Foodbank

Foodbank is an ongoing photographic project by Glasgow-based photographers Saskia Coulson and Colin Tennant which began in the summer of 2020.

A volunteer in the doorway of one of the many storerooms of the food bank.

In 2009, the Trussel Trust (the UK’s largest food bank charity) opened its first branch in Scotland. Ten years later The Scotsman reported that there were a staggering 52 food banks operating in Glasgow alone. It is clear that in Scotland, and across the UK, we are seeing an increase in food insecurity with serious consequences for the health and wellbeing of children and adults alike. This is not a new issue, but concerns have been brought into sharp focus as a result of the global pandemic, food supply issues in light of Brexit and threats posed by the economic downturn.

A volunteer preparing food parcels. Due to Covid restrictions food bank users are only allowed to come into the building one at a time to select their weekly shop.

It has been projected that six food parcels will be given out every minute in the UK from October to December this year.

This work-in-progress project documents a food bank in the East End of Glasgow. It captures everyday people who volunteer their time and resources to provide sustenance to those in need.

A volunteer chef prepares the takeaway soup to be given out to those waiting in line for groceries.
A volunteer stands outside the food bank with a collection of open cereal boxes, the food bank often receives strange donations.
A volunteer stands in a newly built storeroom which is due to store all the donations. Recent changes in the building operations mean the original storerooms are needing to be cleared for church activities. 

“We live less than 100 yards from our local food bank in the East End of Glasgow. We first got to know the volunteers who run the food bank when we started helping deliver food parcels during the first UK lockdown when COVID-19 hit. Although it had been operating for many years prior to pandemic. Both the food bank and the (pay what you can) cafe are run out of the same church and share many of the same passionate volunteers that are the heart and soul of all operations.

Through this work we seek to highlight the invaluable service food banks provide to local communities. The work aims to illustrate the power and importance of grassroots community organisations that support and help society’s most vulnerable but also question why more and more people are reliant on the resources provided by food banks.

Throughout the project, we have spoken to volunteers about the uncertainty that this charity, and many like it, face. In the wake of government support for COVID-19, many existing funding programmes have been slashed or seriously cut back, which has left charities with an uncertain future. Not only is there anxiety around what lies ahead but the charity is also having to change their operations to abide by strict safety measures, which are changing on a weekly basis. What was once a busy social hub for those less fortunate to receive a hot meal, weekly basic shop and often some well needed company has now become a regimented process of allowing people in on a one-by-one basis.” – Colin and Saskia.

A user waits to be allowed into the food bank, which now operates on a one in, one out basis.
Stacks of donations are stored in every available space.
A new volunteer stands outside the food bank, she has recently decided to help out as she studies for her degree online. 

In light of these restrictions and setbacks, this project seeks to represent the hard-working individuals who keep this food bank running and how they strive to make sure that this organisation can not only provide food for the community, but can also provide a place for comfort, companionship and compassion.

A volunteer stands in a storeroom of the foodbank. 
A Volunteer and user embrace. As well as providing food for those in need, the food bank is a safe, social space for those seeking comfort and company.

All photographs and text, © Colin Tennant and Saskia Coulson, 2020.

Find your closest foodbank here. Please consider donating to your local foodbank if you don’t already do so. Thanks – Document Scotland.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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Aye by Jörg Meier

Glasgow has long history of photographers chronicling life on its streets and in the schemes.

Some have been restless natives, others interlopers. Some passed through, others stayed and got to know Scotland’s biggest city and most populous conurbation. Glasgow gives generously to visitors, ready with smiles and stories, yet half-hidden are the truths which underpin a narrative of poverty, inequality and myriad social ills. It has all been photographed before.

It is these themes which offer the exploring eye an opportunity to grasp the Glaswegian reality. It’s no mean city and there’s no half measures, after all. Our memory bank of images is often saturated by Glasgow’s past. From Thomas Annan during the Victorian era, through Joseph McKenzie and Oscar Marzaroli’s (currently on show at Street Level Photoworks) peripatetic perambulations around the city slums, we have become familiar with a style of photography which leans heavily on tropes as metaphor. That’s not to say these photographers’ documentation of the way we lived is inaccurate or cliched. Far from it. It is a vivid truth, naked and unvarnished.

