A PERFECT CHEMISTRY: PHOTOGRAPHS BY HILL & ADAMSON

A PERFECT CHEMISTRY:
PHOTOGRAPHS BY HILL & ADAMSON
27 May – 1 October 2017
SCOTTISH NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Admission: £10 (£8) | 0131 624 6200
#HillAndAdamson

Hill and Adamson, Sandy (or James) Linton, his boat and bairns ca.June 1845

This summer the Scottish National Portrait Gallery will explore the captivating images produced by the unique partnership of Scottish photographic pioneers David Octavius Hill (1802-1870) and Robert Adamson (1821-1848). A Perfect Chemistry will comprise over 100 photographic works dating from just four short years in the 1840s, when these two men changed the path of photography and created a remarkable body of work that has had an unparalleled impact on the medium. This will be the first time in 15 years that these treasured photographs will have been the subject of a large exhibition in the UK.

The artistic partnership between the painter Hill and the engineer Adamson was remarkable in many respects: only four years after the invention of photography was announced to the world in 1839, the Scottish pair had not only mastered and improved upon the new medium, but were producing breathtaking works in extraordinary quantities. Their innovative images appear surprisingly fresh even today and their subjects range from intimate portraits to beautiful cityscapes that document the urbanisation of the Scottish capital. A Perfect Chemistry will also feature fascinating images of the Newhaven fisherfolk which form one of the most significant groups within Hill and Adamson’s oeuvre; these outstanding photographs belie the technical challenges faced by the duo and are arguably among the first examples of social documentary images in the history of photography.

The meeting between Hill and Adamson was precipitated by a polarizing religious dispute: on 18 May 1843 a group of ministers walked out of the Church of Scotland’s annual General Assembly in Edinburgh and officially established the Free Church of Scotland. The event rocked the nation and political status quo, sending reverberations around the world. Hill was so moved by the ministers standing up for their beliefs that he decided to commemorate the event in a large-scale painting representing all 400 of them. He turned to Adamson, 19 years his junior, as the first and only professional calotypist in Edinburgh, to photograph the sitters as preliminary sketches for his grand painting.

Hill quickly became smitten by the new art form and within weeks of meeting, the two men entered into a partnership and began making photographs together. Within a matter of months their works were featured in exhibitions and receiving critical acclaim, often being compared to Rembrandt’s etchings due to the strong chiaroscuro (or contrasting dark and light) quality of the prints.

Ironically, Hill had approached photography as a means to expedite his painting yet it took him 23 years to finish his large commemorative canvas: The First General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland; Signing Act of Separation and Deed of Demission (1843-66).The imposing picture was ultimately sold to the Free Church of Scotland and it continues to hang today in their headquarters in Edinburgh.

The success of Hill and Adamson’s partnership relied on professional alchemy as well as personal affinity, with both men working and living in Rock House, a landmark building located on Edinburgh’s Calton Hill. Since making calotypes required natural sunlight, the photographers used the house’s south-facing garden as their studio, employing a series of props and several different backgrounds for their outdoor images.

These portraits made at Rock House represent a real ‘who’s who’ of Edinburgh’s society and illustrate the vibrancy of the capital’s cultural life in the 1840s; eminent sitters ranged from the artist Sir David Allan, to Isabella Burns Begg, the sister of poet Robert Burns, and the inventor of chloroform James Young Simpson. A string of foreign sitters also attested to the international nature of the capital at this time.

Hill’s artistry gave him an eye for composition, evident in an intriguing portrait of Lady Ruthven, whom he posed with her back to the camera to exploit the intricate lace detailing of her shawl against her dress. The image reads as a metaphor for photography itself: the negative and positive image captured on paper. Adamson appeared to push the boundaries of photography—demonstrating skills few possessed at such an early period in the history of the art form. To create calotypes the photographers dealt with a complex process of applying light-sensitive chemical solutions to paper in order to create the images. The steps involved were cumbersome and variable, yet the consistently high quality of the prints indicate they had perfected the process and mastered the fickle chemistry of early photography.

