Gone fishing

Fisherman Felix Impas Jr. from the Philippines, Peterhead, 2016. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

The work of Scottish photographer Keith Lloyd Davenport first came to our attention last year when Document Scotland held a portfolio review session in Cardiff at the launch of our Common Ground exhibition at the city’s Millennium Centre.

It’s fair to say that tackling the subject of fishermen as a documentary photographer offers both abundant source material, but comes also with a series of pitfalls. Whist the allure of Scotland’s coastal and fishing communities draws us into a rich history set against the contemporary narrative of a once-thriving industry in seemingly terminal decline, the fact that so many great photographers have spent time and effort capturing fishing in all its forms means that the bar is set incredibly high in terms of producing something relevant, interesting and different from what has gone before. Indeed in his ongoing project Mare Liberum, Freedom of the Seas, Davenport cites two legendary bodies of work, Pleine Mer by Jean Gaumy, and Fish Story by Allan Sekula as major influences. So far, so good. When it came to Davenport’s work, made chiefly at a number of locations around north east Scotland since 2014, the then final year photography student at Newport showed us a set of images which although technically good and aesthetically pleasing, left a void in terms of connecting with the subject and telling a story. There was something there, but we could not at that stage see what it was.

Fast forward almost a year, and Davenport’s project reached a milestone as a small selection formed part of his MA final show exhibition. To supplement this, he produced a newspaper with images from the project, giving further context and meaning to his work. This publication has transformed the work and what is presented on the pages illuminates both the photography and the story behind it. The idea came from discussions with friend and fellow photographer, Rocco Venezia, (who also collaborated with the design of the newspaper) to have something other than prints on the wall for the exhibition at West Wharf Gallery in Cardiff.

Mare Liberum, Freedom of the Seas by Keith Lloyd Davenport. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

 

The end result connects us with the people involved in the story and the state of the Scottish fishing fleet at a time when the implications of Brexit – unknown and uncharted – will probably redefine what it means to be a fisherman in Scotland in the 21st century as the Common Fisheries Policy recedes over the horizon and into history.

It was Davenport’s connection to the area he was born – the town of Banff on the Buchan coast – which gave him the initial impetus to make the work. It is places such as this which have seen the greatest changes in fishing over the past two decades as the European Union’s decommissioning policy has wielded the axe to so many small and medium-sized fishing boats. Concurrently, the consolidation of the industry now means that so-called super trawlers now rule the roost and these enormous and incredibly high-tech vessels compete in Scotland’s territorial waters with boats from outwith the country, to land almost all the nation’s catch.

One of the most striking aspects of the work presented on the pages of his newspaper is the ethnic mix of the crew of the boats which Davenport worked with. It nails the lie that the fishing industry supports scores (hundreds? thousands?) of ‘indigenous’ jobs. I look at the Filipino faces staring back at me from the pages (around 1000 men from the Philippines have crewed for the Scottish fishing industry in the last decade) and wonder what this multicultural workforce makes of Peterhead or Fraserburgh and what these communities make of the men whose honest toil puts fish on our plates and in the nation’s chippies. It is a further mark of how the world of traditional, manual work continues to change in the interconnected, global world of business.

Scotland’s skippers were the most enthusiastic Brexiteers and it will be interesting to see how this plays out over the coming years. Hopefully Davenport, his studies behind him, will continue to find the motivation and skill to continue with this striking and worthwhile project.

View of Banff from Macduff, 2016. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

Working aboard the Troon-based trawler Progress, 2015. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

Peterhead Fishermen’s Mission, 2016. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

Renyl Lofranco from the Philippines, Peterhead, 2016. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

Pyramid Takeaway, Banff, 2016. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

Vic from the Philippines aboard the Progress, 2015. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

Cod and haddock for sale in Peterhead Fish Market, 2016. Photograph © Keith Lloyd Davenport, all rights reserved.

 

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Sarah Amy Fishlock joins Document Scotland

Document Scotland begins a new era in our short and full life. We are delighted to announce that long-time friend and occasional collaborator, Glasgow-based photographer Sarah Amy Fishlock has joined us, and together we look forward to joining our energies and expertise, and building on all that Document Scotland has so far achieved in promoting documentary photography in and about Scotland.

 

We welcome photographer Sarah Amy Fishlock to the Document Scotland team.

 

Sophie Gerrard spoke with Sarah about how she got started in photography, her projects, some of her influences and what’s next.