More recently, the images made by French Magnumista Raymond Depardon have come into plain sight. Shot in 1980, we see a city in its most forlorn and decayed state, updated in shocking, vibrant tints. Beauty in brutality. It is almost as if the past has been coloured in for us. A reminder what was and still is. Still more now find Glasgow a canvas on which to re-imagine the present. A roll call which includes Document Scotland’s own and others who gravitate to and navigate through the city.

To these canons of work we can now add Jörg Meier, a German who stumbled across Glasgow almost by accident in 2019 and has since embedded himself in the Dear Green Place and befriended her people. His work immediately sets you at ease. Here is a photographer who is comfortable in his surroundings. It is not difficult to imagine him striking up conversations in bars and cafes, his inquisitive nature satisfied by Glasgow’s warm embrace. His work, set out somewhat haphazardly in a project called ‘Aye’, provokes us into emotions, like all photography of value should do. It is, it seems to me, as if he has been here forever. Was that him refusing to pay Maggie’s Poll Tax? Or out on a pro-Independence demo? Or tumbling out of a gig at the Barrowlands? Or even gliding through the crowd to an Old Firm match. He looks at home here, at least that what his photography tells us.

Jörg was initially attracted to Glasgow on an exploratory trip to Scotland which involved a bike ride to Falkirk, alma mater of his favourite band, Arab Strap. But it was Glasgow he fell for. It reminds him, he tells me, of his native Dortmund, of how and where he grew up four decades ago, of the lamented decline of heavy industry, the decay and depression – and cold. With this history at the forefront of his mind, he started looking around Glasgow and seeing parallels in the shapes and forms of his childhood. Soon, he was making connections through a project near Ibrox which helps and supports people who need a second chance in life. It is at this point that his photography breaks on through to the other side.

Away from the rain-lashed streets, the eternally grey skies and banks of housing etched out in geometric shapes and sizes funnelling back from the meandering, sleepy river Clyde, he befriends locals in a way which is both genuine and heartfelt. It feels like a solid relationship is established. His portraiture leans on an idiosyncrasy which hides and reveals much simultaneously. We feel empathy and sympathy, but we still do not know the whole story. It feels good to be inside, although there is a hint of damp menace in the surroundings. Like being in a room heated only with a two-bar electric fire on a cold day outside. Nevertheless, it is warm an intimate.

He trades on ambiguity, in the way so much contemporary German photography does. It is, however, underpinned by an intellect, the difference being it is not cold nor calculated, rather enquiring, inquisitive in nature. It lets Glasgow flourish.

I ask Jörg if his project is finished. The answer is somewhat noncommittal. Like all of us, he is held in check by Covid’s chains, unable for now to rekindle his love for Glasgow, to take up with its people and restart the relationship. There is so much to do when released from the pandemic purgatory. In the meantime, enjoy what he has shown us this far on his journey. I look forward to seeing him working in Glasgow again soon. We’ll say aye to that.

To hear Colin McPherson’s interview with Jörg Meier, please become one of our valued supporters on our Patreon platform.

Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.
Photograph © Jörg Meier, 2020 all rights reserved.

Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on our site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about, and that we hope you enjoy. Please visit our Patreon page (via button below!) and consider being a supporter, it would greatly help us and be much appreciated. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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Glasgow Women, by Nicola Stead

I had already noticed Nicola Stead’s portraits of Glasgow women on her website, stumbled into by chance following links and clicks, and I was taken by the simplicity of them, but also the strength of the women that showed through the great use of light, and sharpness of focus, as well as their expressions. Lovely portraits.
Then, surreptitiously, Nicola reached out to us here at Document Scotland asking if we’d be interested to run the work, to share her story…. – thanks, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.


