A Contested Land

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Contested Land.

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

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

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

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

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

Easdale, Scotland. © Colin McPherson 2018.

 

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

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

 

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

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

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

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

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

Easdale, Scotland © Colin McPherson 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

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

Free entry to all exhibitions.

 

Touring exhibition dates

– Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh. February 2019. Date to be confirmed.
Perth Art Gallery and Museum – 20th April 2019 – 23rd June 2019.
Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
FLOW Photo Festival, Inverness, September 2019. The exhibition will be the headline show of the FLOW festival.
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The Guisers by Margaret Mitchell

Over three Halloweens (2015-7), Margaret Mitchell photographed children who visited her home as Guisers. Their highly individual costumes displayed not only their originality but also conveyed aspects of the inner world of the child. Sophie spoke with Margaret about the project and took a look through the newspaper that Margaret has published in time for Halloween.

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

DS: We enjoy your work at Document Scotland, Stephen wrote about your projects ‘Family’ and ‘In This Place’ for the Document Scotland site in 2017. Your portraiture and long term projects feature children frequently, how did this project get started?

MM: All my photography is generally concerned with the intricacies and complexities of people and their lives. Other work has looked at issues around family, childhood, social geography and equality, of people and their lived experiences – all stories of people basically. This work presents a particular childhood experience within a centuries old tradition that continues to be practiced in Scotland.  Through the tradition of guising at Halloween and the costumes– the disguises – worn by over 60 guisers, we are given an insight into a child’s world and also a document of a time.

‘The Guisers’ started out back in 2015 as a reaction to what I observed as a parent living in a community where the tradition of guising is very strong in childrens’ lives here in Glasgow. I realised some people in the UK believed Halloween to be a recent American import which surprised me as I went guising as a child in the 70’s and my son continues to do so. Guising has been a tradition in Scotland and parts of the UK and Ireland for hundreds of years with its roots suggested to be in the Celtic Samhain festival. It was taken to America by emigrants from these various Celtic origins and added to other cultural influences to become the American trick-or-treat.

So this brings us back to nowadays and what contemporary children are doing in Scotland. What the tradition of guising and visiting neighbours’ houses means and within that what they choose, plan (often weeks in advance) and then create, to disguise themselves as and then perform a ‘party piece’ just as I did as a child. So I decided to start documenting this important and intriguing tradition but also to provide an insight into a child’s world through their costume, and within that, their fantasy and play choices.

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

DS: Guisers are a familiar site at Halloween in Scotland, and as a child I remember dressing up and going around the neighbourhood. The scale of this project though seems quite incredible to me – there are so many, who are all these characters?

MM: In my community there is a strong tradition of guising and we get an abundance of visitors every year – last year alone I counted over 80 guisers. I am sure it is different for different areas even within this city. When my son was younger, I would host Halloween parties and as he got older, guising itself took over. But it’s significant to remember that this is local children who are visiting our home, children whose parents you know or whom you know through friends of friends, who come as a group, or with parents and this is a sense of celebration, of excitement and of a community sharing. The photos only represent a relatively small number of the guisers who visit because I cannot take photographs and also listen to their songs and dances and jokes, manage apple-dooking and also do a photo. Some children visit me between school getting out – where they go dressed up for Halloween and celebrate during the day – and them starting guising proper at about 6 pm. Other children are photographed during guising itself when they come in, do their joke, dance or song and then do a photograph.  Someone called it my ‘Guisers Studio’ and I like that idea, that these children in that time of being in that emotional space in their mind, pop in and get their portrait taken. This day that becomes an exciting and celebratory evening during a distinct and important childhood experience. As mentioned, I know these children or they come with parents, friends, and friends of friends, so their participation is often spontaneous.

 

DS: The expressions suggest a pride in their costumes, and a seriousness – how do they behave during the portraits, what’s the exchange between you like, any funny stories? 

MM: I wouldn’t say anything particularly funny happens as the children are really quite serious in both the costumes they choose and also in the party piece they choose to perform. It is something they often plan a long time in advance – parents have even told me what their child starts planning just after Christmas is over! So very obviously, it is a major event in some children’s lives, greatly loved by them and with a lot of significance.

When children visited, I would ask about their costumes and why they chose that particular disguise. The reasons can be incredibly detailed and complex and through this, little insights are given into how a child is thinking when they choose to dress as they do. For example, some want to be creepy, they want to adhere to this idea of a ‘spooky’ Halloween and within that confronting darker undertones of life.

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

Others become more intricate, more abstract and subsequently more revealing in their reasoning. Some of this is evident in their appearance, added to by some information they shared with me when asked. One child told me he was a ‘Victorian Gentleman’ because he liked to speak 18th Century English. I find this fascinating that these interior worlds of a child’s play are then presented on this evening of guising. Another told me he was ‘Untitled’ when I asked who he was which I thought was intriguing as he looked like he had been in an accident. Most of the costumes are home-made, mash ups of fantasy play. Some are as expected: the zombie, the witch, the movie characters. Others are slightly darker, more invented, something that tends to appear as the children become a little older and inventing more, not reproducing certain common strands.

