A Contested Land, at FLOW

 

The next showing of Document Scotland’s current exhibition, A Contested Land, featuring work by Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Stephen McLaren and Colin McPherson, will be at FLOW Photofest 2019, and held at Inverness College UHI.

FLOW Photofest 2019 – the international photography festival running across the Highlands & Islands and Moray in the North of Scotland, will launch on 6th September in Inverness.

 

FLOW would be delighted if you would be able to attend their official opening on the 6th September (6:00-8:00 p.m.) at:

Inverness Museum and Art Galley (IMAG)
Castle Wynd
Inverness
IV2 3EB

On show at IMAG will be work by Michael Flomen, Jana Romanova and Hannah Laycock. At Eden Court Theatre, a short walk away (and open till 10.00pm) we have work on show from:

Beka Globe
Jen Kinney
Tini Poppe
John Farrell
Adam Panczuk
Jeff J Mitchell
Daniel White
Sarah Riisager
Elena Chernyshova

At Inverness College UHI we have a major show from Document Scotland – A Contested Land.

The Launch night will also feature a visual display of work being shown outside Inverness in Thurso, Stornoway, Elgin, Findhorn, Uist and Ullapool by:

David Buchanan,
Iain Sarjeant (in association with Street Level Photoworks)
Kotryna Ula Kiliulyte,
Kacper Kowalski
Linda Lashford
Paul Glazier (in association with Street Level Photoworks)

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Drawn To The Land – Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Sophie was commissioned by Perth Museum and Art Gallery to continue her long term project Drawn To The Land, the resulting work is currently being exhibited at the gallery until the end of October.

Anna MacKinnon rolling fleeces at Amulree, Perthshire. June 2019

Anna MacKinnon rolling fleeces at Amulree, Perthshire. June 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Laighwood, Perthshire, May 2019

Laighwood, Perthshire, May 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Lucy gathering ewes, Foswell, Auchterarder, Perthshire, June 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Mary, Connachan, Perthshire, April 2019.

Mary, Connachan, Perthshire, April 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

Drawn To The Land continues to be a fascinating journey for me. For this chapter it took me to Perthshire, where I also worked with Perth Museums’ photographic archive, following the journey of John Watt who documented Laighwood, a hill farm near Dunkeld, in the late 50s. I returned to that farm and met and photographed Elizabeth, who features in some of Watt’s earlier images. I also continued to work with Mary, a farmer who featured early in Drawn To the Land, revisiting her and continuing her story. Anna and Lucy are in their 20s and work as contract shepherds in Perthshire, their lives are an important new addition, giving alternative perspectives and a fresh approach to a traditional farming way of life.

The exhibition includes images made earlier in the project, around 2015, these new works and archive images from John Watt’s collection made at Laighwood and other locations in Perthshire from 1959 – 1961.

 

Shepherd moving blackface sheep at Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

Shepherd moving blackface sheep at Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

 

Elizabeth Bruges, Perthshire Highland Show. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

Elizabeth Bruges, Perth Highland Show. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

 

Elizabeth Bruges, shown above in a photograph by Watt, at a time when her father oversaw the hill farm, is now herself an owner of Laighwood, alongside with her brothers, I met and photographed her for this recent chapter of the project. Hers is an interesting story and one which highlights in many ways the hurdles many women in agriculture faced at the time.

Elizabeth, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, May 2019.

Elizabeth, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, May 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

A photograph of Elizabeth gathering sheep, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, April 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Elizabeth Bruges of Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire with copy of The Story of a Scottish Black Face Sheep.

Elizabeth Bruges of Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire with copy of The Story of a Scottish Black Face Sheep. © Paul Adair, Perth Museum & Art Gallery 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

 

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Paul Adair of Perth Museum said…

 ‘My  first encounter with Sophie’s exhibited work was at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2016. The Ties That Bind was a Document Scotland group show and Sophie was exhibited work from her Drawn to the Land series. I loved everything about her work. The quiet stillness of her studies- portraits of lives through carefully observed details. The colour palette of her film-based work seemed so right for the material she was recording.