From the series Middlemen © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2011 all rights reserved.

SG: So welcome to Document Scotland Sarah, we’re looking forward to working with you – perhaps we can start with you telling us a bit about yourself…

SAF: I was born and brought up in Glasgow. When I left school I did a degree in Literary Studies at Glasgow University – it was originally going to be an Honours English Literature degree, but I cut it short when I realised that I wanted to go to art school. My father, whom I was close to and who passed his love of visual art on to me, passed away a year after I left school. I remember being in Venice with my mother soon afterwards, and taking a photo with my little point and shoot camera – a view of a corner building, from a bridge. The photo is pretty ordinary but I remember the moment really clearly as the instant I realised I wanted to do something creative, although I wasn’t quite sure what that would be.

Even though it was photography that sparked my interest in the creative industries, I started studying Visual Communication (now Communication Design) at Glasgow School of Art when I was 21, originally intending to specialise in Graphic Design. After taking a short introduction to black and white photography course in 2nd year (my first time in a darkroom), I fell in love with the process of photography. My boyfriend at the time, though not a professional photographer, was really interested in photography, and would buy me various cheap cameras for birthdays and christmases – Olympus Trip, Holga, Fuji Instax – so my first forays into photography were really experimental. I fell in love with the way my everyday surroundings could become beautiful through photography. I spent lots of time in the darkroom during my degree – now, I can’t even remember what I was printing, but I remember it being a really meditative experience, and crucial in helping me to form ideas of what a future career could look like.

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From the series Middlemen © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2011 all rights reserved.

SG: It sounds like your starting point was quite instinctive – tell us a little about how you developed your passion and interest …

SAF: During my degree, the artists I loved were those who made the ordinary extraordinary. I was fascinated by images of the American south – Robert Frank, William Eggleston, Stephen Shore. I still love those photographers, but I realised during my studies that my own style of photography would be more intimate, the stories I tell more focused. The Iraqi interpreters that I worked with during Middlemen, my degree project, have been through trauma that most people can’t imagine, but I wanted to tell the story of their quiet persistence, their day-to-day challenges and triumphs – a story about what happens after conflict, when people must rebuild their lives. One of the primary influences on this work was KayLynn Deveney’s The Day to Day Life of Albert Hastings – the simple story of the artist’s friendship with an elderly widower, illuminated by Deveney’s lyrical, painterly imagery.

Today, two of my main influences are Sian Davey and Bertien van Manen – two artists who produce slow, quiet, unhurried projects, in which the viewer is given an intimate glimpse into other worlds.

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From the series Amye & Ahren © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2012 all rights reserved.

SG: We’ve enjoyed your work such as Middlemen and Amye & Ahren and featured them in Document Scotland publications and salons, you’ve also created Goose Flesh photography zine. You’re clearly a prolific and driven individual, what motivates you?

SAF: For me, photography is a way of making contact with the world. It was hard to get Middlemen started – it look a long time and a lot of persistence to find the men, but once I did, I began to understand how humbling and illuminating it can be to help someone tell their story. While discussing a new project with a friend recently, something he said struck me – ‘the best projects are the most difficult’. For me, that’s definitely true – I want my work to challenge not only the viewer but myself, as a photographer and as a human being – to think differently, to change perspective, to reconsider opinions.

From the series Middlemen © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2013 all rights reserved.

From the series Amye & Ahren © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2012 all rights reserved.

I always begin by researching my subject: this is really important when working with a different culture, as during Middlemen, or with disabilities, like Amye & Ahren. I read around the subject and look at other artists’ work for inspiration. I’ve learned to always make work about subjects that interest me, even if they don’t seem ‘photograph-able’ to begin with – there’s always a way in. I then look for ways to access the people I want to work with – this might be through a charity, like the Scottish Middle Eastern Council who helped me meet the middlemen, or a mutual friend, who introduced me to Amye. I treat my projects as collaborations between myself and the subject – their comfort always comes first. It’s important to me that when I show my work, the people I’ve photographed are happy with and proud of the result.