We have to remember too though that we are looking at these photographs through adult eyes, perhaps taking our own knowledge and experience of the world and laying those onto these children when it may not be the correct interpretation. I try to remain mindful of that but at the same time I believe some costumes are incredibly revealing into these childhood worlds, into a world of play, of fantasy, and for some, the consolidation of the darker elements in life.

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

DS: I agree, it’s fascinating, especially seeing them in such a huge number, to interpret the images and their underlying narrative, what do you feel the project communicates in a wider context, what do you see here?

MM: Essentially, this work looks at the complexity of being a child as presented through their chosen costume – their disguise – at Halloween. In a wider framework this is a portrait of these children at this specific time, within this ongoing tradition in Scotland. It presents not only the varied disguises they are choosing and making (often with the parents’ help of course) but also offers us the viewer a little entry point into their world and their minds; to their experiences of being a child –  a guiser – in Glasgow, in Scotland in our present time. They are continuing this tradition that I myself did and all those who preceded through the years of guising and making lanterns from turnips, visiting their neighbours and performing for some nuts, sweeties and fruit in return. It is very much about community, about sharing. It is also about the experience of childhood and confronting darker elements and dealing with them. It is interesting that some children chose not to deal with or confront the ‘scary’. For example, one boy dressed as a footballer (‘I had a beard but it washed off’) because he does not like ‘scary stuff’. Another younger child also dressed as a footballer but had blood running down his legs in zombie mode. A good amount of these costumes are not based on anything factual or character-based but are invented by the wearer. There is a unicorn (two children inside) who I know walked to school and home again dressed as this fantastic unicorn. They told me they dressed as such so that if people got scared at Halloween, they might be happy when they saw them. A lot of thought and reasoning goes into this one night. A lot of childhood experience.

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

 

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

From the series ‘The Guisers’ image © Margaret Mitchell 2018

DS: Are planning to continue? This year will there be a queue of 50 guisers outside your door whilst you lie on the floor with the lights off?

MM: Haha well, I am not sure. I didn’t think I would last year and then I set up my ‘Guisers Studio’ at the last minute. So yes, perhaps I will. It usually comes from children and parents asking me so we will see. My son is getting older but he is still guising at least for one or two more years. Children in the project range from about 3 up to about 14, so there comes a time, a cut off, when they no longer want to go out guising.

 

Thanks Margaret for taking the time to talk to us in such depth about this project

To accompany this series Margaret has made a publication of all 60 guisers from the past 3 years that she photographed. All those involved will receive a free copy as a way of thanks for being involved and as a keepsake for this time in their lives, for their creativity and their intriguing presentation of being a child at Halloween.

Copies are available to purchase through Street Level Photoworks and online from Margaret at the links below.

https://margaretmitchell.co.uk/the-guisers/
https://margaretmitchell.bigcartel.com/

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@EverydayClimateChange

@EverydayClimateChange photographic collective are bringing their images off the popular Instagram feed and onto the gallery walls of Trongate 103, Glasgow, this month, in an exhibition running from 4th Oct – 4th November. The exhibition is an off-site show from Street Level Photoworks. An opening reception will be held on 4th October, from 6pm- 7:30pm, with an introductory talk by Document Scotland’s Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert who produced the show.

 

The @EverydayClimateChange group, which was founded by Tokyo-based photographer James Whitlow Delano with co-founding member Glasgow-based photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, National Geographic contributing photographer Ed Kashi and others, depicts the causes, effects and solutions to climate change and is contributed to by 20 photographers on 6 different continents.

This exhibition brings the photographic works of 14 of the contributors off the renowned Instagram feed onto the gallery walls. The exhibition includes panel images by Ashley Crowther (based in South Korea), Sima Diab (Syrian, based in Egypt), Georgina Goodwin (based in Kenya), James Whitlow Delano (USA / Lives in Tokyo, Japan), Matilde Gattoni (Italy), Nick Loomis (based in Senegal), Ed Kashi (USA), Suthep Kritsanavarin (Thailand), Mette Lampcov (Danish, based in USA), John Novis (England), Mark Peterson (USA), J.B. Russell (USA, based in France), Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert (Scotland), Elisabetta Zavoli (Italian, based in Indonesia).

The exhibition, curated by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, features as part of the Season For Change, a UK-wide programme of cultural responses celebrating the environment and inspiring urgent action on climate change. It commenced on 1st June and runs until 16 December, coinciding with the COP24 UN Climate Negotiations in Katowice, Poland.

Panel design and exhibition support by Yuko Hirono / Cabin 8 Design.

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Nelson Mandela, Glasgow 1993.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s images shot during the visit of Nelson Mandela to Glasgow in 1993, go on display this month at the City Chambers in Glasgow. Coinciding with Black History Month, the small exhibition has been made possible with the support of Street Level Photoworks, and depicts the events of the visit of Mandela to Glasgow to receive the Freedom of the City.

Exhibition runs at:
Glasgow City Chambers
82 George St, Glasgow G2 1DU
Mon – Fri, 8.30am – 5pm

 

Crowds await Nelson Mandela, Glasgow, 1993 – © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1993.

