A Contested Land: Behind the lens #1

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

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

Free entry to all exhibitions.

Touring exhibition dates

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

 

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A Contested Land

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Contested Land.

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

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

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

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

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

Easdale, Scotland. © Colin McPherson 2018.

 

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

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

 

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

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

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

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

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

Easdale, Scotland © Colin McPherson 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

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

Free entry to all exhibitions.

 

Touring exhibition dates

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

Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson will be once again running a series of photography courses this summer.

Based on the tiny car-free island of Easdale, 15 miles south of Oban, Colin and fellow photographer, Liverpool-based Adam Lee, will host the short residential courses, where photographers of all levels will be guided and assisted to create a small photo story about the island, its environment and people.

The course is designed to ‘re-set’ your creativity by looking at some ideas which can help to bind a series of images into one coherant narrative. Both Colin and Adam will draw on their own experiences to deliver a stimulating and fascinating insight into how participants can improve and finesse their work. The emphasis will be on collaboration amongst the six participants, who will be accommodated in two cottages on the island, both of which boast all the comforts of modernity with the historical charm of this former slate-mining island in Argyll. There is ample time to devote to each individual and their photography whilst sharing and exchanging ideas and suggestions amongst the group.

Each course lasts two-and-a-half days, with three nights accommodation and all meals included in the fee. There are six dates starting at the end of June and into July, 2018 and anyone interested is encouraged to book early as places on the courses are already starting to fill up.

Full and further information can be found on the courses dedicated website.

All photographs © Colin McPherson, 2018.

 

 

 

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Going with the Flow

The inaugural Flow Photography Festival took place across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in September 2017 with the theme ‘People and Place’. The festival launched at Eden Court Theatre in Inverness, with several other galleries hosting work by internationally-acclaimed and award-winning photographers from Iceland, Finland, Scotland and Norway, icluding work by three Document Scotland photographers. In addition, the festival staged a series of concurrent events throughout the North of Scotland and the larger collections have just begun a tour of other venues. The man behind the festival, Matt Sillars, looks back on their first festival foray…

“As I write the main exhibitions from the inaugural photography festival in the Highlands and Islands are all bubble wrapped and packed in storage. However, An Lanntair in Stornoway, St Fergus Gallery in Wick and Timespan Gallery in Helmsdale all have shows with longer finish dates, so there is plenty to see well into November. The festival has been a real success with a set of  comment books burgeoning with positivity!

After two years planning the FLOW Photofest launched in September with a host of exhibitions from some of the leading photographers in the North including work by three Document Scotland members. Work from ‘When Saturday Comes’ by Colin McPherson and ‘North Sea Fishing’ by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert was on show along with the St Andrews University exhibit ‘Scotland through the Lens – 175 years of documentary photography’ featuring work by Sophie Gerrard. It was a real pleasure being able to show school groups the work of Sophie and discuss the photography of Franki Raffles, who was also in the 175 years show, in the context of contemporary documentary work.

Designed as a biennial destination festival, showing in galleries and spaces across the Highlands and Islands, FLOW has set itself the task of showcasing challenging and exciting photography by photographers ‘from the North’, ‘based in the North’ or ‘making work in the North’.  We featured work by 19 photographers – Ragnar Axelsson and Sigga Ella (Iceland), Iiu Susiraja  (Finland), Andrea Gjestvang and Tonje Boe Birkland (Norway), Dominique Gais (France), Mat Hay, Kieran Dodds, Alex Boyd, Chris Friel, Evija Laiviņa, Tom Kidd, Robin Gilanders, Ross Gilmore, Colin McPherson, Jeremey Sutton-Hibbert, Mary Overmeer, Nicky Bird, Kevin Percival (all Scotland) and the St Andrews University Special Collection exhibit. We also featured the work of a rediscovered Inverness photographer from the 1930s, Andrew Paterson.