Julia has lived in Glasgow her whole life. She is a regular member of The Govanites. At 79 years old, she is considered the baby of the group. ©Nicola Stead 2020

Janet is 84 and has lived in Govan all her life. “I think there are good opportunities in Govan for women my age.” ©Nicola Stead 2020

The struggles and achievements of Glasgow women are highlighted within this series, offering a celebration of their lives as well as acknowledging their historical and cultural contribution to the city. Forging links between Glasgow women’s history and women in the city today, the work explores the legacy of Isabella Elder, one of Glasgow’s greatest philanthropists. I discovered Elder through Glasgow Women’s Library. Through research at the library I found the grave of Isabella Elder in Glasgow’s Necropolis. The story of her life and her good deeds fascinated me and from there the journey began.

Elder took a particular interest in women’s education, financing and supporting the foundation of Queen Margaret College in 1883, which enabled Scottish women to be admitted to higher education for the first time. Elder also took an active interest in the welfare of the women of Govan, the site of her late husband’s shipbuilding business. She established a school of domestic economy for local women as well as founding the Elder Cottage Hospital, Cottage Nurses Training Home, Elder Park and the Free Library in the area. She is one of the few historical women commemorated with a statue in Glasgow, which stands in Govan’s Elder Park.

Gilded Lily is a women-led organisation in Govan, which aims to support women to succeed in their own ambitions. They offer a variety of workshops and weekly group meetings. ©Nicola Stead 2020
Salma is originally from Syria and has lived in Glasgow for 1&1/2 years.“There are good opportunities for women from the asylum seeker and refugee community to be part of the wider community of Govan, however the women really need to invest their time to see the results’. ©Nicola Stead 2020

By examining communities of women in Glasgow now, my aim is to discover if Elder’s legacy of female empowerment is still apparent 135 years later. This strand of the series focuses on a variety of women’s groups and organisations in Govan, which reflect the cultural diversity of the area. These groups provide support, nurture, and inspiration for the women involved.

Fouzia is originally from Algeria and has lived in Govan for 2 years. “I am a regular member of Govan Community Project’s women’s group. I also attend cooking and sewing classes at Gilded Lily. All these opportunities have helped to build my confidence.” ©Nicola Stead 2020
Traci is originally from Falkirk and has lived in Govan for 4 years. “There are lots of community groups, and lots of women-led activities in Govan.” ©Nicola Stead 2020
The Women’s Group is a place for women from the asylum seeker and refugee community in Govan to come together and share food, discussion, and participate in arts activities. ©Nicola Stead 2020

In my conversations with the women I asked them to consider whether they thought there were good opportunities for women in their area. I also asked them to choose a place that they would like to be photographed, somewhere that represented a safe space for them. Many chose the location their organisations meet, others chose their home or a place where they felt at home such as a local park or favourite café. I have been greatly impressed and inspired by the women I had the pleasure of meeting throughout this project. I believe that they collectively represent a positive continuation of the legacy of the pioneering and empowering work that Isabella Elder carried out before them. These strong, determined women of Glasgow are well and truly keeping Isabella’s spirit alive.

Nancy is 89 years old and has lived in Govan her whole life. The Govanites is a social group for pensioner aged women in Govan where Nancy goes to meet with her friends. ©Nicola Stead 2020.
Eveleen is originally from Malaysia and has lived in Glasgow for 47 years. “There are opportunities here for women to learn and meet new people.” ©Nicola Stead 2020

Nicola Stead’s photography website, and on Instagram.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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Peter Degnan’s ‘Mother Glasgow’

Trying to keep up to date with the current tumultuous news of life on Twitter it’s heartening to scroll to a Tweet which shows images and catches your eyes. Such has been the way this past week or so when I’ve discovered two photographers posting old images of Glasgow and beyond.  I dropped them both a note, and now have the pleasure of sharing some of their work and a few Q&A’s with them, over the coming days. Hope you enjoy them.

