries about his work. Lunch was a Scotch pie or two garnished with brown sauce and accompanied by a mug of tea. McKenzie had no social pretensions. “He loved to challenge the status quo,” says Murdoch. He was constantly taking photographs, always in black and white, running off a reel of film a day. His archive, carefully stored and meticulously documented, comprises tens of thousands of prints, very few of which have seen the light of day. “What has been seen,” says Colvin, “is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Joe always claimed his work would remain private until after his death.”

Though he was umbilically attached to Scotland, McKenzie was born and educated in London, in 1929. After conscription and regular service in the RAF in the years immediately after the war, he studied photography at The London College of Printing. Thereafter, in 1954, he was appointed Lecturer in Photography at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee, a post from which he prematurely retired in 1986.

The 1960s were perhaps McKenzie’s most productive decade. Then, noted Gerry Badger, a writer on photography, he was “a lone wolf for Scottish photography – a lone wolf howling at the establishment, some might say”. During that period McKenzie had one exhibition after another: of children in the Gorbals, of Dundee as it wrestled with post-industrial deprivation, of Northern Ireland embroiled in sectarianism. His images were haunting, unsentimental, depressing, brutal, empathetic, indelible, a testimony to human indomitability and harsh existence. They were also, acknowledged Badger – in an essay to accompany Pages of Experience, a selection of McKenzie’s photographs from 1947 to 1987 – “grudgingly received north of the Border, and wholly disregarded south of it”.

WHY this was so is hard to tell. What is clear, though, is that McKenzie’s disillusionment with the reception of his work was profound and long-lasting. In particular, he was angered by the vituperative reaction in some quarters to his exhibition, Hibernian Images. This was the fruit of many months spent in Ireland in 1967 documenting a society in a state of anarchy: petrol-bombed homes, burnt-out pubs, ragged children building brick forts, graffitied walls, rookie troops looking apprehensive. The Troubles had begun to brew and McKenzie was no objective observer. As a Roman Catholic convert with five children, his sympathies lay with the Catholic minority, which may partly explain the venomous hostility to his work. Whatever the reason, McKenzie was chastened and determined never again to show it. However, from 1974 to 1980 he mounted exhibitions in a large room in his Tayport home, which was open to visitors by appointment.

He took much inspiration from American photographers such as Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Paul Strand, whose photographs of a rural community in South Uist, taken in 1954, bear obvious similarities with McKenzie’s of Donegal and elsewhere in Ireland in the 1960s. But it was on his own doorstep, in the Hawkhill area of Dundee, that he found what may have been his best subject. Using his lunch hours, he wandered the cobbled streets of a “city in transition”. Here he found three, elderly women – the antithesis of the three graces – chatting in lane about who knows what. Over a steaming brazier a labourer attempted to stay warm. Elsewhere an infant sprawled on the pavement beneath its upturned pram. And then there was Mrs Wallace in her eponymous pie shop, wearing a white apron and offering for sale nothing but a few unappetising pies. It was probably taken in 1964 but it has the air of an image from a time almost beyond memory.

McKenzie took photographs to immortalise such “ordinary” folk. A photograph, he once wrote, was like a living epitaph. As for himself, he was an outsider, a role which he both embraced and wore like a hairshirt. Unappreciated even by those with whom he worked at Duncan of Jordanstone, he persevered regardless, unable or unwilling to compromise or kow-tow to those who might have helped his career, confident that one day his as yet unexplored archive would set his reputation right.

Text ©Alan Taylor/The National, all rights reserved 2015.

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Paul Strand – print acquisition by SNPG

We were very excited to hear of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery’s latest photography acquisition, great to hear that nine images from South Uist, in the Outer Hebrides, by Paul Strand have been acquired for the nations’s photography collection. Great news indeed. Below, you can read about the acquisition and see the images, but we recommend going to see them in the flesh so to speak!

The nine photographs will be on show as part of Collecting Now at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, from 20 June to 20 September 2015.

 

Paul Strand

Nine photographs by Paul Strand (1890-1976), one of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, have been acquired by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, where they will go on public display until 20 September. Taken from Strand’s series of Hebridean photographs from South Uist in 1954, the works are the first examples of his Scottish work to enter into a public collection in Scotland.

This major acquisition, supported by the Art Fund, is composed of nine vintage black and white portraits of Scottish lives and landscapes in South Uist, an island in the Outer Hebrides off the west coast of Scotland. The works will be hung in the current exhibition Collecting Now, which focuses on the Gallery’s growing collection.

 

Paul Strand (1890-1976). Croft, Locarnon, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976).
Croft, Locarnon, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

The American photographer Paul Strand is ranked among the most important artists within the history of photography, and his work has influenced generations of photographers. In 1954, upon hearing a radio programme on the Gaelic songs of South Uist, he decided to travel there along with his wife, Hazel Kingsbury Strand. Having been introduced to the islanders by the local doctor, Strand spent three months taking over a hundred photographs of the island and its people for his book, Tìr a’ Mhurain (1962). Taken from a traditional Gaelic song, the title translates as ‘Land of Bent Grass’.

