Mother Father, by Lucie Rachel

At a recent Street Level Photoworks ‘In Focus’ event, looking at book publishing, which we attended, we had the pleasure of listening to Lucie Rachel discuss her book-in-progress, ‘Mother Father’, a story documenting the relationship of her parents. Impressed with the work, and Lucie’s approach, we asked if we could showcase it here. Lucie kindly agreed….

 

Mother Father

Mother Father, by Lucie Rachel.

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Mother Father tells the story of my parents’ relationship through recent and archive
photographs, letters, diary exerts and online blog entries from both before and after my
father came out as transgender. Beginning with recent photographs of my Mother holding
her diary open on the page they met in 1979, the documentation follows the couple through
marriage, children, coming out and separation, finally leaving them in 2015.

 

LucieRachel_3_BookSpread

LucieRachel_4_BookSpread

The creation of the book was almost unintentional; a natural bi-product of my art practice.
I began working with my parents in 2013, almost two years after their separation. It was at
this time that I realised I knew very little about either of them and even less about their
relationship, especially from the years before my sister and I had become a part of it.
Through curiosity and an overwhelming desire to know and understand, the project began.
Originally I had no thoughts of making a book; I simply collected photos that I liked or felt
were insightful into an album, with no order or narration, which gradually grew in the
background into a substantial folder of material. Over a year later it had expanded to the
point of being a work in its own right. A compilation of photos, letters, blog and diary
entries which tell a story of love, hardship and acceptance, that I feel deserves to be told.

‘Without love, life has no purpose’ was the guiding principle of my Mother’s youth. Her
naive pursuit of true love was endearingly hopeless, built upon the foundations of
Hollywood cliches and Bronte novels. So when she met my Father on the eve of the New
Year 1976, she honestly believed she had found ‘the one’. Of course, reality never quite
matches up with expectations and her idyllic notions of married life were left to flounder in
the unpredictable but extraordinary relationship that was to follow.

 

Mother holding open her diary March 19th 1976, describing her first date with my father. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

Mother holding open her diary March 19th 1976, describing her first date with my
father. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Lovers enjoying the summer of 1976, captured by a family friend. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

Lovers enjoying the summer of 1976, captured by a family friend. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Their frst child arrives, feeling blessed they have a daughter. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

Their first child arrives, feeling blessed they have a daughter. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Fortunately, this was an exceptionally well documented partnership. My mother kept a
diary, intimately documenting their seemingly normal relationship. Likewise, my Father
rarely removed the camera throughout most of their time together, not to mention the
many letters penned to my Mother during her college years which still sleep under her bed.

 

Alone in bed; my father behind the camera. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

Alone in bed; my father behind the camera. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Taken by my 4 year old self, oblivious to what I was capturing. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

Taken by my 4 year old self, oblivious to what I was capturing. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

However, during their fifth year together there happened a somewhat unusual revelation,
when my father came out to my mother as transgender. Unsurprisingly, this changed the
fundamental dynamics of their relationship and diverted them on a journey neither one of
them could have anticipated. The chronicling of the relationship was continued thereafter
in the form of an online blog kept by my father and further private writings by my mother.
The subsequent collection of materials follows their relationship from the exhilarating
highs of young love and through the turbulent waters of domesticity.

 

My father's frst pair of heels are still her favourite. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

My father’s first pair of heels are still her favourite. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

My father in her kitchen exuding discomfort; unable to be her true self in the moment I hold my camera. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

My father in her kitchen exuding discomfort; unable to be her true self in the
moment I hold my camera. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Exhausted after our evening out, she removes most of her make up - but forgets the necklace. From 'Mother, Father' by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

Exhausted after our evening out, she removes most of her make up – but forgets
the necklace. From ‘Mother Father’ by Lucie Rachel. ©Lucie Rachel 2015, all rights reserved.

