Why I Took this Picture ….. Mary – by Sophie Gerrard

Mary at home on her farm in Crieff, rural Perthshire from the series Drawn To The Land © Sophie Gerrard 2013, all rights reserved.

 

Spring 2013 was one of the coldest on record – it almost never really came. Farmers all over Scotland were concerned and anxious that by mid April, there was still no sign of grass,  that’s pretty much unheard of. 15 foot snow drifts on Arran over Easter and -5 degrees recorded in Fort William added to the worry. It was an extremely testing time for farmers as they tried to look after sheep out on the hill giving birth into what should be warmer weather with fresh spring grass to feed on.

As I’ve started to spend more time in the Scottish landscape and take more photographs over the last year or so I’ve found myself drawn to stories of human relationships with the land and the emotional connections. The more I’ve started to engage with issues concerning our Scottish landscape – the more I’ve felt drawn to look at them through the eyes of women- purely because I think its something that’s not often represented. When you look to farming all over the world – women play a hugely important role – in Scotland the same applies.

Mary runs a farm in Perthshire which has been tenanted by her family since the early 1900s. Whilst spending time with her she talked passionately and emotionally about her relationship with the farm and the landscape. The day I made this picture we’d just finished spent going round the farm checking on the pregnant ewes. The ground was frozen solid, there was no fresh grass, Mary had fed everyone by hand and checked all were alright. We’d been blown about, got muddy and dirty, crossed swollen rivers, driven up into the snow for the high fields, and returned back to the house to warm up. I took this picture as we stood at her kitchen window looking over the farm….

“I see myself not as a landowner but as custodian of this beautiful place, I feel I have an moral obligation and responsibility to leave it as good if not better than it was when I came here. I never felt forced into farming. I was told it was here if I wanted it, it’s in my blood. I can’t imagine having done anything else and I think it’d be extremely difficult to do this work otherwise. It’s not an inviting industry for young women to enter into however and the average age of a farmer now is 58. The farm is the most important thing, it’s really the only thing as far as I’m concerned. I want to leave this place in a box, and I’m left with a dilemma now that neither of my daughters are interested in the farm. ”

 

Sophie’s photograph, and others from her series, ‘Drawn To The Land’, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the ‘Seeing Ourselves’ exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition, can be bought via our publications page.

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Break for the Border….Colin McPherson

As the old maxim in publishing goes, celebrity sells.

So I was delighted to encounter Rod Stewart on a scrubby patch of land, a few short yards inside Scotland. Not the real McCoy, of course, but an invocation to attend a musical tribute to the great Jockney singer at some nearby watering hole. An evening with Rod Stewart in Gretna? Perfect for the purposes of my project. Had it have been Elvis, Lady Gaga or, heaven forfend, Michael Bublé, then this particular picture simply wouldn’t have worked. It had to be someone whose personal identity is intwined between Scots and Cockney, fitfully patriotic, yet permanently absent. Step forward, Rod Stewart.

‘A Fine Line’ is, for me, not just about the physical border between Scotland and England, but an investigation of the criss-cross identity of people and places along the frontier. My exploration of the border is just that: a journey without an agenda, a series of chance encounters and found moments which build a mosaic of something bigger, more tangible.

There are many threads which run through the work, one of the primary strands being humour. Subtle, dark, subconscious, playful or blatant, I am constantly looking for instances which juxtapose the serious with humorous. To laugh with, more than at, but to recognise the absurdity in much of what we see.

After taking the Rod Stewart photograph, I started to think of the cover of his new album, which pictures him, guitar-slung-over-back, sauntering away from the camera, carefully avoiding the waves lapping at his feet on some anonymous sandy beach. You might believe that the shot is taken at Malibu, St Tropez, Mozambique or some other glamourous location. But I reckon it might just be staged somewhere on the Solway, possibly a few miles from Gretna. And that leads me to believe that maybe the real Rod Stewart did appear to me in that forgotten field, sandwiched between the thundering M74, the Outlet Village and the border. In fact, I can almost hear him now: “If ya want my body and ya think I’m sexy….”

Colin’s photograph, and others from his series, “A Fine Line”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition can be bought online. You know you want to.  http://www.documentscotland.com/seeing-ourselves-newspaper/

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Review of ‘Seeing Ourselves’

Document Scotland were delighted to be interviewed by The Dundee Courier about the exhibition ‘Seeing Ourselves’. Stephen spoke with Jennifer McLaren and explained a little about what brought us together, our aims and our passions and how we curated the exhibition.

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A Lanarkshire Farm….Radek Nowacki

It was a foggy, cold morning  and I decided to make a round of Shotts fields to find some nice and quiet landscapes.I was driving the A71 to West Tarbrax Farm when I noticed this back road blocked by 2 huge tractor tires. It was my “Wow! Look at that”.  It was the way the light  softened by morning fog hits the object. I asked myself a lot of times what makes me stop and take my pictures. Something attracts me  in  a visceral way. I do not think about it much because it is not intellectual. It is purely visual.

After exploring many aspects of farming in Lanarkshire, after visiting a number of busy auction houses, and experiencing the energy around the industry, I came back again and again to the relatively quiet subject of one particular family farm near the town of Shotts, where I live. I am looking  for quiet and lyric documentary style, simple and strong portraits connected with lyric landscape.

Very quiet and foggy mornings full of soft and diffused light have helped me to catch the beauty of the moment, the light, the composition and structure, the tonality and emotional quality and that is the magic of photography. Finally I have decided to use black-and-white negatives to take quiet, lyric and disturbing images from hidden, farmer’s world.

Radek’s photograph, and others from his series, “The Farmer DNA”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.

Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition can be bought online. Treat yourself.  http://www.documentscotland.com/seeing-ourselves-newspaper/

 

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Iraqi Middlemen….Sarah Amy Fishlock

 

(c) Sarah Fishlock, 2013, All Right Reserved

As one might expect when photographing Iraqis who were resettled in Glasgow after having worked with the British government and forces in Iraq, the security of my subjects was paramount. I learned to make alternative portraits – images that did not explicitly reveal faces or identifying features, but that communicated something essential about the situation in which these families find themselves. Leaving a war-torn homeland in which they were viewed as ‘collaborators’ with the occupying forces, they face different problems in the UK – language barriers, an unstable employment market, and social isolation.

This image was taken right at the start of the project: I planned to take a few quick shots of Joe (not his real name) in his living room, as a way of familiarising him with the process. Joe’s wife was in the kitchen and his daughter was running about excitedly, wondering who this strange person was in her house. I asked Joe to stand by the window; a dignified, fastidious man, he clasped his hands behind his back. The winter light was weak so I set the shutter speed to 1/15 and worked with the aperture wide open – a necessity that later proved fortuitous.

After I had taken a few frames and was about to tell Joe that he could move, the little girl ran into the frame and stared straight at the camera; I quickly exposed one frame before she ran away. I was left feeling that something serendipitous had occurred, and when I saw the developed negative I was proved right; the combination of wide aperture, slight camera shake and shadow had even obscured her face enough for Joe to be happy for the image to be used. And anyway, he said, she won’t look the same in a few years. Maybe he was seeing her in the future: starting school, speaking English with a Glasgow accent, going to university, having a family of her own. Asking her parents about Iraq, the far-off country in which she was born. Picturing her story as a Scottish story, and feeling he’d done the right thing.

 

Sarah’s photograph, and others from her series, “Middlemen”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.

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