Talks and workshops featured Alicia Bruce and the Paterson Collection while the over subscribed portfolio review sessions were conducted by Malcolm Dickson. Katherine Parhar and James Pfaff. These were very well received and we hope will be a regular feature. A series of films on Photographers were shown and photogravure workshops were held by Highland Print Studio. This was all finished off by a ‘small walls trail’ featuring local shops and unusual walls.

Most importantly the festival organisation had a real collegiate feel with everyone involved coming on board with enthusiasm and commitment, from the Highland Council, who saw real merit in the ‘cityness’ of such a festival to the photographers who all contributed their work, at times, in the case of Andrea and Kieran, making new work for our festival.

We are now in the process of developing the positive links established and working towards a ‘curated’ gallery wall dedicated to photography in Inverness.  Quite soon there will be the opening of a Community Darkroom in Inverness and this, allied to the exhibition space, will see the profile of photography becoming more established in the North.

Our next official outing will be September 2019 – across the Highlands and Islands. Please come and see what we will have on show!”

Title image: The Faroe Islands. Photograph © Andrea Gjestvang, 2017 all rights reserved.

The Andrew Paterson Collection at Inverness College UHI.

 

Sigga Ella Title Wall at IMAG.

 

North Sea Fishing. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2017 all rights reserved.

 

Ragnar Axelsson and Tom Kidd Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.

 

Adam, Heather Burn. © Matt Hay, 2017 all rights reserved.

 

Kieran Dodds with Gingers at IMAG.

 

Evija Laivina’s Beauty Warriors at Eden Court Theatre, Inverness.

 

‘Fraserburgh, 2010’. © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rightsreserved.

 

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Behind the Scenes, University of St Andrews

Recently as a group we were delighted to be invited to spend time at the University of St Andrews, taking a look at what goes on behind the scenes, seeing the little moments which make the historic educational establishment run on a daily basis. From gardeners to waiting staff, from members of staff to the choirs and students themselves, little glimpses of  daily life are being captured building into a larger set which will in time we hope be exhibited or published. But for now the chronicling of the corridors of education in St Andrews continues…

 

Heather Bremner cleans Younger Hall, prior to the installation ceremony of Professor Sally Mapstone as Principal and Vice-Chancellor – Behind the scenes at the University of St. Andrews. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Preparations for a ceremonial dinner at Lower College Hall – Behind the scenes at the University of St. Andrews. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2016, all rights reserved.

 

The ceremonial Macebearers take the ancient and valuable mace’s from the safe, in the Vestry of St Salvator’s Chapel, prior to the installation ceremony of Professor Sally Mapstone as Principal and Vice-Chancellor – Behind the scenes at the University of St. Andrews. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Students having gowns adjusted after coming off stage at the Younger Hall at the University of St. Andrews, on graduation day, 30th November, 2016. ©Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Bell ringers at St. Salvator’s Chapel at the University of St. Andrews, on graduation day, 30th November, 2016. ©Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Newly graduated students at St. Salvator’s Chapel grounds at the University of St. Andrews, on graduation day, 30th November, 2016. ©Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

Adam Taylor and his team of gardeners from the Estates, Grounds and Recycling Services carry out some spring time planting in the garden at Edgecliff House. This year they have planted over 11,000 tulip bulbs and 2000 crocus bulbs around the campus. Behind the scenes at The University of St Andrews, 30th March 2017. ©Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved.

 

Dame Anne Pringle, Senior Governor of The University of St Andrews University, April 2017. Photographed at University House – the Principle’s Residence at the University of St Andrews.
For the first time in the history of The University of St Andrews four of the senior positions are now held by women (Principal, Senior Governor, Rector and Student President). ©Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved.

 

Charlotte Andrew, President of the Students’ Association, St Andrews University, April 2017. Photographed at University House – the Principle’s Residence at the University of St Andrews.
For the first time in the history of The University of St Andrews four of the senior positions are now held by women (Principal, Senior Governor, Rector and Student President). ©Sophie Gerrard 2017, all rights reserved.