 

From Street Level Photoworks:

2018 marks 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela. Known and loved around the world for his commitment to peace, negotiation and reconciliation, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was South Africa’s first democratically elected president (1994 to 1999). Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary and political leader, as well as a philanthropist with an abiding love for children. In 1963 he was imprisoned by the Apartheid government of South Africa and was sentenced – with seven others – to life imprisonment in 1964.

Glasgow was the first city in the world to honour Nelson Mandela with the Freedom of the City, in 1981, nine years before he was released from prison. In a bold move to send a message to the then apartheid regime, the Glasgow City Council also renamed St George’s Place as Nelson Mandela Place in 1986. This was seen as highly significant as this then became the address of the South African Consulate, which was based there.

In October 1993, two years after his release from prison, Mandela came to Glasgow, where he was described by the then council leader Jean McFadden as “a symbol of the fight for equality and freedom across the world”. The event famously saw Mandela dancing on stage in George Square, to the delight of the crowd of 10,000 people who had come to see him.’

Award winning Scotland-based editorial photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert was one of the photographers there that day, and these images are a record of that event. Previously published as a pocketbook by Cafe Royal Books, this is the first time these images have been seen in Glasgow.

In his acceptance speech in October 1993, Nelson Mandela said of Glasgow, “…It is a privilege to be a guest of this great City of Glasgow. It will always enjoy a distinguished place in the records of the international campaign against apartheid.

The people of Glasgow in 1981 were the first in the world to confer on me the Freedom of the City at a time when I and my comrades in the ANC were imprisoned on Robben Island serving life sentences, which in apartheid South Africa then meant imprisonment until death.

Whilst we were physically denied our Freedom in the country of our birth, a City, 6,000 miles away, and as renowned as Glasgow, refused to accept the legitimacy of the apartheid system, and declared us to be free. And in a real sense we were free, because however cruel the treatment meted out on us in prison, we never lost sight of the vision of a new South Africa as enshrined in our Freedom Charter. The City of Glasgow in granting us the Freedom of the City also took upon itself a very special obligation. It resolved to do everything possible to secure our freedom from the prisons of apartheid. It took up our plight in Britain and internationally. For example, the following year the Lord Provost co-ordinated a Declaration signed by over a thousand Mayors from 56 countries across the world which called for our freedom. Then in 1985 it joined with over 100 British local authorities in petitioning the then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, to press for my release. Such initiatives were thankfully successful…”

 

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Oot Tae Play

The British Journal of Photography recently announced their shortlist of photographers for their Portrait of Britain photo project, and we’re delighted that photographers and work from Scotland made the cut. Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert‘s portrait from Langholm Common Riding (from his Unsullied and Untarnished book of the Scottish Common Ridings) was selected, as are two portraits be Edinburgh-based Euan Myles (and here), and also a portrait (first image below) by Ilisa Stack from her series ‘Out tae Play’. We contacted Ilisa to find out more about her work and project…

 

Shortlisted image of Michaela, selected from 13,000 entries for the Portrait of Britain Award. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

Oot Tae Play, by Ilisa Stack.

I have always had a love and desire for photography from the days as a little girl who used to watch her dad developing film in the darkroom to taking everyday snap shots of my own family through the years, however it was not until 2014 when I was accepted into the Hnd photography course at City of Glasgow College that my photography exploration really began. I completed my Hnd and went on to study for the BA (Hons) Degree in which I recently graduated from in June.

The four years studying at COCG really was a joy. The first fast paced years of the course aided my photographic skill set tremendously. With all the given briefs completed I could really start to see the documentary path that my photography was leading towards. I could not wait to start the degree years for that path to develop further with the gentle guidance and support of the hugely talented lecturers at City, as well as inspiring talks from photographers such as Kirsty MacKay and Magnum photographer Martin Parr. The college really has such an atmosphere surrounding it and proved to me to be a wonderful creative hub.

The origins for the Oot tae Play series actually started when I was visiting Hartlepool in 2016 researching Daniel Meadows inspiring book ‘The Bus’. I was drawn to reading about Mary Clark one of his the subjects. Mary’s character reminded me of many of the great Glasgow women I knew. I walked along the beach at Hartlepool and took a few shots; however the area was very quiet except for my boys playing with an old rope they had found. I also came across a concrete play area at the sea-front and as I looked through my viewfinder, an eerie feeling came over me. Later that night everything made sense. My children walked in front of me into the entertainment area of the holiday park we had been staying, to the left of them was a brightly lit over the top stall set with toys galore and directly in front of them was a dance floor and stage full with children laughing and playing. At that very moment I realised it was children that had been vacant from the beaches and play areas. That was the point ‘Oot tae Play’ was created.
I wanted to create work that involved children and their environment, i realised that I could work on a project in my own city which was a revelation for me as a lot of my work consisted of projects that incurred many miles.

 

 

G32 | Age 3 | Scooter | 2018. © Ilisa Stack 2018, all rights reserved. 