The exhibition also will reveal how Hill and Adamson made clever use of stylistic and practical devices when creating their pictures. Books not only suggested the sitter was educated, but the white pages allowed light to bounce back on the subject (at a time when there were no studio lights), while the actual object would keep the sitters’ fidgety hands occupied for the duration of the exposure. Poses were held anywhere from 30 seconds to several minutes depending on the available sunlight, and any fidgeting during that time would result in a blurred image. The resulting photographs nevertheless display remarkable vitality, and in some, carry the sense of spontaneity of a modern snapshot like in the group portrait Edinburgh Ale where the sitters exhibit relaxed poses and faint smiles.

Hill and Adamson also captured the fisherfolk of nearby Newhaven. The men and women of the village were known throughout Edinburgh and beyond for their distinctive costumes, and their reputation for bravery had made them a part of popular culture in the nineteenth century, even featuring as characters in novels by Sir Walter Scott. With the limitations of the medium, the photographers could not capture the boats at sea and interestingly some of their most iconic works from the series, depict the men beside their beached boats or tending to their fishing lines ashore. These shoots were not a casual day out at the shore; in order to record these subjects the two men had to transport all their cumbersome equipment (wooden box cameras, tripods, paper, and support stands) to the site. Such complex requirements didn’t stop Hill and Adamson from travelling around Scotland—Glasgow, Linlithgow and St Andrews — and even as far afield as Durham and York in England. The Newhaven images are rare examples of social documentary photography and a selection of the Newhaven photographs was shown at the Great Exhibition at the Crystal Palace in London in 1851; an early indication of the importance of the partnership to the history of photography.

The untimely death of Adamson on 14 January 1848, at the age of 26, marked the end of this unparalleled partnership, but their legacy continues. The fact that the photographs continue to delight is indicative of the special chemistry shared by these two Scottish pioneers. The last exhibition of this scale of Hill and Adamson’s fragile works was Facing the Light at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2002.

Christopher Baker, Director of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, commented: “Hill and Adamson’s works are the foundation of the photography collection at the National Galleries of Scotland. Their contribution to the history of photography was profound and enduring and is appreciated all over the world. The National Galleries holds the most comprehensive collection in existence and this very carefully selected exhibition will demonstrate the full range of their achievement. We are delighted to be providing visitors with an opportunity to view such important and inspiring works as part of our long-term commitment to promoting the appreciation of photography.”

Sue Dawe, EY Managing Partner for Edinburgh and Head of Financial Services in Scotland, said: “EY has long been a supporter of the arts and I am delighted that we are able to continue our sponsorship in Scotland with the National Galleries of Scotland. The work showcased in this exhibition demonstrates a legacy of industry and ingenuity for which Scotland is renowned worldwide. On behalf of EY, I am proud to help celebrate the efforts of two creative, Edinburgh-based photographers who were dedicated to their craft and documenting Scotland’s social history.”

A Perfect Chemistry: Photographs by Hill & Adamson is part of the Edinburgh Art Festival.

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Gone fishing

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Graham MacIndoe – Coming Clean

Untitled from the series Coming Clean, negative: 2004-2010; printed 2015 by Graham MacIndoe (b.1963). © Graham MacIndoe

 

GRAHAM MACINDOE: COMING CLEAN
8 April – 5 November 2017
Scottish National Portrait Gallery
1 Queen Street, Edinburgh, EH2 1JD
Admission free
#GrahamMacIndoe

Powerful self-portraits depicting drug addiction of acclaimed Scottish photographer to be shown by National Galleries of Scotland

A compelling and powerful series of photographs that document an acclaimed Scottish photographer’s devastating descent into drug addiction are to be given an exclusive first public showing this spring at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG).

Graham MacIndoe: Coming Clean will exhibit 25 personal and graphic images taken throughout the six-year period in which heroin and crack cocaine seized hold of successful New York-based photographer Graham MacIndoe (b.1963).

These hugely original photographs intimately record MacIndoe’s downward trajectory from professional photographer with a flourishing career to struggling opiate addict, a journey of anguish and isolation that was to culminate in an arrest for drug possession and a four-month stint in New York’s notorious Riker’s Island prison and five months in an American immigration detention centre before he got clean.

The images both powerfully confront the perilous destructiveness of addiction and explore the genre of self-portraiture in a way unrivalled in the photographic medium.

Graham MacIndoe studied painting at Edinburgh College of Art and received a Masters degree in photography at the Royal College of Art in London, before moving to New York in 1992 where he later pursued a career as a professional photographer. His work began to appear in some of the world’s leading publications, including The New York Times and The Guardian.