 

 

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FLOW PhotoFest

Document Scotland are very pleased to announce that we’re being represented in the inaugural Flow PhotoFestival, with two bodies of work. The new photography festival takes place across the Highlands of Scotland throughout September.

Colin McPherson’s images of Scottish football culture, the When Saturday Comes series, are on show at the Eden Court, Bishops Rd, Inverness, IV3 5SA. From 2nd – 30th Sept.

Colin’s work documents the ‘beautiful game’ and photographs of football culture in Scotland. Exploring the social process which surrounds football, McPherson immerses himself, and the viewer, into the rituals and practices of the fan as they embark on their weekly experience of football. Attention is given to the banal and the everyday details of the manner in which football is performed by the fan in the season. McPherson produces illuminating and insightful work on a ubiquitous aspect of contemporary Scottish culture. This work was previously shown at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

 

‘Craigroyston, 2006’ from the series ‘When Saturday Comes’. ©Colin McPherson 2017, all rights reserved.

 

‘Alloa Athletic, 2010’ from the series ‘When Saturday Comes’. ©Colin McPherson 2017, all rights reserved.

 

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s North Sea Fishing images are being exhibited at St. Fergus Gallery, Wick Library, Sinclair Terrace, Wick, KW1 5AB. The show runs from 9th Sept – 21st Oct.

High Life Highland are delighted to be hosting a striking exhibition of black and white images shot aboard the seine net fishing boats, Mairead and Argosy, in the North Sea in the 1990’s. These images, by Scottish documentary photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 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 gruelling work in harsh conditions.

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

 

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, all rights reserved.

 

The FLOW PhotoFest runs through September at a variety of galleries and exhibition spaces throughout the Highlands of Scotland.

 

 

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St Andrews Photography Festival & Salon

Celebrating 175 years of Scottish Photography in the home of Scottish Photography

We at Document Scotland are very pleased to involved with the first ever St Andrews Photography Festival 2016 where we will be presenting a Document Scotland public exhibition and a free Salon  afternoon of talks, multimedia and discussion about documentary photography in Scotland.

 

Document Scotland Exhibition

Featuring work by the four members of Document Scotland this exhibition is on at The Scores Railings – an outside street location open 24 hours – on the north side of St Andrews as you make your way to the Aquarium and the beach. The exhibition includes Drawn To The Land by Sophie Gerrard, North sea Fishing by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, A Fine Line by Colin McPherson and Scotia Nova by Stephen McLaren.

Screen shot 2016-07-25 at 18.02.56

 

Minty, Isle of Mull, 2014 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved

Minty, Isle of Mull, 2014 from the series ‘Drawn to The Land’ © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved

 

Aboard the seine netter 'Argosy', on the North Sea, 1995. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, all rights reserved.

Aboard the seine netter ‘Argosy’, on the North Sea, 1995. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, all rights reserved.

 

'Site of the Battle of Redeswire, 2013' from 'A Fine Line - Exploring Scotland's Border with England' © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

‘Site of the Battle of Redeswire, 2013’ from the series ‘A Fine Line – Exploring Scotland’s Border with England’ © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

 

From the series 'Nova Scotia', Scotland. ©Stephen McLaren, 2012, all rights reserved.

From the series ‘Nova Scotia’, Scotland. © Stephen McLaren, 2012, all rights reserved.

 

Salon Event 28th August 2016 3-5pm

On Sunday August 28th, we’re hosting a Salon afternoon event to showcase some excellent Scottish photography and multimedia, to get people together and to toast the good times of the St Andrews Photography Festival.

The event will be held at Martyr’s Kirk Research Library, 80 North Street, St Andrews, KY16 9TR from 3pm – 5pm and is as ever completely FREE to attend.