 

Mother Father is also accompanied by a short film with the same title, in which my parents
talk retrospectively about their relationship. The book is currently in the Dundee Artists’
Book Collection in the VRC at Dundee Contemporary Arts and the film has been shown at
several film festivals this year including Aesthetica Short Film Festival and Underwire
Festival, gaining award nominations at both. The work will next be exhibited together at
the Royal Scottish Academy’s New Contemporaries Exhibition in March 2016.

At present, I am working on a short documentary about my own father-daughter
relationship with The Scottish Documentary Institute‘s Bridging The Gap programme,
which will premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival in May 2016.

 

Lucie Rachel can be contacted via Twitter and via her website.

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Sophie on BBC Landward and BBC Radio Scotland

This month Document Scotland’s exhibition ‘The Ties That Bind’  at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh has been featured on BBC TV and Radio. Sophie was filmed talking about her long term project about women, farming and the landscape, ‘Drawn To The Land’ on BBC1’s Landward and was interviewed for Radio Scotland’s Out of Doors program. Watch and listen again here…. !

 

BBC Landward

Sophie spent a very wet and windy couple of days filming with the wonderful Sybil MacPherson, a hillfarmer in Argyll with the crew from BBC Landward. You can see the film here, with Sophie talking about her work with the presenter Sarah Mack from about 22:00 minutes in.

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Watch the episode of BBC Landward on BBC iPlayer now.

“I’m delighted that Landward were interested in my project, after long discussions with the producer, Clare who had visited the exhibition and was curious about the work, we arranged a couple of days in November when we could meet with Sybil and do some filming on her remote and beautiful hillfarm near Dalmally. Sybil’s story and her relationship with the land she works and farms is fascinating. The 5 munros which make up her farm have been farmed by her family for over 175 year. There are ruins on the hill where her grandfather went to school. It’s a place full of history and full of connection which is why I thought it would be great to hear more from Sybil and introduce her to the Landward team. The fact that it turned out to be the wettest day I’ve seen in Argyll for some time wasn’t ideal – that it doesn’t even look that bad on tv is annoying!”

 

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BBC Landward presenter Sarah Mack with hill farmer Sybil MacPherson, Dalmally, Argyll © Sophie Gerrard 2015 all rights reserved.

“Having never done any TV before I was struck by how long everything took – there was quite a lot of back and forth, re-shooting, “say that again”, “drive over that bridge again and again”. So I’m hugely grateful to Sybil for taking time out of her busy week to allow this piece to be filmed. It was interesting seeing how it all worked, piecing together the parts of the interview and also seeing how they would include my photographs in the piece.”

 

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Colin, the BBC Landward camera man, films Sybil as she packs and rolls fleeces on her hill farm near Dalmally. © Sophie Gerrard 2015 all rights reserved.

“I hope what the filming does is introduce the project and my reasons behind shooting it. Women are under represented in farming. Commonly referred to as ‘farmers’ wives’ and seen as having a behind the scenes role. Sybil and the other women in my project are front and centre, they make life and death decisions every day. They are engineers, midwives, business women, decision makers and forward thinkers. The common sense of responsibility for the work they do, and to the landscape and the livestock is something that all the women in my project share. All of them talk as custodians, of having a sense that they are looking after this land for future generations. I have a huge respect for them and the work they do. It’s been a privilege and an honour to work with them and I look forward to continuing the project.”

Sophie Gerrard

 

 

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Clare, Colin and Sarah, the BBC Landward crew with Sybil, Dalmally November 2015 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

 

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Sophie with Sybil and the crew. Dalmally November 2015

BBC Out Of Doors

Sophie met with journalist Claire White of BBC Radio Scotland at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to talk some more about her experience of photographing the 6 women included in the project over the last 2 and a half years. You can listen to this interview here, Sophie and Claire discus ‘Drawn To The Land’ from about 7:38 minutes in.

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Listen to the episode of BBC Scotland ‘Out of Doors’ on BBC Radio iPlayer now.

 

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Claire White from BBC Radio Scotland interviewing Sophie at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery

“I really enjoyed talking to Claire from Out of Doors about my work. Claire and I spent a really short time in the gallery talking about the work. I’ve done a little bit of radio before, and I’ve interviewed people many time using voice recorders – this just felt a much more comfortable way of talking to the media about my work.