Today we start with the lovely work of Peter Degnan. I look at his images of the Jock Stein testimonial and get jealous; his image of the Granary building bring back memories of myself being on top of it photographing ship launches; and the whelk shop in the Barras, a place I was discussing with someone just recently… Great to see Peter, thank you for sharing it all. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Peter introduces himself on his website with these words: 

I have been involved with photography seriously since about 1976 when I bought my first SLR camera, a Russian “Zenith E” with a 50mm lens. I became involved with camera clubs in the early days and although I enjoyed my time in them socially, the competitive and prescriptive nature of them was not always to my liking.

I was predominantly shooting in black and white and processing and printing all my own work at this time.

I am self-taught in both my photography taking and processing and printing and I was fortunate enough to always have a darkroom at home, so more often than not I could be found in there working on new projects. Although I did not set out to profit from my work I did manage to sell a few images following a small exhibition of my work in The Paisley Arts Centre.

Around the late 1990’s until about 2002 I took a break from working at the level I had been for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a major move of jobs and living location, secondly the kids were growing up and finally the dawn of digital photography was starting to take a hold and I was watching with interest.

Although I still had my film cameras and lenses, my first digital camera was to be a Fujifilm Finepix. I was basically dabbling with digital until such time as I switched from Windows computers and bought an iMac and simultaneously took out an Adobe subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop and this gave me the encouragement to start back where I had left off.

Up until about 2012 my taste in photography was wide ranging and included taking landscape, portraits and transport photographs. My passion however is documentary and street photography. I have always endeavoured to record as I was going about my photography and still do to this day. Although street photography can take many forms, it is the documentary element that interests me most. In 2019 I produced my first photo-book entitled “Mother Glasgow” and some of the images it contains can be seen in my My Galleries. This was followed up with a Zine version and both of these can be purchased using the Publications like above.

In 2019, in order for me to try and progress with my documentary/street photography, I decided to end my association with Nikon equipment and purchase a Fujifilm 100X-F camera which is my first mirror-less camera and I am enjoying using it as it is so discrete on the streets. I have recently supplemented this with the purchase of the excellent Fujifilm X-T3 and some lenses.

 

 

Govan, July 1977. aken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

Govan, July 1977. Taken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Document Scotland – Roughly what period did you shoot these b/ws?

Peter Degnan – All of the photographs were produced between the mid 1970s and the late 80s. It was a very interesting time for Glasgow with lots of changes going on. It was also back in the film era and one regret I have is that I didn’t take more. I have resisted going public with a lot of the images because leaving a gap of over 40 years since I took them makes the contrast in people and places more noticeable.

 

The Barras, July 1978. This chap could be found roaming around The Barras at the weekend, and was one of many characters that frequented the area. There was so much underhand dealing going on at times in the Barras that his message I fear would fall on deaf ears. ©Peter Degnan.


What was the motivation behind you going out on the streets looking for images, and for attending events such as the Jock Stein testimonial?

From the outset my photography style has always been of the documentary/photojournalistic style. It wasn’t a conscious decision it was just something I felt comfortable doing and always had a fascination for old photographs that recorded life. I was always on the lookout for events. The Jock Stein Testimonial I knew would be a huge event given the love the support had for him so I was determined to get in on that. I have also taken pictures at political rallies, marches and some during the miners strike. I am glad for example that I took photographs of The Barras in its heyday, because it is just a shadow now of what it was.

 

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Was it easy getting access? You look very close to your subjects, and in amongst it all, what was your approach?

I was basically an amateur photographer trying to get the shots that I wanted so getting in close was required. I discovered that so long as I looked and acted the part nobody challenged me. For example the Jock Stein Testimonial. Myself and a friend noticed that the Daily Record photographers wore red Adidas cagoules when covering games so we bought these out of Millets Stores. On the night we entered the stadium through the turnstiles with our kit and red cagoules on and walked down onto the track around the pitch where the invalid cars would drive. The police just parted and let us through. That is why the pictures look close up, I was standing on the pitch trying my best to look professional and it worked. Probably impossible to attempt now due to security and issuing of accreditation bibs etc.

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Did the work get exhibited much or published back then?

No not really. I was basically doing my own thing and building up an archive of work. I was doing all my own darkroom work at the time as well. I did have a small exhibition of work in the bar of the Paisley Art Centre which resulted in a few sales of prints but that was about it. I never really pushed my work but I knew there could be interest in it at some time.