Sophie’s series on women working the land included Mary McCall Smith’s farm near Crieff in Perthshire. I saw an opportunity to work with Sophie to develop her Perthshire work for a display at Perth Museum & Art Gallery. I am delighted that Culture Perth & Kinross has been able to commission Sophie to work with additional Perthshire women in farming. As well as making a fantastic exhibition, acquiring some of Sophie’s work is a valuable addition to the photographic archive here at Perth Museum & Art Gallery. The archive already has a strong documentary theme and this cross over between art and social document inherent to photography fulfils makes for a potent combination.’

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

 

It’s important to me to continue this work, and I’d grateful that Perth Museum saw an opportunity for collaboration. Working with the archive has been a fascinating addition. Women who work the land in Scotland are under represented, they have been for centuries, indeed representations of landscape, landscape photography and farming have often been presented through a male viewpoint. I hope that this project can continue to explore these themes and continue to take me to the far corners of Scotland.

Sophie Gerrard’s Drawn to the Land is on until 31 October 2019 at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Admission is free. Read the full press release here.

Perth Museum & Art Gallery, 78 George St, Perth, PH1 5LB

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A Game of 2 Halves in Coatbridge

The memories are still ripe in my mind. The rain sliding in a grey sheet across the train window, the cold air colliding with our faces and the wind catching our breath as we alight from the train at the inappropriately-named Coatbridge Sunnyside station. In the distance, piercing the sodden winter gloom, bright stripes of red and yellow paint greet our arrival at Cliftonhill Stadium, home for the last century to Albion Rovers Football Club, one of the also-rans of the Scottish game who have, according to some, merely been making up the numbers since their formation back in Victorian times.

This place is far removed from the higher echelons and glories of the game. It is, however, a place of ritual and pilgrimage. Whilst bus loads of Celtic fans have departed each Saturday from this corner of North Lanarkshire for the sunny upslopes of Parkhead, the few that remain behind have cast their lot in with their local football team, and exhibit the same amount of passion, devotion and love for a club which has steadfastly refused to be pulled across the religious divide that defines so much of this part of Scotland.

In their distinctive and almost hallucinogenic red and yellow colours, Albion Rovers have been ploughing and plodding along for as long as anyone can remember, often derided, frequently ignored, but always there. That we cannot place their name on the map has even become something of a badge of honour for club and supporters. They have this unique identity, one which would be sorely missed if The Wee Rovers ever exited the Scottish League.

And this is nearly what occurred during a tumultuous 2018-19 season: somehow, against all the odds and expectations, Rovers managed to come back from the dead, overhauling fellow sufferers Berwick Rangers and condemning the Northumbrians to relegation and oblivion. It was a close thing, but Albion Rovers survived.

Set amongst these tales of the constant struggle for survival are individual stories, some of heroism, most of stoicism. And one of a photographer: Iain McLean. Almost two decades ago, Glasgow-based McLean was casting around, looking for a long-term project, something sporting to get his teeth into. After rejection from a local rugby club, he received a positive response from Rovers and set about documenting behind-the-scenes at this iconic little club.

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

After a hiatus lasting several years, McLean once again focused his attention on Cliftonhill and was fortunate enough to witness both promotions and relegations, the contrasting emotions now visible in his newly-opened exhibition entitled A Game of 2 Halves, on show at the Summerlee, the Museum of Scottish Industrial Life in Coatbridge, until 27th October, 2019. It is, due to its location, necessarily folksy and fun, but nevertheless there is a fine body of work which shows a keen eye and dedication to stick with the subject through thin and thin (as life is at Rovers).

McLean’s dynamic monochrome images sit alongside cases of ephemera and souvenirs, memory-jogging reminders of seasons gone by, all in those distinctive bright colours. McLean’s work, however, shows us a colourful side to the Rovers: a kaleidoscope of characters, often in fancy dress, compete with the friendly smiles of tea ladies and kit men, all of whom make up the cast at Cliftonhill.

My own experiences of watching my team playing against Albion Rovers in Coatbridge are many and varied: the seemingly bright idea to take a new girlfriend to her first-ever football match – a stultifying nil-nil draw, which, amazingly, never deterred her from future games. Then there was the time a young boy was admonished for throwing bits of rubble around the tumbledown terracing: “Stop that, Billy, you’re making a mess,” was followed instantly by “Fuck off, dad, I’m tidying the place up!” And no trip was complete with a pre-match pint in Owen’s bar, just a wayward corner kick away from the stadium.