Strand photographed many of the people in and around their homes, often posing them before a weathered wall. Within the group of nine works going on display, there are four striking portraits that show the sitters looking directly at the camera, exuding strength and dignity. Strand was keen to understand his subjects, their environments and the forces that shaped their lives, and spent his first few weeks on the island observing the people he would photograph – fishermen, crofters, their wives and children. Nine years after the end of the WWII, South Uist was still an impoverished community and the vast majority of families depended on the produce from the land and sea. The remaining five photographs within the new acquisition group show the evocative landscapes of South Uist, for instance a loch and lilies, a croft, and ropes and a buoy used by the local fishermen.

Paul Strand (1890-1976). Norman Douglas, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 14.6 x 11.4 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976).
Norman Douglas, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 14.6 x 11.4 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Paul Strand (1890-1976). John Angus MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 14.6 x 11.4 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976).
John Angus MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 14.6 x 11.4 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

In the 1950s, during the Cold War, Uist was announced as the future site for a rocket launch facility, and many of the photos Strand took during his time on the island reflect a concern amongst many artists and folklorists to ‘salvage’ oral Gaelic culture amid the thread of a militarised modernity. He believed these islanders represented the universal struggle of humanity and sequenced the images within Tìr a Mhurain in such a way as to evoke the heroic, yet remote lives of the dwindling population: when he visited South Uist in the mid-1950s the population was 3764; at the last census in 2011 it was 1754.

The completed publication came out in 1962 and featured an introductory essay by British historian Basil Davidson, who explained the precarious existence of the islanders against a backdrop of history, geography and social anthropology.

Paul Strand (1890-1976) Peggy MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976)
Peggy MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Paul Strand (1890-1976) Loch and Lilies, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976)
Loch and Lilies, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Paul Strand (1890-1976) Ropes and Buoy, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 24.1 x 19.3 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976)
Ropes and Buoy, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 24.1 x 19.3 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

One of the greatest photographers of the twentieth century, with a career that spanned sixty years, Paul Strand was born in New York in 1890 and received his first camera at the age of 12. Whilst a student of renowned documentary photographer Lewis W. Hine in New York, from 1904-08, Strand visited the 291 Gallery which promoted pioneering photographers and introduced some of the most avant-garde European artists to American audiences. By 1916, Strand had a solo show at 291 Gallery, whose owner Stieglitz declared the images “pure” and “direct”. In 1945 Strand was given a solo show at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, but having become more political he now came under scrutiny as McCarthyism swept America, and he went into exile in France. During this time period he began working on a series of photo essays in search of an ideal community or village that espoused certain moral values he wanted to record with the camera, which eventually led to his visit to South Uist in 1954. His breakthrough, abstract experiments in the 1910s heralded photography’s importance as a modern art form, but it was his portraits of ordinary people that increased his popular appeal. Strand died in 1976 at Orgeval, France.

 

Paul Strand (1890-1976) Rock by the Sea, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 24.1 x 19.3 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976)
Rock by the Sea, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 24.1 x 19.3 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Speaking of the acquisition, Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery said: “These works are an important contribution to broadening our international holdings of photography, while the distinct Scottish subject matter relates to the larger mission for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in representing the people and topography of Scotland.”

Paul Strand (1890-1976) Mrs. Archie MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976)
Mrs. Archie MacDonald, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 11.4 x 14.6 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Paul Strand (1890-1976) House, Kilpheder, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954 Photograph (gelatine silver print): 19.3 x 24.1 cm Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

Paul Strand (1890-1976)
House, Kilpheder, South Uist, Hebrides, 1954
Photograph (gelatine silver print): 19.3 x 24.1 cm
Scottish National Portrait Gallery © Aperture Foundation Inc., Paul Strand Archive

 

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund, said: “Paul Strand was a photographic pioneer but he is under-represented in UK collections and not at all in Scotland, so we are very pleased to support this acquisition for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. This series of remarkable images from the Hebrides has an especially important resonance for the Gallery’s collections, and furthermore will sit well alongside works in the permanent collection by photographers influenced by Strand.”

 

The Art Fund

The Art Fund is the national fundraising charity for art. In the past five years the Art Fund has given £34 million to help museums and galleries acquire works of art for their collections. The Art Fund also helps museums share their collections with wider audiences by supporting a range of tours and exhibitions, including ARTIST ROOMS and the 2013-18 Aspire tour of Tate’s Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows by John Constable, and makes additional grants to support the training and professional development of curators.

The Art Fund is independently funded, with the core its income provided by 117,000 members who receive the National Art Pass and enjoy free entry to over 230 museums, galleries and historic places across the UK, as well as 50% off entry to major exhibition. In addition to grant-giving, the Art Fund’s support for museums includes the annual Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year, a publications programme and a range of digital platforms.

Find out more about the Art Fund and the National Art Pass at www.artfund.org

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