MacIndoe’s success led him to take portraits of the most recognisable people in the world, from Hollywood actors and authors to international artists and pop stars. However, he began to use alcohol and drugs in part to mitigate the stress arising from this demanding lifestyle, and also upheaval in his personal life, but his heroin habit gradually overtook everything that once mattered.

MacIndoe has now been clean for seven years, largely thanks to an innovative prison rehab program, what he describes as “a compassionate judge” and the support of his partner Susan Stellin, a reporter with whom he co-wrote Chancers: Addiction, Prison, Recovery, Love: One Couple’s Memoir, published by Random House in June 2016.

The recovery has seen MacIndoe prosper again, as a working photographer and as adjunct professor of photography at Parsons The New School in New York City, while he and Stellin were awarded a 2014 Alicia Patterson Foundation Fellowship for a project about deportation. In addition to being represented in the National Galleries of Scotland collection, his photographs also reside in the collections of The New York Public Library, The British Council, The V&A Museum, The Museum of Fine Arts, St Petersburg, Florida and The National Media Museum, Bradford.

While other photographers have shown the excesses of drug-taking in graphic detail before, the position usually adopted has been one of voyeur; not of subject. In MacIndoe’s case, his images do not show an individual exploited for a mass audience, so the power and control rests firmly with himself, and never before has a photographer captured addiction with such subjective honesty and rigour from the inside. This produced body of work is not only truly ground-breaking in its content, but in fact requires a certain degree of courage in viewing.

Coming Clean’s images are a result of a powerful interdependence between MacIndoe’s strong compulsions, the drive to capture the consequences of his addiction, and of his dexterous ability to do so.

The photographer hoped to avoid glamorising what had become “a solitary existence, the monotonous repetition of an addict’s daily life. I turned the camera on myself because I wanted to photograph addiction from the inside – a perspective most people never see”.

He admits that, “even in that haziness of addiction I was thinking like a photographer… how these pictures would be perceived”, and throughout this, his photographer’s eye remained keen and strong, even if everything else did not.

In their use of light, composition and ambiance, this eye emanates through Coming Clean’s images. Using basic digital cameras with self-timers, MacIndoe recorded himself while engaging in his personal drug rituals. His skilful use of light and shadow created a series of haunting self-portraits that reveal the squalor and stark reality of addiction.

Almost all the photographs are set within the small and limiting confines of his flat in Brooklyn. There is little connection with or evidence of the outside world and the few views of the city outside recorded from the window only seem to reinforce the isolating and claustrophobic existence. The only figure to appear in the scenes is MacIndoe himself, whose ghost-like presence is often exaggerated through the piercing light. In one portrait he is photographed against a window—turning his back literally and figuratively on the outside world—and the strong backlight has effectively distorted his body so that his head appears to float up and away.

Though no image, perhaps, is as symbolic of Coming Clean as that in which a clearly incapacitated MacIndoe rests his head on a seat, the evidence of a recent heroin injection in his contorted face and blood trickling from his forearm. Not only does MacIndoe, albeit inadvertently, frame the whole shot with his outstretched hand, but in his final action before descending into unconsciousness leaves the viewer with the understanding that amid the chaos, what he had been reaching out for was is the one thing he’d been left with any discernible control over; his camera.

Graham MacIndoe said: “It is a great honour to have the first showing of this body of work at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. Although the images were taken during a difficult time, I am grateful to have made it through that period and hope this series shows that recovery is possible even from the depths of serious addiction. I never anticipated that these photographs would find a place in the national collection, so I’m especially excited for the opportunity to exhibit them in the city where I first discovered photography”.

Annie Lyden, International Photography Curator at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, said: “These photographs offer a rare insight into a very real aspect of the human condition. Graham’s honesty and courage in documenting this particular moment of his life allows us to see the rawness and isolation of addiction from the inside. The images are powerful and are at times upsetting, but you will not find a more candid and revealing series of self-portraits than Graham MacIndoe’s Coming Clean photographs.”

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‘Gravitas’ at London Art Fair

We’re delighted that Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’ project, which examines the culture of the Common Riding festivals of the Scottish Borders, has been chosen to be included in the Photo50 show at London Art Fair which runs this week from Wednesday 18th – Sunday 22nd January.