And then there was Victor Kasule: the singularly most mercurial talent I have ever borne witness to on the football fields of Scotland. A diamond in a sea of mud. The grace, skill, poise and speed which could leave any opponent for dead, a winger who could weave his way through any defence and into any bar, the other place where he was very much at home. ‘Vodka’ Vic came to prominence at a time when there was not a single black player playing in any of the professional leagues in this country. And while his career may have trailed off after spells in England and Finland, his legacy and the memories of his dazzling footwork, have upgraded his status from favourite to legend at Albion Rovers and Meadowbank Thistle.

I ask McLean whether he is likely to continue the journey he has been on with Rovers. He is uncertain and I get the feeling he is worried about repetition and seeing the same places and faces over and over again. I don’t think so. My sense is there is a lot more to discover here and that the project could unfold in many ways. In the meantime, raise a glass and wave a scarf to the players, officials, volunteers and supporters of the mighty Albion Rovers. And to Iain McLean for documenting their emotions.

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

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Easdale Island events, 8th/9th June.

Join us this June on Easdale Island for a Salon evening of photography, followed by a day of community photographing, chat and reviewing.

Document Scotland Salon Evening

‘Tresured Island’. © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

Date of Event: Sat 08 Jun 2019
Location: Easdale Island Community Hall.
Event Type: Exhibition
Time: 8.15pm (Doors/Bar open 7.30pm)
Ticket Pricing: FREE

Document Scotland’s exhibition entitled ‘A Contested Land’ is on tour and is at present being shown at the Perth Museum and Art Gallery. It comprises four bodies of work, one from each member of the collective, including ‘ Treasured Island,’ Colin McPherson’s portrait of Easdale island made in 2018. The other projects are Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s series about street politics (‘Let Glasgow Flourish’), Sophie Gerrard’s environmental study of the one of Europe’s most important peat bogs (‘The Flows’) and Stephen McLaren’s work which links the historical wealth of Edinburgh with the African and Caribbean slave trade (‘Edinburgh Unchained’).

Colin, Sophie and Jeremy will be present at the Salon Evening to present their work on screen and talk about the projects and the work of Document Scotland, which was formed in 2012 and has staged a number of high-profile exhibitions in Scotland and elsewhere, as well as producing a number of publications and taking part in public engagement activities. They will also present work by other photographers which have been highlighted on their website recently.

Ferries to and from the island: 19.30; 20.00; 20.30; 21.00; and 23.00

Document Scotland – Community Photography Day

Date of Event: Sun 09 Jun 2019
Location: Easdale Island Community Hall.
Event Type: Workshop
Time: 10am – 4pm
Ticket Pricing: £10 (no concessions )

From 10am – 4pm (lunch and refreshments included)

Limited places available £10 per person. Pre booking required.

This day-long event will give anyone interested in photography the opportunity to come and try a number of activities, get help, advice and tips about their photos and even have their portfolio reviewed. It will be fun, informal and informative. The event will be aimed at people aged 14 and over.

Activities will include:

Tell a story about Easdale in six photographs (select a theme, idea, place or person and shoot a small magazine feature). We’ll advise you where to look and what to shoot.

Portraiture: get inspiration from three professionals who have photographed everyone from Nelson Mandela to the Easdale ferryman. Using the natural light and world around us to make stunning environmental portraits.

Portfolio review: Bookable in advance, have a one-to-one session with our photographers who will go through your work and give you some guidance about your work.

Tip top: top tips about photography. at our all-day rolling Camera Clinic you can ask us any question about being a professional photographer or about how to get the most out of your photography.

Ferries: 14.00 until 16.15 ferry runs on demand, then 16.45; 17.15; 17.45; 18.00; 18.15

Book tickets here.

 

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

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Craig Easton’s Fisherwomen

Born in Edinburgh, Craig Easton is a photographer whose work is deeply rooted in the documentary tradition. His photography often uses a mix of intimate portraiture and large format landscape to explore social histories and identity. His early career was defined by his work for the groundbreaking Independent newspaper in London and he has since gone on to win numerous international awards for both his commissioned work and personal projects.