 

I advertised the project on social media platforms with a poster that I had created to inform parents and carers who may be interested in their children taking part in the series to show the requirements of the project. The online presence was extremely successful and I had instant numerous responses.
At the start of the project I knew some of the children or I knew their parents, as the series has progressed that has changed and it is wonderful that people now are approaching me and wanting their children to be a part of the ‘Oot tae Play’ kids.
I choose to approach photographing the series in this way as I felt it is a modern way of communication. For me it is a very honest approach. I inform and explain to the parents before the shoot day that the proper releases will need to be signed.
The amazing children who have taken part so far all receive a high resolution image from the shoot, and a certificate to say that they have taken part in the ‘Oot tae Play’ series. It is much more than that though, they are now a community of children. One of the children Cari has now moved on to secondary school since I initially photographed her, her mum has informed me that she is planning on becoming a photographer. Michaela another child from the series’ mum informed me that she had went into school and enjoyed telling everyone about her shoot and showed the image to her class. Fifteen year old Declan’s mum was surprised that he wanted to take part in the project but because the shoot included what he does when he’s is outside, he was more than happy to take part and show his ball and team strip.

 

G32 | Age 6 | Scooter | 2018. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

The pictures tell a story of capturing a pictorial documentation of children today, how they play, what they play with and the outside environment in which they play. I would hope the images convey a positive representation of Glasgow children. (There also exists a short film of the children and their toys, from ‘Oot tae Play’)


Working on the series has outlined a huge shift in social change in regards to the photographic documentation of children today. These contemporary portraits may still be too current to show the lack of images being taken of children out with a studio environment or family online albums.

It is a tremendous privilege for me to photograph the ‘Oot tae Play’ children and the aim at the moment is to continue to build upon the body of work. It would be very interesting to see and photograph the children again in the future and is something for me to consider.

G73 | Age 14 | Snow | 2018. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

I receive inspiration from various sources and it is extremely difficult to narrow that down but in terms of photographers work though I have to mention Thomas Annan, Bert Hardy, Oscar Marzaroli, Edith Tudor-Heart, Tish Murtha to Joel Sternfeld, Jim Mortram, Daniel Meadows, Kirsty MacKay and painter Joan Eardly, to name but a few. Whilst being a student you learn a lot of skills and one of those skills is confidence. It for me was really daunting to put work out in the world for others to see other than that of my lecturers. Credit for me entering the BJP really goes to Aileen Campbell my then lecturer. I was given so much encouragement to enter the competition. I am absolutely delighted that my image has been shortlisted for the BJP and that I will have an image printed in the Portrait of Britain book. I cried many a happy tear when I found out. I am in awe of the images that have been shortlisted and it is just lovely to be included in that part of the process. It has been wonderful sharing the news with Michaela and finding how excited she is that her image will be printed in the book. We look forward to the outcome of the shortlist, yes it would be a dream to make the final 100, however I really don’t think Glasgow has enough tissue paper for the tears of joy I would shed if that was the outcome.

 

G44 | Age 5 | Dinosaur | 2018. © 2018 Ilisa Stack, all rights reserved.

 

At this moment in time I am still working on ‘Oot tae Play’. I am however researching background information for two new projects.
I have also been extremely fortunate to have been contacted in June of this year to take part in an exhibition at the aff Galerie in Berlin this October as part of the Monat der Fotografie OFF- Berlin by Malcolm Dickson, Gallery Director at Street Level Photoworks. I’ll be giving a short talk on the work in Berlin on Sunday 14th, which is the opening weekend of the Monat der Fotografie OFF Berlin, which the exhibition is a part of. I am so pleased to be presenting some of the ‘Oot tae Play’ series.

I am delighted that recently I have had an image shortlisted for the Scottish Portrait Awards. This again was wonderful news and as one of the 30 to have been shortlisted the image will be exhibited at Edinburgh Arts Club, Saturday 3 November to Saturday 1 December 2018 and then again at the Glasgow Art Club on Monday 21 January to Saturday 9 February 2019.

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Paul Walton’s ‘Hum’, reviewed by Frank McElhinney

This week I attended the opening of Paul Walton’s Hum, which runs until 9th February in an exhibition space on the 5th floor of Glasgow University’s St. Andrew’s building. I have been an admirer of Paul’s work for a number of years, and was impressed to see this collection of over 70 hand printed silver gelatin prints, brought together as Hum: Dispatch from the Lower Anthropocene. Walton, an ecologist and environmental campaigner by profession, uses photography to break down distinctions between science and art and explore a personal understanding of the human place in nature, of the history of life, and of environmental processes. The exhibition is reviewed here by Frank McElhinney, another contemporary Scottish artist whose work we have long admired, and has himself been interviewed for this blog (link below).

Hum: Dispatch from the Lower Anthropocene – an exhibition of photographs by Paul Walton

5:29am July 16th 1945, the precise moment of the first detonation of a nuclear weapon and, Paul Walton proposes, the commencement of the Anthropocene. It is this release of radionuclides imprinting directly upon geology that marks the crossing of the line into a new epoch when human impact on the environment becomes the defining characteristic of the period we currently live in.