We will be presenting some of our own work by the collective members Colin McPherson, Stephen McLaren, Sophie Gerrard and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, and also some of our favourite work by others which we’ve enjoyed featured on our blog and website from the last couple of years.
We invite you to come along for an afternoon of some great photography, multimedia and lively discussion.
No need to book, if you would like to attend please just come along. We hope you can make it, and we look forward to the chat!

 

The audience at the Document Scotland Summer Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh

The audience at a Document Scotland Summer Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh, August 2013.

 

Press Release

“The University of St Andrews Library Special Collections Division is working with BID St Andrews – the business improvement body created to support businesses in the town – and local businesses to launch an annual photography festival in August which will celebrate the role and importance of St Andrews in the world of photography and engage with those who live, work in and visit the town.

BID Chairman, Alistair Lang, explains: “We are one of the most photographed and filmed towns in the world, yet few realise much of the technology we enjoy the benefits of today began with the work of a collection of photographic pioneers who lived and worked in St Andrews in the 1800s.”

Dr John Adamson is perhaps the most celebrated – a blue plaque adorns the wall of his former home in the town on South St, now The Adamson Restaurant. But many other names are to be celebrated for the role they played, including Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair, David Octavius Hill, Robert Adamson, Thomas Rodger and Sir David Brewster.

The first six-week-long festival – from August 1 to September 11 – which is being curated by the Universtiy Library’s Photographic Collections Manager Rachel Nordstrom, will see events and exhibitions focus on the earliest days of photography in St Andrews as well as Scottish documentary photography over the last 175 years and contemporary photography.”

The Festival was recently featured in The Scotsman

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Further info

To see the full schedule of events please see the full list of exhibitions and events here

To keep up to date visit the St Andrews Photography Festival Facebook page here.

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Roll out the barrel…

The first delivery of barrels to InchDairnie. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

This month sees the first new whisky distillery for a century officially opening in Fife.

Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson was commissioned by the company responsible for the project, MacDuff International, a Swedish-own film with head offices in Glasgow, to document the construction of the InchDairnie facility from a brown-field building site to completed distillery.

Rather than setting a brief which would befit a commercial contract, McPherson was given unrestricted access to the site and the people working there, in order to photograph the various stages which brought the project together. He was asked only to focus on the workers and their work, to engage with them and show the many skills and attributes which are required to bring such a major project from concept to reality.

Over the course of 15 months from early-2015, McPherson made repeated visits to InchDairnie, watching the seasons changing and the buildings taking shape. The various contractors came and went and left behind their legacy. The distillery, designed and built by John Fergus and Co, began production by the end of the year as the building work continued through the wet and windy winter of 2015-16. By May 2016, with the building and landscaping work done, the final result looked as aesthetically pleasing as a fine glass of malt.

The photographs are to be archived by MacDuff International as a permanent record of the project and discussions are under way about a possible publication to mark this historic moment and showcase the work made by McPherson over the last year. In the meantime, McPherson is planning to return to InchDairnie in the coming months to photograph the team of distillers and other workers employed permanently on site.

 

Construction gets underway at InchDairnie. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Construction gets underway at InchDairnie. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Contractors welding parts for the stills. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Contractors welding parts for the stills. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Copper stills arriving at InchDairnie. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Copper stills arriving at InchDairnie. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Project director Ian Palmer in his office. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Project director Ian Palmer in his office. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

An electrician working on site. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

An electrician working on site. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Stacking and storing barrels. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Stacking and storing barrels. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

A contractor installing machinery. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

A contractor installing machinery. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Computer screens with data. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Computer screens with data. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Examining newly-arrived barrels. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Examining newly-arrived barrels. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Fife barley ready to harvest. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Fife barley ready to harvest. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

 

The completed distillery. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

The completed distillery. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

 

 

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April Salon Event – Skye!

To mark the end of our exhibition at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, The Ties That Bind – we are off on the road again to present our work and work by photographers we admire to new audiences in Scotland. April 27th will see us in Skye – at the wonderful ATLAS Arts – if you’re nearby please do come along and join us.