This week, Craig launches the first exhibition of images from his Fisherwomen series in Montrose tomorrow, a project looking at the working lives of women who work onshore in the fishing industry along the east coasts of Scotland and England. As the show opened in Angus, Craig kindly agreed to share some insights into his photography.

Where did you get the inspiration or idea from to photograph the fisherwomen?

Initially, from the paintings of Winslow Homer and John McGhie and the old sepia tinted photographs of the ‘herring lassies’ on bustling quaysides. I’d read a lot about the the herring trade, how the fleet followed the annual migration of the shoals from Shetland to Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. And I’d read about how the fisherwomen used to mirror the fishermen’s annual journey travelling on land from port to port to gut and pack the herring into barrels in open air curing yards and quaysides. It felt to me that these women had been rightly celebrated for their critical role in fishing in days gone by, but their contribution was now mostly unseen – working as they were behind closed doors in large fish processing factories, smokehouses and small family firms right up and down the east coast. Fishing has always attracted photographers and artists, but most often the focus has been on the fisher ‘men’ and not the fisher ‘women’. I wanted to address that and make pictures that both documented and celebrated the women’s role in the same way as the painters had done in the late 1800s.

Could you tell us a bit about how the project developed, where were the locations you worked in and how long it all took?

I began the work in 2013 in Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Aberdeen. I’ve worked in and around fishing communities all my career and extensively in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. I’d read Neil Gunn Silver Darlings and I knew the story of the herring girls and fisherwomen – how they used to wade through the freezing waves to carry their menfolk out to the boats to ensure they went to sea in dry clothing. How they baited the lines, mended the nets, gutted and packed the fish and essentially held the communities together whilst the men were at sea. I wanted to find today’s fisherwomen and so I started knocking on doors and making portraits in the processing houses in Aberdeenshire. You can imagine I got some odd looks and comments as I set up a backdrop and a large tripod in the middle of a working fish factory. Early on I decided to use the route of the traditional herring trade as a vehicle to explore the subject and to tie in the experience of the contemporary workers to the celebrated fisherwomen of the past. I continued to make portraits in various places on the east coast off and on over the next few years, until in 2017 when I decided to really concentrate on bringing it all together as a coherent project. I shot more pictures in Angus and Fife and then went up to Orkney and Shetland where the traditional herring season began in early summer each year. Speaking to the gutters, filleters and packers today, I realised they performed essentially the same role as their predecessors, but didn’t have the same connection from one fishing port to the next: the people in Shetland no longer travelled each season to Fraserburgh or Lowestoft and so the people of the southern ports didn’t have the same connection to the north. I wanted to remake that connection by shooting landscapes and seascapes along the length of the original route. The final piece in the jigsaw was to photograph and interview fisherwomen who had worked ‘at the gutting’ back in the 1940s, 50s and 60s – women who still remember the journey, still recalled the cacophony of the quaysides and could help make the connection to my contemporary portraits.

Did you discover anything unexpected, or was the project much as you had envisaged from the outset.

I’m not sure that I discovered anything ‘unexpected’ – I’d done a lot of research and was familiar with the story and the history. I discovered what I had hoped I would  find though and that was a fabulous camaraderie in the modern factory settings that can’t be that much different to the comradeship and fellowship of the herring girls when they stayed together in temporary ‘gutters huts’ or cheap lodgings as young women. There is still an enormous pride in their trade, it is still extremely skilled, arduous work and they are still the backbone of many fishing communities.

You have used a mix of archive material and your own work in the exhibition. Why?

To make the connection, to show how the modern fish workers are part of a long and important tradition, to tie the contemporary experience closely to the heritage. And one day, if this isn’t too bold, to maybe hang my pictures next to Homer’s, McGhie’s and the Jobling’s in a homage to the women of the fishing communities past and present. In some senses I see myself as an historian as much as a documentary photographer – it’s about recording social history, to preserve it for future generations. If those paintings hadn’t been made and those old black and white photographs of the herring girls hadn’t been taken, then we wouldn’t have the social history and we’d be all the poorer for it. It’s difficult sometimes to notice what’s important when our own experience is, by definition, ordinary and familiar to us, but I do think it’s important to see today in the context of history and it is as much my job to record this era as it was the artists of the past to record theirs. I don’t want it to sound grandiose, but I know that my life has been richly enhanced by photographs, paintings, literature, music etc etc from the past and so I feel it’s my responsibility to record what I see for future generations too.