In his exhibition of more than seventy hand made silver gelatin prints, Walton shares with the viewer his silent, slow burning rage. Cobwebbed daddy long legs and snail feeding trails, coexist alongside distressed plastics and metals. All show traces of decay and whether organic or manmade all are imperceptibly dusted with radioactive isotopes, touched by the cold winds blowing in from Siberia. All are strikingly presented in threes – triptychs, little trinities, the Trinity test, Jornada del Muerto desert, New Mexico 5:29am July 16th 1945.

Mabel Barber’s marine plankton, © Paul Walton 2017

In justified rage there is also a glimmer of hope. The hope that others will see what the photographer sees if his vision is communicated well enough. Photographs are anchored in stillness. Paul Walton’s photographs ask us to stop and think about time and humanity, to think about our place as aberrant species on this planet. If we see what he sees, that the Anthropocene is upon us, then surely we will change in ways that might yet stop the rot? That is one proposition or heartfelt plea of the work. And how much work, how much labour is vested in these photographs? This exhibition is Walton’s first but he has spent five years worth of weekends in the darkroom of Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, slowly accumulating and developing the skills and the imagery to construct this rich multilayered narrative. This exhibition shows us his vision of the contemporary, precariously poised between the blind march toward End time and a conscious step away from the precipice.

Crane fly, © Paul Walton 2017

Re-photographed archival images are presented alongside new and unusual still lives that were made throughout Scotland. A nuclear blast in the Nevada desert, Paleolithic cave drawn men from Spain, and microscopic slides of marine plankton originally made by a woman who was run over by a coal truck on her bicycle after ten weeks of marriage to the photographers father. These vie for attention with sea torn aluminium from Seil, beached plastic on Tiree, bullet riddled steel plate from Perthshire and spilt milk in the Gorbals. Still life triptychs are bounded on a very long wall by grids of snagged carrier bags, little archaeologies of detritus flying in the wind like torn flags of forgotten nations. The perceived physical feat of production in such volume also plays its role in expressing the maker’s obsession with his subject. The viewer responds to the material reality encountered as well as to the visual aesthetic of the closely observed inter-connected still lives.

Slug feeding trails, © Paul Walton 2017

Hum: a low steady continuous sound. Jornada del Muerto: journey of the dead man. In a talk given at the exhibition opening Walton spoke about the influence of his late geologist father on his world-view, his obsessions and indirectly his photography. He spoke of his own professional interest in declining sea bird species and tracing root causes back through the food chain to the impact of global warming on marine plankton. Climate change and the power games humans play with nature hum, ever present, weaving their way into the fabric of our lives through our environment and eventually into our bodies themselves. Walton’s quiet photographs signal a mortal struggle. He remembers as a boy more than forty years ago, standing on a hill with his father, being inspired by stories of the wide-open plains of Siberia. This was a space of freedom and ‘fresh air’. Air that blows across Europe from the east, air that carries low level radiation: “he and I breathed in the cooling soviet isotopes, gyred in from Siberian test sites, down into our bellies, and there they stay, as geology hums, shrugs like the eider, and a new epoch begins.”

 – Frank McElhinney

Hum: Dispatch from the Lower Anthropocene  is on display at St Andrew’s building (5th floor), Eldon St, University of Glasgow, until February 9th. Mon – Thur 7.30 – 21.00, Fri 7.30 – 17.30.

Frank McElhinney was interviewed by Sarah in January 2017 – read the feature here.

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Colin Templeton’s Glasgow.

Photographer of Glasgow, Colin Templeton, is exhibiting work in a group show Photography Now, at the Brick Lane Gallery in London, from 8th – 20th November. There’s an opening night on the 8th Nov, 6.00- 8.30pm.

 

Rear Window – A face glimpsed through the steamed up window of a car. © Colin Templeton 2017

 

Of the work he’ll exhibit Colin says, “The city is in constant flux. Right now in Glasgow the shipyard cranes and tower blocks are vanishing. The pubs are closing or becoming gentrified. Everything disappears and, once gone, becomes fascinating.

I’ve come to realise that the city is my inspiration to pick up a camera. It seems to me that the fabric of the buildings and places are the perfect backdrop for the people. There is darkness and drama in the most everyday places, and I enjoy the challenge of finding and capturing it.”

 

Red Road – Final days of the Red Road flats. © Colin Templeton 2017

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Sarah Amy Fishlock / CBUK Creative Workshops

In recent weeks Sarah Amy Fishlock has been working on a series of workshops with the Glasgow branch of the UK charity Child Bereavement UK, based in Maryhill. Devised in close collaboration with the organisation, the workshops coincide with the first meetings of the Glasgow Young People’s Advisory Group, modelled on the existing setup in branches south of the border. These meetings encourage young people aged 11-25 to work together in a supportive environment, using their own experiences to work on projects focussing on ways to help themselves and other young people who are grieving. Throughout September 2017, Sarah worked on a range of collaborative creative activities with the young people and CBUK staff, using photography, collage and zine-making techniques to both explore the process of grief and build resilience and self-care skills in the here and now.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved.

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved

© Sarah Amy Fishlock 2017, all rights reserved.