Claire asked some really interesting questions, and picked up on some important aspects of the work. It’s always interesting meeting people who are interested in my work, and who then spot things in the work, or pick up on visual clues within images. Claire certainly did that, and in the interview you can hear her reading the clusters of images on the wall and getting an impression of the women I’ve photographed.

I was grateful for the time she took, and the interest in the project. I hope this reaches an audience who might want to come and see the work at the Portrait Gallery or look at it on my website, and take a little time to get know these women and their stories.

Thank you Claire and your team for the feature.”

 

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Sophie with Claire White from BBC Scotland Out Of Doors, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

 

Thank you BBC1 and BBC Radio Scotland for featuring Drawn To The Land, both programs are available on iPlayer.

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What the papers say!

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Document Scotland’s latest exhibition – The Ties That Bind, curated by Anne Lyden and currently on at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery has now been open for over a month. We have been absolutely overwhelmed with the response. Thank you all of you who have already visited – and to those of you who haven’t had the chance – it’s on until 24th April 2016 so there’s plenty of time.

 

Here’s some selected press and reviews of the exhibition so far…

 

David Pollock interviewed Document Scotland and wrote an insightful article about the exhibition in The Independent

Janet Christie wrote an in depth article in The Scotland on Sunday about each of the Document Scotland photographers’ work.

Duncan McMillan gave ‘The Ties That Bind’ a 4 star review in The Scotsman

A review of ‘The Ties That Bind’ is featured in Photomonitor written by Dr Katherine Parhar

The exhibition was featured on the BBC: In Pictures feature by Phil Coomes

 

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The Ties That Bind’ was featured in The List Magazine

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s work ‘Unsullied & Untarnished’ was featured by The Daily Record

The Photographers’ Gallery featured Sophie Gerrard’s project ‘Drawn To The Land’

Stephen McLaren’s project ‘A Sweet Forgetting’ was featured in The New York Times Lens Blog

 

 

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The National newspaper also featured a piece on Stephen McLaren’s project ‘A Sweet Forgetting’

As did The Sunday Herald – which featured ‘A Sweet Forgetting’ on the cover story of its weekend magazine one year on from the Referendum. 

Sophie Gerrard was interviewed by Annie Brown of The Daily Record for an in depth article about her project ‘Drawn To The Land’

The British Journal of Photography also featured a beautifully written article on Sophie Gerrard’s work by Jamie Dunn

 

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Brighton Photoworks interviewed Sophie Gerrard about ‘Drawn To The Land’, you can see a slide show here. 

An article on the exhibition by Kevin McKenna was featured in The National newspaper

Colin McPherson was featured in a BBC film by Dan Curtis about his project ‘When Saturday Comes’ – watch it here

 

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ITV News featured Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s work ‘Unsullied & Untarnished’

Jeremy’s book of the same name was reviewed by The Scotsman

And ‘Unsullied & Untarnished’ was also reviewed in Photomonitor by Dr Katherine Parhar. 

 

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Please remember….  we encourage photography in the exhibition and for you to share your views, thoughts, and images on social networks. Don’t hesitate to get in touch.

 

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Unsullied And Untarnished

To coincide with our new exhibition, The Ties That Bind‘, on now at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, until April 2016, Jeremy has published a book of his work,  ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’, portraying the Common Riding festivals of the Scottish Borders. The same work forms Jeremy’s contribution to our SNPG show.

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Unsullied And Untarnished’ is photographic portrait of the people of the towns of the Scottish Borders who each year undertake the maintaining of tradition, commemorating their local history and at the same time strengthening the bonds of their communities looking forwards, during the annual Common Riding festivals of the summer months.

Braw Lassies and Honest Lads, Left Hand Lassies and Right Hand Men, Cornets, Hunters and Coldstreamers – all titles given to the upstanding youths who lead the festivities, and whose duty it is to carry the burgh or town standard around the common lands, and to “bring it back unsullied and untarnished”.