How does this project fit into your other work?

Ah, good question. In the social history context mentioned above, it’s all interconnected I suppose.

More and more, recently, I’ve been recording audio or taking written testimony to work alongside the pictures, whether that is working with teenagers exploring how their dreams, hopes and ambitions are influenced by social background or location etc, as I did with the group project I’m leading called Sixteen, or whether it’s listening to the memories of fisherwomen and making connections between different generations, I feel that it is all about storytelling, listening and learning about real lives. The more we share and communicate with one another, the more we understand each other and it feels to me like that is more important now than ever. Maybe taking some pictures, talking to people and helping to tell their stories can play some small part in that.

A small selection of the work will be shown at Montrose Museum and Art Gallery from 19th April – 1st June, 2019, with a preview on the opening night. Craig will be expanding the work into the English fishing ports in the coming months and a wider show will happen at the Hull Maritime Museum in August, then aspects of it will travel to other galleries and museums along the route.

From ‘Fisherwomen’ by Craig Easton. Copyright photograph 2019, all rights reserved.

From ‘Fisherwomen’ by Craig Easton. Copyright photograph 2019, all rights reserved.

From ‘Fisherwomen’ by Craig Easton. Copyright photograph 2019, all rights reserved.

From ‘Fisherwomen’ by Craig Easton. Copyright photograph 2019, all rights reserved.

From ‘Fisherwomen’ by Craig Easton. Copyright photograph 2019, all rights reserved.

 

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Chick Chalmers: American beauty

The United States of America is the great canvas onto which photography has painted history. As such, it is hard to imagine discovering a new body of work which truly illuminates American life, throwing into sharp relief the rugged contours of this singularly unique and diverse nation.

In 1980, Edinburgh-born documentary photographer Chick Chalmers (1948-98) was awarded a Scottish Arts Council grant as part of an exchange programme to visit the United States to take photographs. During a nine month period he visited almost every state over in an ancient VW camper van. The result was An American Roadtrip, which is currently being exhibited for the first time in almost four decades at Ten Gallery in the capital. These powerful yet subtle images reveal America’s hidden depths as depicted in everyday scenes in towns, cities and streets across the land. It is a remarkable set of photographs, one which although instantly calling to mind the great Robert Frank, nevertheless have something decisive and individual in their observational quality and forthright composition. These monochrome pictures set the stage for a country on the cusp of change: the stinking entrails of segregation sit uneasily with the creeping onset of Reaganomics which would render much of what Chick depicted as obsolete and redundant within a decade. These are moments in time to savour, and each one of the photographs on display invite the viewer to linger and ponder.

Like his photographs, Chick Chalmers was something of an enigma. His work was familiar to me, insomuch that the small amount he did produce was of such outstanding quality and interest that he was one of the ‘names’ which influenced my dreams of becoming a photographer. His series on life in Orkney shot in the mid-1970s produced many gems, none more so than ‘Sheep Being Transported For Sale In Kirkwall, Orkney’ a classic Scottish documentary image.

After An American Roadtrip was completed and premiered at Stills Gallery in 1982, Chick concentrated on teaching and his growing family. Despite the pleadings of friends and colleagues, he was happy to remain in the shadows, producing a fraction of the amount of work which his talent deserved. But that was his choice. And the beneficiaries of his wisdom and love were his students and his family. Although I didn’t know Chick personally, I remember precisely the day of his untimely death. I was attending a photocall with a number of other photographers where the world’s first bionic arm was being presented by scientists in Edinburgh. Suddenly a call came through that Chick was about to pass away and I recall at least three of the photographers present simply dropped their cameras and dashed across town to be with him. It is a mark of the man’s remarkable presence that he wished to be with so many friends at this pivotal moment of his life.

Legacy is an oft used and abused word in the world of photography. Few bodies of work survive the test of time and can be said to be truly important. I would content that Chick Chalmers’ An American Roadtrip deserves to be regarded as one of the great canons of work ever produced by a Scottish photographer. It is both exciting and gratifying that it is seeing the light of day once again, fittingly, in the city of his birth.