 

Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement.

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‘Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow’ in LA

LOS ANGELES – During the rise of industrialization in mid-19th century Scotland, Thomas Annan ranked as the preeminent photographer of Glasgow. For more than 25 years, he prodigiously recorded the people, the social landscape, and the built environment of the city during a period of rapid growth and change. Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow, on view May 23-August 13, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, presents the first exhibition to survey Annan’s prolific career and legacy as both a photographer and printer via his engagement with Glasgow as his photographic subject.

The exhibition includes more than 100 photographs, the majority on loan to the Getty, providing a rare opportunity to view key series by this photographer in the United States. Among the works to be featured are recently rediscovered prints Annan made at the end of his career and numerous photographically illustrated books that demonstrate technical innovations he perfected and championed.

“This exhibition is the first to explore Annan’s deep fascination with Glasgow and fully contextualize his contributions within the city’s history,” says Timothy Potts, director of the J. Paul Getty Museum. “His work effectively recorded the transformation of greater Glasgow over the course of several decades, during an era when this ‘second city of the empire’ flourished. Annan’s photographs underscore the notion of progress that dominated this era and directed urban growth in the 19th century.”

Thomas Annan, who opened his own photographic firm in Glasgow in 1857 and remained active until his death three decades later, worked at a time when the city’s population increased dramatically and industry neared its peak. Initially Annan garnered attention for work that ranged from studio portraiture and reproductions of artwork to landscapes, but he also quickly emerged as an important documentarian of Glasgow and its outskirts. Near the outset of his career, Annan was tasked with documenting the construction of a 35-mile long aqueduct—located in a picturesque wooded glen called the Trossachs—from Loch Katrine to Glasgow. His photographs reveal how this colossal feat of engineering impacted the scenic landscape of the Scottish countryside, underscoring the industrialization associated with this era in British history, as well as the somewhat tenuous relationship between man and the natural environment. Annan continued to record the development and effects of the aqueduct for more than two decades. One gallery in the exhibition explores his extensive commitment to the subject, featuring rare views from his 1859 documentation of the aqueduct scheme that will be on view for the first time since the 19th century.

Today, Annan is remembered principally for his haunting images of tenements and passageways, known as closes, slated for modification or demolition as a result of the Glasgow City Improvements Act of 1867. Considered a precursor of the social documentary tradition in photography, Annan’s Photographs of Old Closes and Streets series (1868-71) not only reveals the difficult living conditions of working-class residents of central Glasgow, but also suggests progress underway as a result of the Improvements Act. Despite challenges posed by weather, sanitation, lighting, and the labor-intensive photographic equipment/process he employed, Annan produced highly detailed, enigmatic photographs of the closes and the tenement dwellers that are testament to his technical and artistic mastery. On view will be albumen silver prints from the Old Closes and Streets series, including an original glass plate negative and publications that feature the closes.

Throughout his career, Annan photographed construction efforts, engineering works, buildings, and other subjects that related to concurrent municipal initiatives. Among the civic projects that he documented, and that will be showcased in the exhibition, are the relocation of the University of Glasgow, the re-navigation of the River Clyde and the construction of Queen’s Dock at Glasgow harbor, and the beautification of Glasgow Cathedral. He also photographed numerous country estates and houses that were demolished or repurposed as part of the outward expansion of the city and the rising industrialist class. Transformation of the built environment in Glasgow during this time largely shaped the appearance of the city as we know it today, and Annan effectively documented this evolution.

Annan is also credited for promoting various photographic processes, specifically carbon printing and photogravure, for which he owned the licensing rights within Scotland. His legacy was extended by his eldest sons, James Craig and John, who worked as photographers and managed their father’s photographic firm upon his death. While James Craig pursued fine art photography and emerged as a leading figure in the Pictorialist movement, John carved out a steady career photographing architecture and industrial machinery in Glasgow. Their discrete areas of expertise reflected their father’s myriad interests and may have constituted the division of labor at the firm as well.

“Though a pioneer in his field, Annan has remained a relatively marginalized figure in the history of photography,” says Amanda Maddox, assistant curator of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum and curator of the exhibition. “This exhibition seeks to highlight the breadth of his output and the extent of his contributions to the medium, which we hope will prompt further scholarship and greater appreciation for this important 19th century practitioner.”

Thomas Annan: Photographer of Glasgow, on view May 23-August 13, 2017 at the J. Paul Getty Museum, Getty Center, will coincide with the presentation of Now Then: Chris Killip and the Making of In Flagrante. Together these exhibitions represent a century of industry in Britain, from its height to its demise. A scholarly publication that shares the title of the exhibition and is focused on Thomas Annan’s photographically illustrated books about Glasgow will be released by Getty Publications in spring 2017.