Photo50 is London Art Fair’s annual exhibition of contemporary photography, providing a critical form for examining some of the most distinctive elements of current photographic practice. 2017’s installment is ‘Gravitas‘, a group exhibition of lens-based works, curated by Christiane Monarchi, editor of Photomonitor photography website.

Also from Scotland and included in the show are works from a new portrait project by Wendy McMurdo which examines the dual existence of children and their digital online worlds.

GRAVITAS

“‘Gravitas’ refers to one of the core personal virtues taken by ancient Roman society as an important part of the expression of a purposeful life, a facet of the ideal and well-rounded citizen. It denoted depth as well as a seriousness and solemnity of character. The presence of gravitas signalled the transition of the Roman youth from the ranks of boyhood to become a respected member of society.

Artistic representation of the interior world of children and adolescents as they enter the adult world is fraught with challenges: not least the existence of taboos regarding the portrayal of children in the media under the age of consent. However, at a time when childhood itself comes under increasing pressure from society in many real and virtual arenas, the path through adolescence constitutes a fascinating journey worth illuminating for both artistic and sociological discourse.” – Christiane Monarchi explains the exhibition.

 

Ethan McMurdo as monk, St. Ronan’s games festival, Innerleithen, Scotland on 19th July 2014.

 

Jeremy will be exhibiting portraits of youths (above) participating in the Common Riding festivals from his Unsullied And Untarnished project, photographic portraits of the people of the towns of the Scottish Borders who each year undertake the maintaining of tradition, commemorating their local history and strengthening the bonds of their communities, during the annual Common Riding festivals of the summer months. Braw Lassies and Honest Lads, Left Hand Lassies and Right Hand Men, Cornets, Hunters and Coldstreamers – all titles given to the upstanding youths who lead the festivities, and whose duty it is to carry the burgh or town standard around the common lands, to “bring it back unsullied and untarnished”.

Wendy McMurdo’s work focuses on the now ubiquitous role of the computer in the lives of the majority of western children. The rapid proliferation of computers in schools has provided the context for the development of much of her work, which looks directly at the influence of computers on early years education. Working closely with local schools, she has explored the role of the child within the school, the growth of the Internet and the development of networked play. In related projects, she shadowed school parties on educational visits to various local museums, a process which evolved naturally from photographing in the classroom. From this, she produced series of works that explored the ways in which children related to the museum and its objects in a world of increasing simulation. She is based in Edinburgh.

Young Girl (iii), photo © Wendy McMurdo 2016.

 

Talking of the project Wendy says, “In the summer of this year, my youngest daughter was about to leave primary school and I wanted to make a final piece of work documenting her class. I’d worked with this group on many occasions over the years, mainly looking at the impact that the computer and digital culture had on their lives.

That summer, location based gaming exploded onto the scene and it seemed that much of this group’s time outside school was spent chasing Pokémon around the streets of the city. Using GPS and their camera functions, they roamed the city, inhabiting two worlds at the same time – one geographic and one imaginary. In this set of portraits, I wanted to capture that dual existence, now that space has been re-imagined for us by the appearance of location-based gaming.”

‘Gravitas’ Exhibiting Artists.

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Harry Benson: Shoot First

 

HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST – a new movie about acclaimed photojournalist Harry Benson, native of Glasgow and now residing in New York, and Honorary Patron of Document Scotland, is now out in the cinemas.

HARRY BENSON: SHOOT FIRST will be shown at the Filmhouse in Edinburgh on Monday, February 6 and Tuesday, February 7. And no doubt on many more screens to come.

Watch the trailer here.

 

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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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Jo Spence

Photo Therapy, (1984-86) Jo Spence in collaboration with Rosy Martin Copyright the Estate of Jo Spence. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery

Photo Therapy, (1984-86) Jo Spence in collaboration with Rosy Martin Copyright the Estate of Jo Spence. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery

 

The work of Jo Spence, British photographer, educator and writer (1934 – 1992) is the focus for Stills Gallery’s summer exhibition. Curated by Ben Harman, the exhibition presents a powerful and important collection of Jo Spence’s work from her documentary work and collaborative projects to her self exploratory portraiture.