Untitled image from ‘An American Roadtrip’. © Chick Chalmers, all rights reserved.

Untitled image from ‘An American Roadtrip’. © Chick Chalmers, all rights reserved.

Untitled image from ‘An American Roadtrip’. © Chick Chalmers, all rights reserved.

Untitled image from ‘An American Roadtrip’. © Chick Chalmers, all rights reserved.

Untitled image from ‘An American Roadtrip’. © Chick Chalmers, all rights reserved.

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A Contested Land, at Perth Museum

Our touring show for this year, A Contested Land, opens on 23rd April at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. The show will run until 23rd June, with talks about the exhibition and work by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Colin McPherson, on the evening of Thursday 9th May, 7pm.

Perth Museum and Art Gallery,

78 George St, Perth

PH1 5LB.

Tel. 01738 632488

Tuesdays- Sundays, 10am- 5pm. Closed Mondays. Free entry.

 

‘Tresured Island’. © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Set within the context of contemporary political debate and social changes, A Contested Land consists of four new projects by photographers Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard, Colin McPherson and Stephen McLaren. Collectively, they examine the complex relationships between the nation’s people, history and land at one of the most important times in Scotland’s recent past.

The works reflect upon Scotland’s precarious environmental and economic landscape, within ongoing political conflicts that give these issues relevance and urgency. During both the Independence and European Union referendums, the word that dominated discussion was ‘change’ – it became the go-to for the dissatisfied. However, even with this uncertainty, the referendums have highlighted the fact that the Scottish people are proud of their identity and independent voice.

 

Faslane, Scotland, on 22 September 2018. ‘Nae (No) Nukes Anywhere’ anti-nuclear weapons demonstration at the Faslane Peace Camp and walking to a rally outside HM Naval Base Clyde, home to the core of the UK’s Submarine Service, in protest against Trident nuclear missiles. The rally was attended by peace protestors from across the UK who came “to highlight the strength of support from many UN member states for Scotland, a country hosting nuclear weapons against its wishes”. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2018.

 

The four bodies of work presented in A Contested Land – exhibiting for the first time in Scotland at Perth Museum & Art Gallery, reflect upon the ongoing changes Scotland continues to face.

The show launched at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, in January and February, and now moves to Scotland for a run of showings

– Perth Art Gallery and Museum – 23rd April 2019 – 23rd June 2019. Preview on 9th May, 7pm.
– Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
– FLOW Photofest, Inverness, September 2019.
– Photo North festival 2019, Harrogate, England, 30 November – 2nd December 2019. This showing of A Contested Land will also include work by Margaret Mitchell.

 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018.

.

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Forthcoming attraction

As part of the launch of A Contested Land, the first exhibition of which is currently on show at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, we are staging one of our popular salon evenings at Stills Gallery in Edinburgh.

The event takes place on Thursday, 7th February and as well as presenting work from our new show, we are delighted to have two additional contributors to the evening’s entertainment. This will be our third salon at Stills, and we are very much looking forward to a stimulating, relaxed and enjoyable event.

Central to the evening’s programme will be presentations by three of Document Scotland’s photographers who will each talk about their own individual projects: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert will guide us through Let Glasgow Flourish, his insider’s view of street politics in his native city, which has been the frontline in many of the recent political campaigns, from the Independence and Brexit referendums, to protests about refugee rights, arms fairs and nuclear weapons. Sophie Gerrard will talk about The Flows, her evocative and beautiful study of the unique landscape of the Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland. The work discovers and explores issues behind the degradation and regeneration of this iconic location, which now enjoys protected status from rapacious exploitation. Colin McPherson’s Treasured Island looks at contemporary life through a historical prism on Scotland’s smallest permanently-inhabited inner Hebridean island, Easdale in Argyll. By weaving together the past and present, he tells the story of an island whose very survival is always in question, but whose population – numbering just 65 – is as resilient and imaginative as anywhere. Finally, we will look at Stephen McLaren’s Edinburgh Unchained, a fascinating investigation into the links between the wealth of Edinburgh and the city’s links to the African and Caribbean slave trade. This body of work poses questions which go beyond the merely rhetorical in seeking an explanation as to why Scotland’s capital still benefits for the actions and injustices carried out by Scots abroad in the 18th and 19th century.