Images:

Left: Piping across the Balfron Road (1859). Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829 – 1887). Albumen silver print. Image: 20.9 x 28.6 cm (8 ¼ x 11 1/4 in.); Sheet: 38 x 48.5 cm (14 15/16 x 19 1/18 in.); Mat: 40.6 x 55.9 cm (16 x 22 in.). Lent by Glasgow Life (Mitchell Library Special Collections) on behalf of Glasgow City Council. Image © CSG CIC Glasgow Museums and Libraries Collection: The Mitchell Library, Special Collections

Right: High Street from College Open (1868 – 1871). Thomas Annan (Scottish, 1829 – 1887). Albumen silver print. Image: 40.5 x 54 cm (15 15/16 x 21 1/4 in.); Mat: 50.8 x 60.9 cm (20 x 24 in.). Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal. © Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal

# # #

The J. Paul Getty Trust is an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts that includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, the Getty Conservation Institute, and the Getty Foundation. The J. Paul Getty Trust and Getty programs serve a varied audience from two locations: the Getty Center in Los Angeles and the Getty Villa in Pacific Palisades.

The J. Paul Getty Museum collects Greek and Roman antiquities, European paintings, drawings, manuscripts, sculpture and decorative arts to 1900, as well as photographs from around the world to the present day. The Museum’s mission is to display and interpret its collections, and present important loan exhibitions and publications for the enjoyment and education of visitors locally and internationally. This is supported by an active program of research, conservation, and public programs that seek to deepen our knowledge of and connection of works of art.

Visiting the Getty Center
The Getty Center is open Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It is closed Mondays, January 1, Thanksgiving Day, and December 25. Admission to the Getty Center is always free. Parking is $15 per car, but reduced to $10 after 3 p.m. No reservation is required for parking or general admission. Reservations are required for event seating and groups of 15 or more. Please call (310) 440-7300 (English or Spanish) for reservations and information. The TTY line for callers who are deaf or hearing impaired is (310) 440-7305. The Getty Center is at 1200 Getty Center Drive, Los Angeles, California.

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Disappearing Glasgow

We’re delighted to read that Chris Leslie‘s Disappearing Glasgow project is getting another outing, this time as a multimedia exhibition at Glasgow Lighthouse space. If you missed Chris’s recent Glasgow School of Art show, then you should hurry along to see this arrangement of the works…

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

 

Exhibition info:

Photographer and filmmaker Chris Leslie is widely acknowledged as the most consistent chronicler of the city’s recent history. This new multimedia exhibition and accompanying book ‘Disappearing Glasgow’ documents an era of spectacular change in Glasgow through the medium of photography and film.

The skyline of Glasgow has been radically transformed as high rise tower blocks have been blown down and bulldozed. Since 2006 more than 30% of the city’s high rise flats have disappeared, communities dispersed across the city and Dalmarnock have ‘been raised from the ashes’ via the Commonwealth Games.

Does this Disappearing Glasgow herald a renaissance in the city?

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

 

Disappearing Glasgow book, by Chris Leslie.

 

Reviews of the book:

‘There’s something about a still image of something gone wrong that’s truly haunting. Perhaps to do with the age we live in, where everything is fast-moving and fleeting, that something grounded can have such a lasting effect. That’s what Chris Leslie brings to the table in Disappearing Glasgow. FIVE STARS’ The Skinny

‘Fascinating and highly emotive.’ i-on

‘Fascinating and moving.’ Scots Magazine

‘Photographer Chris Leslie documents this decline and fall wth steely-eyed honesty and unsentimental empathy. The result is both distressing and beautiful, an essay in what might have been and a lesson for anyone involved in the planning process.’ Scottish Review of Books

‘The photographs are absolutely stunning, perfectly capturing the spooky, eerie atmosphere of buildings which have been left to time. The story which Leslie tells through his photo series involves the smallest detail, such as a lost lottery ticket or an old thermostat on the wall, but also panoramas of the Glasgow cityscape, being once someone’s view. Two thumbs up for this book!’ SkyHighCity

‘Chris Leslie is the foremost chronicler of the changing face of Glasgow over the last decade.’ A Thousand Flowers

‘Chris Leslie builds on that erudite pointed critical observation and legacy of photography from the Victorian photographer Thomas Annan, through to Marzaroli. The city is fortunate to have such a critical friend, the contemporary conscience of our generation, able to aim his lens with astonishing focus, at the same time capturing the beauty, sadness and poignant with a pointed dignity.’ Page and Park Architects

Release date: 26th October 2016
Format: A4 Landscape Hardback, 192pp

Book can be purchased at usual outlets or online here – http://www.freightbooks.co.uk/disappearing-glasgow.html

Disappearing Glasgow, by Chris Leslie.

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Frank McElhinney

Frank McElhinney’s work first came to our attention in 2014 when he won first place at that year’s Jill Todd Award for his intriguing, unique aerial photographs. Since then this prolific artist has gone from strength to strength, creating several bodies of work focussing on Scotland’s landscape and how it relates to our country’s past, both near and distant. One of these, Adrift, is currently on display at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, as part of Tabula Rasa II. Here, he speaks to Sarah about his projects, processes, themes and methods.

Adrift: Learable, Sutherland (2016) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Frank, you graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into photography? What were you doing before you became a student?

FM: After working in manufacturing for 20 years I decided out of the blue to become an artist. I attended several different night classes whilst building up a portfolio for entry into art school. So it’s a rather mundane answer I’m afraid, but I got into photography through adult education courses at Glasgow City College and GSA.