Were you looking at other photography back then? Who was inspiring you, if anyone?

I would have to say that the biggest influence on my work has been Oscar Marzaroli. I became aware of his work early on in my photography journey and have been an admirer to this day. I met him briefly at the Third Eye Centre in 84. I was looking at one of his photographs and I became aware of him standing beside me. We chatted about his work and I asked him for advice on how maybe some day I could get work exhibited. His simple advice was, “Just keep taking photographs”. I have also been a big fan of Don McCullin. Not so much his excellent war photography but they way he would capture every day life.

 

Govan, 1981. I took a number of shots in and around Govan capturing the change to that part of Glasgow. It was in the process of loosing its tenement community and ship building industry. This was taken just after a snowfall and captures two policemen wandering down one of the oldest streets in Govan, Water Row, towards what was the ferry landing. ©Peter Degnan

 

Govan Subway, 1977. As Glasgow was modernising above ground the same could be said for below ground with its Subway system. Major reconstruction meant the old Victorian era wooden rolling stock had to go and this shot was taken capturing this process at the Broomloan Road works in Govan. It shows workmen stripping the bogies off of the carriages and preparing them to be scrapped. ©Peter Degnan

 

Did you have contact with other photographers, or for in any collective way at all?

Not really, apart from the usual Camera Club experiences early on. I am self taught in both the taking and processing of my work and haven’t studied photography in an academic way. Everything I know and practice has been through experience and trial and error. Social media can be a good way of meeting like minded photographers and I have recently attended a couple of workshops on Street Photography, followed up by sharing my work with the StreetSnappers Collective both on-line and through contributing to a book we recently produced.

 

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

You’ve made a book recently ‘Mother Glasgow’, how did that come about and what was the process?
Did you edit that yourself?

As previously mentioned, I resisted sharing many of my B&W negative film images until I decided the time was right. Last year I decided that the time had come to do this and given it is so easy these days to produce photo books I decided to bite the bullet. I chose around 50 images depicting Glasgow in the 70s and 80s, including a section on The Barras. I edited the book and laid it out using the Book module in Adobe Lightroom. The resulting PDF of the book was uploaded to Mixam and in a couple of weeks time I had my first book which I had titled “Mother Glasgow”. It was really quite emotional to see my work like this after all these years. I realised that not everyone would want to go for the expense of a hard backed book so I decided to produce a Zine of “Mother Glasgow” and these have sold very well. The feedback I have received over “Mother Glasgow” has been very rewarding.

 

The Barras, April 1985. Taken through the window of one of the many mussel and whelk shops at The Barras. This woman wearing her headscarf whilst working inside the shop was typical of most women at the time. The absence of pre-packed food and scales for weighing loose produce is a sign of the time. ©Peter Degnan.

 

The Barras, October 1977. At this time The Barras was great for photography, but it could also be a dangerous place with traders often asking if you were from the DSS (Social Security) and even getting “Heavies” to stand beside you watching what you were photographing. This chap had just pointed me out to the crowd as being from the DSS. It gives the picture a sort of Thomas Annan feel with all the people just staring into the camera. ©Peter Degnan

 

Where can people buy your book?

The hardback version of “Mother Glasgow” is available from Blurb at the following location:
https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/9436438-mother-glasgow

The smaller Zine (A5) version is available to order through my website by ordering using the Contact Me form.  https://peterdegnanphotography.com

Are you on Social media, if so, what are the accounts?

I have the website as mentioned above and I am also on Twitter @peterdegnan2.


 

We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

Become a Patron!

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@EverydayClimateChange

@EverydayClimateChange, a Street Level Photoworks show, co-curated by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, is on now at Hillhead Library, Glasgow, until April 28th. 

Hillhead Library

348 Byres Rd, Glasgow G12 8AP

Monday to Thursday: 10:00am – 8:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Sunday 12:00pm – 5:00pm

Another opportunity to see panels from the collective Instagram account involving 20 photographers from 6 continents, depicting causes and effects of, and solutions to, everyday climate change. This exhibition brings the photographic works of 14 of the contributors to the library walls, and includes photographs from Scotland by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

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).