We are delighted also to be able to include work by two of Scotland’s most outstanding current photographers, both of whom are making consistently captivating work. We have previously featured Arpita Shah’s work live and it is a pleasure to be able to invite her back again to see her latest stories. She is a photographic artist and educator based in Edinburgh and works between photography and film, exploring the fields where culture and identity meet. As an India-born artist, Shah spent an earlier part of her life living between India, Ireland and the Middle East before settling in the UK. This migratory experience is reflected in her practice, which often focuses on the notion of home, belonging and shifting cultural identities. Arpita is also co-founder of Focàs Scotland, an initiative that supports local and international emerging photographers.

Glasgow-based Margaret Mitchell’s work spans over two decades and has recently started to receive the recognition it richly deserves. A first-time collaborator with Document Scotland, Margaret will talk about two projects: Family (1994) & In This Place (2016-17). Taken over 20 years apart, these two connected series ask whether the choices we have in life are ultimately predetermined by upbringing, locality and socio-economic position intertwining with the issues of social inequality that they raise.

Document Scotland is looking forward to a great event and we hope that those who have already bought tickets will have an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.

Please note that the event is now officially sold out, however, if you wish to attend, please email colin@documentscotland.com for the up-to-date situation regarding the waiting list and returns.

‘Edinburgh Unchained’. © Stephen McLaren, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘The Flows’. © Sophie Gerrard, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘Treasured Island’. © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘Let Glasgow Flourish’. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘In This Place’. © Margaret Mitchell, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘Nalini’. © ArpitaShah, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

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A Contested Land

Document Scotland’s A Contested Land has now opened at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, England. The show runs until 16th March, 2019, before further showings in Scotland at Perth, Dunoon and Inverness.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019. 

 

It gives us great pleasure to announce that our latest show, A Contested Land, successfully opened last week at the Martin Parr Foundation. Surrounded by friends, family, colleagues and esteemed members of the photographic community, a lively evening kicked off the show’s run in Bristol.

With talks by all four Document Scotland photographers – Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Stephen McLaren and Colin McPherson, the crowd was entertained and the works on the walls introduced before the socialising began over drinks.

With thanks to all who attended including Annie Lyden of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, David Hurn/Magnum, Homer Sykes, Tony O’Shea, Brian Sparks, Daffyd Jones, Miles Ward, Craig Easton, Toby Smith, Jon Tonks, and many, many more. And of course many thanks to Martin Parr and his wonderful team for their support, generosity and hospitality.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019. 

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

See more information about the show and the press release here.

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 – 23rd April 2019 – 23rd June 2019. Preview on 9th May, 7pm. .
– 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: Behind the lens #4

In the lead up to our forthcoming exhibition A Contested Land opening at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol on 15th January 2019, each of the Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into their work, this week Stephen McLaren talks about his new and ongoing work Edinburgh Unchained.
“After I finished taking photographs for my 2015 project, A Sweet Forgetting, which looked at how Scottish slave-owners made their fortunes in the production of sugar by thousands of enslaved Africans in 18th and 19th century Jamaica, I felt that there was some unfinished business here for me. Specifically I wanted to know how wider Scottish society had related to the rapacious nature of the slave-colonies in the Caribbean? What did they know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it? 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

These are the kinds of historical questions that photography struggles with, or certainly my kind of photography struggles with. How to photograph the social and historical attitudes of a population?

Anyway, one way through the puzzle, I found was to look at one specific Scottish location, Edinburgh’s New Town, and using historical records try and make some kind of visual record of how slavery impacted the lives of the city’s denizens.

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In Edinburgh Unchained, I have attempted to show how those genteel Georgian streets laid out to create room for a burgeoning Scottish middle class, benefited enormously from slavery in the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In 1834, when slave-ownership was finally abolished, the British government paid out £20m to compensate around 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of ‘property’. This sum is the equivalent of around £16.5bn today and equates to around 40% of UK’s gross national product in that year. This was the biggest bailout of private interests in British history and the government debt was only finally paid off in 2017.