In 2013 I started Goose Flesh with a small grant from Ideastap as a way of showcasing work by emerging and established artists from, living in, or connected to Glasgow, in a compact, accessible, affordable form. So far, five issues of the zine have been produced, alongside exhibitions in a range of venues around Glasgow, from Trongate 103 to the Arches. My interest in zines continued during my residency at the Citizens Theatre (2013-14 ), for which I produced two zines documenting my projects – it was a great way to bring the work back to the community that inspired it. I now teach zine workshops to university students and community groups around Scotland. This is something I’d like to continue and develop in 2017, perhaps alongside one of my photography projects. Goose Flesh is on hiatus at the moment while I develop my own photography projects – but it’ll definitely be back at some point in the future!

From the series Five Lands © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2016 all rights reserved.

From the series Five Lands © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2016 all rights reserved.

SG: Have you had any surprises along the way? Unexpected moments or challenges when making your work?

SAF: I am always humbled and pleasantly surprised by the people I photograph – the middlemen and their families welcomed me into their homes, gave me lots of delicious food, and shared their stories with me. Amye and Ahren did the same, despite the daily difficulties and challenges they face as a single parent family living with autism.

I’ve begun a few projects that have later fizzled out because I wasn’t sure exactly what the focus of the story should be. It’s important to identify precisely what interests you about a situation, even if you can’t envisage the outcome right at the beginning.

From the series Five Lands © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2014 all rights reserved.

From the series Five Lands © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2016 all rights reserved.

SG: We’ve seen that your new work Beloved Curve, has been selected for Focus Photography Festival in Mumbai, and you’ve just returned from exhibiting it with Uncertain States in East London – many congratulations.  What’s coming up for you next?

My most recent project, Beloved Curve, is a departure from my previous work – it’s a series of experimental double exposures looking at my relationship with my father and my experiences of mourning his loss. I have enjoyed immensely the process of working in a different way, and I’m really proud of what the project has achieved – as well as being exhibited in Glasgow and Edinburgh this year, it’s been featured by BBC News In Pictures, the Guardian and Fiona Rogers’ Firecracker. Thanks to this coverage, I’ve recieved great feedback from members of the public who’ve connected with the work – it’s important to me that my work has resonance beyond the photography community, and I’m delighted that this project has achieved that.

I want to continue looking at some of the themes Beloved Curve touches on, but with a documentary slant – getting back into telling other people’s stories. I’m currently researching what I hope will be a long term project about child bereavement in Glasgow, as well as some smaller documentary projects.

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From the series Beloved Curve © Sarah Amy Fishlock 2016 all rights reserved.

I’m really excited to have the opportunity to join Document Scotland at this stage in my career – I think it’s important to have other artists to collaborate with, and to support and be supported by. I feel passionately about getting Scotland’s photography seen, not only by people in the industry, but also making connections with those outside it. Document Scotland is making this happen, through the website, events and salons as well as exhibitions. It’s a very exciting time for photography in Scotland, and I’m really pleased to be a part of it.

SG: Thank you for joining us Sarah and for taking the time to do this interview Sarah, we’re excited to be working with you!

If you’d like to see more of Sarah’s work please …

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St Andrews Photography Festival & Salon

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

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

 

Document Scotland Exhibition

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Salon Event 28th August 2016 3-5pm

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Press Release

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

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

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

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

The Festival was recently featured in The Scotsman

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Further info

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

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

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Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert “Best Shot”

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Jeremy’s image from the Glasgow shipyards, taken in 1992 and currently featured in the exhibition Govan/Gdansk at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow was featured in the Guardian this week with an interview by Ben Beaumont Thomas.

 

You can read the interview here:

“In the 1990s I lived in Govan, on the south side of Glasgow, near the shipyard. At the time, it was owned by a Norwegian company called Kværner, but before that it had been John Brown’s and Fairfield’s. Those are the famous names in Scottish shipbuilding. You hear talk of the days when 10,000 men worked in the yards. Sadly, that was before my time.

In the 1990s, I travelled a lot in eastern Europe. I remember talking with a worker in north east Romania, far from any coast or shipbuilding area, and he knew of Glasgow as a shipbuilding port. I always thought that was great: I love the fact that my city is known either for Rangers and Celtic – or for shipbuilding.

I wanted to grab my own little slice of Glasgow history. These are the shipyards that helped build the city and make its industrial capabilities renowned the world over. There are three yards in Glasgow now. Two are owned by BAE Systems and dedicated to defence. I haven’t tried to get in, but I’ve been told it’s pretty much impossible. The third yard, Ferguson Marine, nearly went into liquidation in 2014.