To accompany the 58 photographs Document Scotland’s Honorary Patron the Glasgow-born photojournalist Harry Benson has written a foreword, and Alex Massie, Scotland editor of The Spectator, has written a beautiful essay which explains the Common Riding festivals, and what they mean to the participants and communities involved.

 

“Some of these ridings and festivals are ancient, stretching back five centuries and more. Others are more modern but, whatever their roots and antiquity, they have something in common. They are annual gatherings of remembrance and celebration; affirmations that though these may be small places there is nothing small about coming from Kelso or Galashiels, Lauder or Langholm.” – Excerpt from essay, ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’, by Alex Massie.

 

Unsullied and Untarnished book, in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, 7 September 2015.

St Margret's Hope for the South Ronaldsay Boys Ploughing Match, in Glasgow, Scotland, on Monday, 7 September 2015.

 

“These festivals are not flashy, for the Border towns are not flashy places….They are an argument for the small places – none of the Border towns, not even Galashiels and Hawick can count as metropolises – and the importance and permanence of place. They maintain the golden threads that stretch back through the ages to a time when the world was a younger place. These festivals are the guardians and custodians of memory and without memory, what does identity matter?” –  Excerpt from essay, ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’, by Alex Massie.

We were fortunate that during the opening night of our show in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery that two of Jeremy’s collaborators from the project made it along to see their portraits hanging on the wall of the show, which has been curated by Anne Lyden, the National Galleries’ International Curator for Photography.

Calum Moffat (left) and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert at Document Scotland's 'The Ties That Bind' exhibition, including 'Unsullied And Untarnished', at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday, 24 September 2015.

Calum Moffat (left) and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert at Document Scotland’s ‘The Ties That Bind’ exhibition, including ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’, at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday, 24 September 2015.

Calum Moffat (above) made the journey from Jedburgh along with his family, and the next day was going to be presenting at his school a little talk on the project and the fact that his portrait made it to the gallery wall. Graham Hamilton (below), the ‘Braw Lad’ of Galashiels in 1989, kindly made it along also, standing by his portrait.

Graham Hamilton and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert at Document Scotland's 'The Ties That Bind' exhibition, including 'Unsullied And Untarnished' at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday, 24 September 2015.

Graham Hamilton and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert at Document Scotland’s ‘The Ties That Bind’ exhibition, including ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’ at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, in Edinburgh, Scotland, on Thursday, 24 September 2015.

 

“Every Common Riding is unique yet, in this important respect, each is just the same as last year’s festivities. These are the permanent things; the ties that bind a people together, that insist upon the specialness of a particular small patch of Scotland. They are the things that make a difference, the things that matter most.

And if you listen carefully you will still hear the hoofbeats of history commanding us to remember and celebrate who we are and whence we have come.” – Excerpt from essay, ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’, by Alex Massie.

Unsullied And Untarnished.
ISBN: 978-0-9933742-0-3
96-pages, hardback, embossed cover.
58 photographs, printed on non-coated paper.

The book is available to purchase directly from Jeremy’s website.

NGSTiesThatBind

 

‘Unsullied And Untarnished’ forms Jeremy’s contribution to Document Scotland’s ‘The Ties That Bind’ photography exhibtion at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, on now until 24th April 2016.
@DocuScotland @NatGalleriesSco #NGSTiesThatBind

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“The Ties That Bind” talks – 26th September

DS TALKS 3a

Our exhibition at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery – “The Ties That Bind” opens soon. To accompany the opening of the exhibition, we will be presenting our work and talking about our projects at the Portrait Gallery, on Saturday 26th September from 2-3pm.

The event is free, and all 4 of us will be speaking – so if you would like to know more about the work and are in town then please come along – we’d love to see you. Please come early to guarantee your place.

We look forward to seeing you there,

Sophie, Colin, Jeremy and Stephen.