The New Town in Edinburgh benefited disproportionally from this bailout and thanks to a ground-breaking database from University College London, we know that 320 Edinburgh addresses were compensated by the government for every slave that was owned by these households. 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In Autumn 2018, I downloaded the UCL database of compensated slave-owners from New Town, Edinburgh, and using GPS I walked and cycles around every street. I photographed every address in whose owners had been compensated in 1834 and found that, thanks to very strict preservation orders, virtually all these addresses currently still exist. Not every house contained slave-owners as many were represented by local agents and lawyers, but a great many were fairly ordinary people, who just happened to own slaves.

Virtually all of the properties I visited are respectable Georgian-era buildings, most are still private dwellings, but occasionally we see how commercial life has taken over some of these properties in the intervening period. What is certain is that Edinburgh, as a city, benefited from slavery, both from the huge government compensation bailout, but also from 150 years of brutal human exploitation of African labour.

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In Edinburgh Unchained I suggest that the profits from slavery have been deeply embedded in the very fabric of Edinburgh life and society, and that ultimately, the city, and Scotland as a whole, has a massive debt to pay to the countries of the Caribbean for the depravity and human exploitation which lay at the heart of this transatlantic crime against humanity. 

If you would like to read my Guardian article on why Scotland has a real financial debt to pay the countries of the Caribbean for the era of slavery please follow this link…https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/13/slave-trade-slavery-scotland-pay-debts

 

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.

See more information and the press release here

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: Behind the lens #3

In the lead up to our forthcoming exhibition A Contested Land opening at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol on 15th January 2019, each of the Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into their work, this week Sophie Gerrard talks about her new and ongoing work The Flows.

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

As a young child, one of my early memories is the car journey we took as a family some summers to visit friends in Dunnet Head in Caithness, the most northern point of the Scottish mainland. This 7 hour drive took us north from Edinburgh over the Forth Road Bridge, up the A9, through the majestic Cairngorm mountains, onwards to Inverness then up the east coast by Dornoch and lastly through a very flat place. Often dusk by this point in our journey, endless flat views of boggy moorland flew past the windows,  stretching as far as we could see, “bleak” was the word so often used to describe it as we passed through – “empty, wasteland, nothing here, featureless and eerie”, not a place of picture postcard views, nor a place to stop for picnics or walks, a flat area of nothing to drive through in anticipation of reaching the rugged north coast on the other side.

This was the Flow Country and it’s a place which has fascinated me ever since.

In 2016 some editorial assignments took me to Durness, Bettyhill and Tongue, on the north coast of Scotland. As I drove though that landscape again, I was reminded me of my childhood journey to such an unusual and far away place.

The Flow Country (from the Norse ‘floi’ meaning ‘flat, deep, wet land’) is the largest blanket peat bog in Europe, possibly the world. There are no main roads through it, rather you choose your single track route through the peatlands and navigate it carefully. I took for ever, stopping every few miles to marvel at what I could see. This “bleak and featureless” place changing hourly, with its huge skies, far away horizons, and undulating topography, I couldn’t get enough of it.

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

It quickly became a project in my mind, and so my research began, the more I read, the more it intrigued me – as a place from my childhood which had been spoken of so negatively, I learned of its fascinating political and ecological story.

Peatlands are a globally rare habitat, vital in combating climate change. They hold almost 30 per cent of all global terrestrial carbon – twice as much as all the world’s forests. Scotland holds a vast amount of this vital global resource. However during the 1980s, the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher offered tax incentives to the super rich, resulting in vast areas of the Flow Country being planted with non-native Sitka spruce which drained, damaged and ultimately killed large areas of the bog. Over 80 per cent of the UK’s peatlands have been damaged by decades of such mismanagement.

These trees are now being removed and the precious Flow Country is being repaired and restored through careful and considered conservation by the RSPB and their partners.

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

The Flows explores this landscape, and also introduces those who work on the restoration project; scientists, researchers, conservationists, and also those who live and work in the straths and on the peat bog; farmers, anglers, hunters, newcomers and locals whose families have been in the area for generations. The work 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.

The Flows is currently a work in progress and I look forward to developing it further. The exhibition at The Martin Parr Foundation A Contested Land will be the first showcase of this new work.

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

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.

See more information and the press release here

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: 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.

See more information and the press release here

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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