The event is free – as ever – and all are welcome – see more information here

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See ATLAS Arts website at www.atlasarts.org.uk

Thank you to Creative Scotland and The University of St Andrews Special Collections for funding this Document Scotland Salon event.

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Independent day

Indy1t

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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Dunblane remembered

1996 Dunblane massacre

Twenty years ago this weekend, on 13th March 1996, a lone gunman entered Dunblane Primary School and shot dead 16 pupils and their teacher, before killing himself. Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson was one of the first Press photographers on the scene and recalls the impact the day had on the town, its people and himself.

“I was in the offices of the Herald newspaper in Edinburgh on the morning of the shooting. A journalist came into the photographer’s room looking for one of the staff snappers and blurted out that there had been a shooting at a primary school in Dunblane. Within an hour, I had arrived in the small town to be confronted by a wave of panicking parents making their way from all directions towards the school.

“There were around half-a-dozen Press photographers who all arrived simultaneously and soon we were joined by many more, as word spread across the Central Belt of the enormity of the situation. I remember the silence, the only sound being feet scurrying across the roads and pavements. People gathered in numbers, little clusters of parents and children, outside the school perimeter. It all seemed so calm, and yet occasionally you would see people embracing, sobbing and consoling each other. None of the police were armed, yet this was only 90 minutes after the grim events had taken place.

“After a very difficult hour-or-so working on the street outside the gates, watching police, ambulances and people being led into and out of the school, I went round the back of the buildings and found a vantage point to get a shot of the whole site. I was astonished to see children looking out of a classroom window, seemingly oblivious to what had unfolded, guarded by a solitary, uniformed police officer.

“It was a raw, cold day, and the emotion of it all seemed to be frozen. I am sure it was just that no-one could imagine such an event taking place in such a sleepy and pleasant location such as Dunblane. The organised stoicism of people that day, the dignity in the way they conducted themselves, will remain with me forever. It was as if they were immediately aware of the potential of destructive consequences being visited on their community and collectively the people were saying: ‘you will not break us’.

“I don’t remember any particular hostility to the Press in general or photographers in particular. So many of the journalists were parents too, of course, and that solidarity seemed to come through. By the lunchtime of the 13th, writers and photographers from London started arriving and it was time for me to organise developing my films, scanning and sending photos to the Independent.

The enormity of it all didn’t hit me until later that day when I was driving back home in the dark. In those pre-internet days news travelled more slowly, so the first time I ‘caught up’ with the story was on Radio Scotland’s teatime news. The whole thing hit me like a ton of bricks at that point. The rest of the journey was very difficult.

“I was asked to return to Dunblane by the Independent for the next two days, after that the picture editor gave me the chance to cover another story, the Glasgow Science Festival, for which I was very grateful.

“I returned to Dunblane often in the weeks and months after the massacre. There were political and Royal visits, remembrance services and an official inquiry. The images I took that day had a lasting impression on me and my career: the photographs were syndicated by Sygma, and I was asked to join the prestigious agency, for whom I then worked for a number of years.

Twenty years on, I still feel the emotion of that terrible day every time I drive past or near Dunblane. I think of the people and what they suffered and how they rebuilt their lives and their community and hope that no-one has to go through what they went through.”

A young girl is carried away. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

A young girl is carried away. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

 

An ambulance arriving at Dunblane primary school. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

An ambulance arriving at Dunblane primary school. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

 

A crying woman is comforted outside Dunblane primary school. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

A crying woman is comforted outside Dunblane primary school. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

 

A police officer stands guard. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

A police officer stands guard. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

 

A group of adults and children embracing. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

A group of adults and children embracing. Photograph © Colin McPherson 1996, all rights reserved.

 

Document Scotland has taken the decision to publish a small selection of Colin’s images to accompany his testimony. We hope that you understand that these are for illustrative purposes and we do not seek to offend or upset anyone by doing so.

 

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