 

The Ties That Bind, an exhibition by Document Scotland and curated by the gallery’s international photography curator Anne Lyden, is on at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD from 26th September 2015 – 24th April 2016. Admission free, open daily 10am-5pm, Thursdays until 7pm (0131-624 6200, www.nationalgalleries.org)

 

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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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Methil – by Gregor Schmatz

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

 

Gregor Schmatz has recently finished a BA Photography at Edinburgh Napier University. Document Scotland caught up with him and had a chat about his ongoing degree show project about Methil in Fife, Scotland.

 

DS: Tell us a little about yourself Gregor, and why you decided to make this particular project.

GS: I was born in Germany but grew up most of my life in Luxembourg. After a brief year in Australia I moved to Edinburgh where I completed a degree in Photography at Edinburgh Napier University.
Currently I am pursuing a career as a freelance editorial photographer.

I thought about doing a project about Methil or the area for a while and then I had to decide on my final year project for University. Since it became a project for University I had enough time to drive up there on a regular basis.

DS: What were your original hopes, objectives and ambitions for shooting the work? Why make this project?

GS: I knew that there was a lot to explore visually, just interesting photos to be found. But I also liked the project because it is of contemporary interest on a national and UK wide basis, I could sell this project in different ways.
But the subject matter was different from what I have done before, so I also had to adjust and think things through a bit more. Plus after 4 years in Edinburgh I am very happy I ended  the course with a particularly Scottish project.

The Windmill construction plant by SHI, who recently announced that they will pull out of the country. From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

The Windmill construction plant by SHI, who recently announced that they will pull out of the country. From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

 

DS: Why did you decide to shoot it in the way you did?

GS: I thought the project through more because it was a new subject matter for me, but I still shoot everything more or less instinctively. Currently I shoot everything medium format, it just works for me.

DS: Did you know Methil before? Why there?

GS: I drove through Methil with friends from Fife, that’s how I came across the area first. I knew I could shoot there pretty much immediately.

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

 

DS: What do you think these photographs say about Methil?

I tried to portray it in a way that people can make up their own mind but at the same time I was also aware that Methil had a overly bad reputation already and I wanted to focus on the everyday there, not the extreme.

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

 

DS: In your introduction you call Methil “an overlooked Scottish town.” What do you mean by that?

GS: Simply that most people never heard of it, or if they did, it was something bad. And there are many places like this; unknown towns, which actually have a huge history but lost their industry and slowly became increasingly desolate.

DS: Have people in the images, from Methil seen the work and if so what feedback, thoughts do they have on the work?

GS: Only one pair have seen them and they liked the images, but they were also surprised of the images. I think it was just a bit strange for them to see a series of images about their town, places they see everyday. All the other people in the photos were short encounters, I have no contact details.

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

 

DS: You’ve been studying at Napier for the last few years, how did you get started in photography and can you tell us a little about your journey to where you are now as a photographer?

GS: I think I first bought a SLR before travelling, that’s when I started seeing all the possibilities and just started taking photos and never got bored of it. My project “Amerikanare” was a project I started at the end of the first year at University. It was my first serious project and I went back last summer to finish it and the final project was exhibited in Boston and published in a couple of magazines. This is the project where learning curves were the most obvious and I learned a lot from doing it. Looking back I definitely feel more secure in my image making and more defined, but it just took time. I think I always had certain tendencies or preferences in photography but the course at Napier gave me the chance to explore many different styles and get better at taking photos through many many small projects. But I am far from settled, there are exciting times ahead.

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

From the series Methil © Gregor Schmatz 2015

 

DS: You mention that this project is still on going – what plans do you have to continue?

GS: I just learned that the Windmill plant will actually shut, so this is a bit a sad ending, however I will try and expand the series to the Levenmouth area.

DS: What are you up to right now? How are things since graduating and what are your future plans?

GS: Very good! I had a great exhibition in Boston as part of the Flash Forward Festival and some nice magazine and online features, creating some important contacts for the future, so I feel pretty lucky!

 

Thanks Gregor – to see more of Gregor’s work visit his website www.gregorschmatz.co.uk

 

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Big Hooses Built on the Backs of Slaves

 

To complete this project I decided to find the properties that were bought or originally owned by these “respectable gentlemen”. As in Jamaica, some properties were splendid country estates, others in more dilapidated condition. Several like Rozelle House in Ayrshire and Strathleven House in the Vale of Leven have been taken over by local authorities as the cost of upkeep became too large for subsequent generations.