I took this in 1992, a year before Glasgow gave Nelson Mandela the freedom of the city – another project I worked on. I was 24 and wanted to get into the yards before that world disappeared. I remember being impressed by the monumental scale of it all. Parts of the ship seem quite organic: the blades of the propeller look like the underside of a whale. I shot it on an old Nikon in black and white, as that puts the focus on shapes and sizes. People have asked me if it’s perspective that makes the workers look so tiny. But it’s not. They are to scale.

A launch is an incredible thing. You hear all the klaxons going off, the speeches, the champagne bottle being broken against the ship. Then the wedges and things that hold the ship in place somehow get removed and the ship starts to slide. As it gathers pace, those huge restraining chains make an enormous noise and all the rust and dust rises into the air. The sound would echo off the buildings all around. It was a romantic, emotional moment.

A guy agreed to take me round in exchange for a print to hang in his house. I was no student of shipbuilding. I just reacted to what was in front of me. I seem to remember thinking the yards were “stour” – that’s a great Glasgow word, meaning musty and dusty. I mean, you’re outdoors and beside a river, so you get a lot of fresh air, but these are still big dusty places.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Greenpeace ships: the Arctic Sunrise, the Rainbow Warrior. I travelled the world: the Pacific, Brazil, Korea, New Guinea. Also, in the 1990s, I spent a lot of time on North Sea fishing boats. For a landlubber, I’ve done a lot of boatwork.”

 

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s shipyard photos feature in Govan/Gdansk, at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until 31 July.

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Northern Light Conference and Exhibition

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I was really pleased to be invited earlier this month to present a paper about my work Drawn To The Land at the recent conference and exhibition Northern Light: Landscape Photography and Evocations of The North at Sheffield Hallam University.

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Drawn To the Land exhibited at Northern Landscape exhibition SIA Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

 

The conference and related exhibition explore the ways that photographic images address notions of a Northern landscape – whether drawing on established traditions of art and photography or whether concerned with contemporary photographic and lens based practice.  The conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to discuss a wide range of practices and critical approaches, from both contemporary and historical perspectives.

The group exhibition features work by Mark Adams, Tom Baskeyfield, Jacqueline Butler, Anne Cambell, Matthew Conduit, Kevin Crooks, Michael Day, Liza Dracup, Sabine Dundure, Sophie Gerrard, Alexandra Hughes, Henry Iddon, Mitch Karunaratne, Anna Lilleengen, Adam Murray, Mario Popham, Simon Roberts, Theo Simpson, Ravinder Surah, Jonny Sutton, Patrick Wichert, Chi Yan Wong

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Northern Landscape exhibition SIA Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

Key note speakers at the conference were photography writer and curator Liz Wells and photographer Simon Roberts. The two days were filled with interesting discussion and debate around representation of the north and landscape photography from UK and worldwide based colleagues and photographers.

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Northern Landscape exhibition SIA Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

 

Sheffield Conference

Presenting my paper at the Northern Landscape Conference at Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

 

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Some works featured in the exhibition, clockwise from top left Aileen Harvey, Liza Dracup, Alexandra Hughes and Simon Roberts

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Northern Light, An exhibition exploring  contemporary photographic practice in relation to the northern landscape and its representations is on at SIA Gallery in Sheffield until 31st July.

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Roll out the barrel…

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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April Salon Event – Skye!

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

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

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

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

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Scottish National Galleries blog – Sophie Gerrard

Our exhibition The ties That Bind is now in its final month at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery – and to mark this, Sophie has written a blog piece for the Scottish National Portrait Gallery talking about how she made her work Drawn To The Land.

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In 2013 I began an exploration of my own relationship with the Scottish landscape. Having lived away for ten years, I wanted to understand the connection I, like many Scots, have with ‘home’.

Read the full blog post here

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Home and away with Albion Rovers

Booklet Cover

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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Independent day

Indy1t

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Dunblane remembered

1996 Dunblane massacre

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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Panel Discussion – Women on the Land – 9th March 2016

On Wednesday 9th March at 12:45pm Sophie will be taking part in a panel discussion with historian Dr Elizabeth Ritchie (University of the Highlands and Islands) and crofter and writer Liz Paul, will look at the history and context of women crofters in Scotland and beyond.

This panel discussion will take place in The Scottish National Portrait Gallery and all are welcome!

 

Screen shot 2016-03-03 at 14.24.47

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