In this below narrated slideshow Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert discusses the Everyday Climate Change collective group, how they operate and the work on show at the exhibition. This slideshow was made by Street Level Photoworks to commemorate Green Arts Day 2019.

The exhibition was first shown at Tronagate 103 as part of the Season of Change 2018, a UK-wide programme of cultural responses celebrating the environment and inspiring urgent action on climate change that coincided with the COP24 UN Climate Negotiations in Katowice, Poland in December 2018. More info here

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

 

 

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A Contested Land: Behind the lens #2

As we approach our forthcoming exhibition at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol in January, 2019, each of the four Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into the work they have made for the show. Here, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert tells of his project ‘Let Glasgow Flourish’:

Pro-Scottish Independence march, organised in the ‘All Under One Banner’ name, through the streets and to the battlefield in Bannockburn on the 704th anniverary of the Battle of Bannockburn. It was estimated that 10,000 people took part in the march calling for a second independence referendum. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2018.

 

“I’ve always marvelled at the thought that walking down the street any one person you see has a multitude of experiences and stories to tell, you take that one person and the stories you could tease out of them, and multiply that by everyone in the street and then the city, the country. So many stories, so many nuanced versions of life all informed by different upbringings and experiences.

And so it is with political views, a multitude of nuanced political views abound, and this has never been more obvious than in the streets of Glasgow, and Scotland, over these past few years. 

After a decade of photographing in Japan I moved home to Glasgow in 2012, knowing the referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom was going to be gearing up as we approached the 2014 Scottish Independence referendum date. I wanted to be back in the country to see it all, to experience it, and of course to vote. 

 

A Unionist demonstration takes place as the Scottish Cabinet sits at the Fernhill Community Centre for the fifth in a series of meetings outside of Edinburgh following publication of Scotland’s Future, the Governments’s white paper book on Scottish Independence.  May 2014, in Rutherglen, Scotland. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2018

 

I attended the rallies and marches of both sides, pro-Union and pro-Independence, trying to understand both sides of the argument, photographing it all. Photographing what we were told at the time was a ‘once in a generation’ referendum. For me, trying to describe in pictures the colour, energy and anticipation of what would come before us was the greatest challenge, but also the most rewarding part of the experience. It felt as if anyone in Scotland could have been there, on those marches. For both sides it was a peoples’ crusade: the divisions cut across race, class, gender and location.  

Now four years on and not much has been settled, we’re still walking on daily shifting sands of political information. A second Independence referendum is still a debated issue, still on a hand of cards yet to be played and for the time being kept close to the SNP’s chest. The political game of cards has seen many other hands played: the chaos of Brexit; Scotland welcoming refugees (as it always has) seeking asylum and the extreme minority Scottish Defence League staging rallies to espouse their hatred against them; anti-Trump demonstrations taking place when the American President insults the people of Scotland, as elsewhere, with his below par versions of truth, except Scotland is home to two of his golf courses; and at Faslane peace protestors continue to link arms and sing against Trident missiles which are still the true monster in the Scottish loch. 

 

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

 

There hasn’t been a shortage of political theatre in the streets to watch, to listen to, and to photograph. Some views you can understand, some you wince at when you hear them spoken, but the one thing we can be proud of and take from it all, pro- or anti-, is that the people of Scotland are awake.”

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

See more information and the press release here

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

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

Free entry to all exhibitions.

Touring exhibition dates

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

 

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A Contested Land

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A Contested Land.

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

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

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

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

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

Easdale, Scotland. © Colin McPherson 2018.

 

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

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

 

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

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

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

 

‘Edinburgh Unchained’, © Stephen McLaren 2018.

 

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

Easdale, Scotland © Colin McPherson 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Martin Parr Foundation
316 Paintworks
Arnos Vale
Bristol
BS4 3AR

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

Free entry to all exhibitions.

 

Touring exhibition dates

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