 

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The Bigger Picture

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

See more images of the book’s creative design and content here  www.behance.net

 

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The History Woman

Nicola Sturgeon meets with her dress makers  Totty Rocks before being voted in as Scotland's First Minister. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014, all rights reserved.

Nicola Sturgeon meets with her dress makers Totty Rocks before being voted in as Scotland’s First Minister. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

As the 2015 UK General Election campaign gathers pace, we are being bombarded by soundbites and overwhelmed by statistics whilst politicians appear on every television screen, newspaper and website we look at. There’s no getting away from politics, for the next couple of months, at least.

So we at Document Scotland are going to add to mix by showcasing work by Glasgow-based photographer Peter McNally, who has been granted unprecedented access to photograph one of the pivotal figures in the current contest for votes: Scottish National Party (SNP) leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

 

Nicola Sturgeon, on stage at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014, all rights reserved.

Nicola Sturgeon, on stage at the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

The story starts during the Independence referendum campaign, when Peter was one of a small team of dedicated photographers working on behalf of the National Collective to document its campaigning activities as it sought to persuade Scots to vote Yes. Through this, Peter was able to make a visual record of the campaign, and in so doing, got close to the people making the news. Little did he know at the time, but his work was being noticed by the leaders of Yes Scotland and the SNP.

In the dramatic aftermath of the 18th September 2014 vote, Alex Salmond resigned and his then deputy, Nicola Sturgeon was elevated to the position of First Minister. This followed on directly from a nationwide tour which the party undertook, with Sturgeon speaking at packed venues and the party’s annual conference. By this time, Peter had already been contacted and offered the opportunity to photograph behind-the-scenes. It was a chance he grabbed gladly. As Peter explained: “The SNP tour was a first of its kind in Scottish and British politics and saw Nicola visit Edinburgh, Dumfries, Dundee, Inverness, Glasgow and Aberdeen whilst engaging directly with the public with a talk then an open question-and-answer session.” Shortly into the assignment Nicola Sturgeon became the SNP party leader at the party’s National Conference in Perth then soon after that, Scotland’s first female First Minister. Peter was on hand to capture it all.

Nicola Sturgeon waiting for an interview inside the BBC radio mobile studio. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

Nicola Sturgeon waiting for an interview inside the BBC radio mobile studio. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

In terms of creating an archive of images from an historic moment, the SNP saw the value of what they were proposing through Peter’s work. As Peter noted: “The SNP team were interested in developing both an in-house style of photography they could have as a go-to resource and also a historic documentation that would act as a public record.” But there’s realpolitik involved too, according to Peter: “The project also fits in well with Nicola’s own vision of a more accessible and transparent governance.”

Selfies with supporters, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

Selfies with supporters, Eden Court Theatre, Inverness. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

Peter’s work is set to continue and is being updated continually on the internet, as he explained: “Right now we are focusing on documenting campaign events in the run up to the General Election in May. My own vision is to not only tell the story that is front and centre but to try and capture moments behind the scenes. I hope this will make for a more complete and hopefully interesting look at this one section of Scottish politics. Currently it’s been so busy with the General Election campaign that we haven’t really had time to discuss how the project might progress. There have been informal discussion about documenting more in depth on a day-to-day basis and even setting up a dedicated team to deal with editing and archiving. As it’s an SNP project I am funded by them but the parliament have their own photographers so there may be a need to work more closely with them in the future.”

 Nicola's husband Peter Murrell proudly looks on as Nicola thanks friends and family at a reception in Bute House. Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

Nicola’s husband Peter Murrell proudly looks on as Nicola thanks friends and family at a reception in Bute House. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

As Peter concludes: “We are also in the process of organising an archive on Flickr. There are lots of idea out there. I think after the General Election we will be able sit down and see how we would like to progress. There are also opportunities for exhibiting and publishing a photo book, something I am keen to work on. For now though, I’ll keep shooting and try to keep it interesting for people.”