SAF: Your degree show plans were forced to change when the Mackintosh building caught fire in May 2014 – can you explain how this affected your work?

FM: Yes, it was a bit of a shock at the time. I’d spent over three years working on a project about the Battle of Bannockburn whose 700th anniversary was to coincide with the degree show that never happened. The main affect on my own work was the instillation of a great sense of urgency around production. Three days after the fire I went to the source of the River Forth at Loch Chon and began making a series of kite aerial photographs that won first prize in the Jill Todd Photography Award. The drive towards constant production has stayed with me.

Fire in the Mack, Friday the 23rd of May (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Speaking of the work you entered into the Jill Todd competition, how did you come to use the kite for making your photographs? Were there any technical challenges to this approach?

FM: Using the kite came from the need to make one specific picture. At the Battle of Bannockburn thousands of people drowned in the burn and the River Forth. I wanted to photograph the confluence of these two bodies of water from above and the kite was the simplest way to achieve that perspective. The kite is literally a joy to work with. The only challenge is the wind itself. Too much gusting and the kite will crash, not enough and a long journey might be wasted.

False Start, Limitless Ending: Confluence of Kelty Water and River Forth (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Your recent work, Adrift, also uses aerial photography – this time, to respond to the current migration crisis with reference to areas of Scotland once inhabited by subsistence farmers. The link is an oblique rather than an obvious one – can you tell us more about your process with this project and how you decided which locations to concentrate on?

FM: Even sympathetic media coverage of today’s migration crisis often represents refugees in problematic ways. I chose not to photograph people at all but to look instead at migration through the lens of Scottish history. The Scottish diaspora has affected all parts of the country but I focused on abandoned settlements in the Highlands and Islands. I was inspired by the early work of Tom Devine who described how the Highland Clearances were underpinned by ethnic inferiorisation of the Gaels and resulted in an almost complete cultural erasure. Whilst working on a previous project I’d also been struck by the fact that even today, of the 45 most populous cities and towns in Scotland only four of them appear on the northern side of the map.

SAF: Your work creates interesting visual conversations between past and present – responding to current events while illuminating Scotland’s history. You mention a previous project – 45 Sun Pictures in Scotland, for which you used another type of alternative photographic process – pinhole photography. Can you tell us a little about how that work came about?

FM: In September 2014, I was on a month long residency in Cromarty. At the beginning I held a workshop for local people where we made pinhole cameras, filled them up with photographic paper and tied them on lampposts and trees around the village. At the end of the month we retrieved and scanned the images that had been burned into the paper. Looking at those abstract ‘solargraphs’ with the sun tracking across the sky, I reflected that the fate of the entire nation was being decided during the exposures. Within a few days of the referendum on independence it was clear nothing had been settled, the country was still pregnant with change. Solargraphs seemed an appropriate way of saying something about that unexpected situation. So I made 200 pinhole cameras and installed them around Scotland’s 45 most populous cities and towns. I made a picture of Scotland that was, in the end, woefully incomplete.

45 Sun Pictures in Scotland: Dundee (2014-2015) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: It’s almost as if, through your practice, you’re creating alternative geographical surveys of the land – linking the physical terrain to more abstract ideas about identity and nationhood, with reference to events both recent and ancient. There are definite strands running through your work, though the subject matter changes. What projects do you have planned for 2017?

FM: When I look at the land I see history and I think about how I can use history to address contemporary issues, (such as nationhood, conflict and migration), rather than simply represent historic events or the land itself. I like your description ‘alternative geographical surveys of the land’, but at the same time I am also making alternative histories that connect with the present.

Looking ahead I have two new exhibitions in development for 2017 and 2018. The first relates once again to migration but looks even further back in time to the old Roman border between Caledonia and Britannia, the Antonine wall – this will be shown at the Auld Kirk Museum, Kirkintilloch, in April and May 2017. The second project is a collaboration with John Farrell, whom I met at art school. John and I were born and raised in Lanarkshire a few miles apart, and that’s where the project is based. Our working title is Coal, Steel and Earth. I am focusing on Kingshill Nature Park, formerly the site of a pit where my maternal grandfather worked as a coal miner. John is focused on what remains of Ravenscraig steelworks, where coincidentally my paternal grandfather worked as a platelayer. The exhibition is provisionally planned for 2018, at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. Beyond these immediate projects I have a few ‘slow burners’ including that lost project that claims me every time I drive up the A91 past Stirling and look out over the long loop of the burn as it flows into the Forth. I used to think that the moment for Remembering Bannockburn had gone up in smoke forever, but there is still work to be done out there.

Coal, Steel and Earth: Kingshill trench and tree (2016) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

 

Remembering Bannockburn: Confluence of Bannockburn and River Forth (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

 

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Frank. We’re really excited to see where your work takes you!

Adrift is currently on display as part of Tabula Rasa II, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until 4th February.

 

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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.

saf_middlemen_2

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.

saf_amyeahren_1

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.

saf_belovedcurve2

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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