The First Minister's portrait is added to the walls at the official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh.  Photograph © Peter McNally, 2014 all rights reserved.

The First Minister’s portrait is added to the walls at the official residence at Bute House in Edinburgh. Photograph © Peter McNally 2014, all rights reserved.

 

If you are interested in keeping up with Peter’s work you can visit the official SNP photo archive on flickr and follow Peter’s work on Instagram or on his website.

 

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Sean O’Hagan Lecture at SNPG

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Sean O’Hagan will be giving a lecture at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery to open The Season of Photography in Scotland.

Thursday, 23rd April 2015, 6-7.30pm £5 (£4)
Hawthornden Lecture Theatre – Gardens Entrance (Scottish National Gallery)

Sean O’Hagan writes about photography for The Guardian and The Observer and is the winner of the 2011 J Dudley Johnston award from the Royal Photographic Society “for major achievement in the field of photographic criticism’.

In this insightful talk he will share his views on contemporary photography and poses the question ‘What is Photography?’ presented as part of the nationwide Season of Photography 2015, a program of photography all over Scotland including Document Scotland’s exhibition at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in September 2015.

Buy tickets in advance from the Information Desk at the National Gallery, or call 0131 624 6560 between 9.30am-4.30pm, with credit /debit card.

See the website for more details and booking

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Working The Border – Carlisle Photo Festival

Many thanks to Malcolm Dickson and Street Level Photoworks Glasgow for including work by Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Colin McPherson in an exhibition entitled ‘Working The Border’  at Carlisle Photo Festival recently. Situated on the railway bridge linking Northbound and Southbound platforms at Carlisle Railway Station, the exhibition also includes work by Colin Gray, Andy Wiener and Donald John MacLean. The festival itself was on from 7th – 15th November, however, the works on the railway bridge remain in place.

All the bodies of work featured are based upon or comment on the Anglo-Scottish border and notions of national identity, landscape and history.

 

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert's images from 'Edge of an Empire' installed at Carlisle Photo Festival © Streetlevel Photoworks November 2014

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s images from ‘Edge of an Empire’ installed at Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

Carlisle Photo Festival © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

Sophie Gerrard’s images from ‘Drawn To The Land’ installed at Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

Carlisle Photo Festival Colin McPherson's images from 'A Fine Line' installed at Carlisle Photo Festival © Streetlevel Photoworks November 2014© Streetlevel Photoworks November 2014

Colin McPherson’s images from ‘A Fine Line’ installed at Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

Originally shown in Document Scotland’s summer exhibition ‘Beyond The Border’ at Impressions Gallery in Bradford, the images chosen for ‘Working The Border’ include those from Sophie’s ‘Drawn To The Land’, Colin’s ‘A Fine Line’ and Jeremy’s ‘Edge of an Empire’.

 

Carlisle Photo Festival © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

Carlisle Photo Festival © Streetlevel Photoworks November 2014

Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

Working the Border’ explores the geophysical & cartographic line that separates Scotland from England.  It borrows its title from the larger work by ae phor, a selection of which was exhibited in the waiting room on Platform 4, accompanied by a soundwork ‘Border Fiddle Music’. This space also included a selected series from Jo Metson Scott’s ‘The Borderland’ project, which was shown for the first time, alongside ‘Schengland’ and ‘The Debatable Land’ by Alan Knox.

 

Carlisle Photo Festival © Streetlevel Photoworks November 2014

The waiting room on platform 4 at Carlisle Railway Station for Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

Carlisle Photo Festival © Streetlevel Photoworks November 2014

Alan Knox’s ‘Schengland’ installed at Carlisle Photo Festival. Image © Claire Maxwell, courtesy Street Level Photoworks November 2014

 

The festival was on from 7th – 15th November – only a week, however, the work on the railway bridges remains in place, so, if you’re in town, or waiting for a connection, or passing through at 100mph on a Virgin train – be sure to take a look!

 

 

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