From Stills exhibition introduction:

‘Typically working in collaboration with individuals or groups, using the camera as a tool to empower herself and others, Jo Spence explored how photography can represent, frame and construct reality. She worked tirelessly to address issues such as class, family, sexuality, illness and death and made a hugely influential contribution to photographic practice and debates around the politics of representation.’

 

Children’s Educational Work , 1973-75 Jo Spence in collaboration with Terry Dennett Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016 Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery Photo © Alan Dimmick

Children’s Educational Work , 1973-75 Jo Spence in collaboration with Terry Dennett Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016 Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery Photo © Alan Dimmick

 

Children’s Educational Work , 1973-75 Jo Spence in collaboration with Terry Dennett Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016 Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery Photo © Alan Dimmick

Children’s Educational Work , 1973-75 Jo Spence in collaboration with Terry Dennett Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016 Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery Photo © Alan Dimmick

 

The exhibition is divided into three sections

  • Children’s Educational Work (1973-75) Documentary work from her long term collaboration with Terry Dennett including images from Children Photographed, Adventure Playgrounds and The Secret World of Children.
  • Self Portraits (1978-92) Jo’s challenging and powerful self exploratory images made in collaboration with others and including photographs about her breast cancer diagnosis.
  • The Polysnappers (1981) A rare collection of panels from the degree show work Family, Fantasy and Photography by the collaborative group formed when Jo Spence was a student.

 


Document Scotland were kindly given the opportunity to speak to Ben Harman Director of Stills Gallery and curator of this exhibition, Mary-Ann Kennedy lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University and a member of the Polysnappers who worked with Jo in the 1980s and Malcolm Dickson Director of Street level Photoworks who curated an exhibition of Jo’s work in Glasgow in 2005.

We asked Ben, Mary Ann and Malcolm about their experiences working with Jo, creating work collaboratively, curating exhibitions in Scotland and why her work is important, and ever relevant in 2016.

We hope you enjoy the images and interviews. Do catch the exhibition at Stills if you can, it’s on until 16th October 2016 and one not to miss this Festival.

 


 

Document Scotland: Ben, what attracted you to curate this exhibition of Jo Spence’s work at Stills Gallery in Scotland at this time?

Ben Harman: In my previous job as Curator of Contemporary Art for Glasgow Museums I was regularly in touch with Terry Dennett from the Jo Spence Memorial Archive in London and I included Jo’s work in several exhibitions at GoMA between 2004 and 2013. Glasgow Museums had acquired work from Jo in about 1990, towards the end of her life. As far as I’m aware, it was the first public collection in the UK to do so.

Jo has been represented in themed group exhibitions at Stills in the past but a solo show in Edinburgh seemed long overdue. The timing of our display is largely due to our interest in presenting her work during the Edinburgh Art Festival at a time of year when we typically receive our highest audience figures. During last year’s festival, our exhibition of work by kennardphillipps was incredibly well received and so for 2016 we wanted to offer something similarly concerned with how photography can alter and inform our experiences of the social and political issues of our time.

Jo Spence installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016. Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery Photo © Alan Dimmick

Jo Spence installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016. Courtesy the Estate of Jo Spence and Richard Saltoun Gallery Photo © Alan Dimmick

 

DS: Malcolm, in 2005, along with Terry Dennet of the Jo Spence Memorial Archive, you curated the exhibition ‘Jo Spence : Photographer – Works from the Archive’ at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow. Can you tell us a little about that exhibition.

Malcolm Dickson: Jo was, of course, a pioneer in photographic practices but also a prolific writer, teacher and cultural worker across the board. What appealed to us was the inspiring combination of an oppositional stance with an exploratory and playful spirit. She also had a salient position in terms of the subject which is never talked about – Class! Jo believed that everyday life is the source of all meaningful art – photography is a tool that can be used by everyone in any situation for self-knowledge, personal growth and of course social critique.

The exhibition at Street Level covered three decades – some from her early high street studio work in the mid 70s; works from the mid-80s on self-image, class and health; and the ‘Final Project’ in the 90s, in which we presented 15 newly produced and framed prints which illustrated her allegorical approach in still lives.

A wall also contained wallpapered posters from collectives she helped establish – Photography Workshop, Half Moon, Camerawork, the Hackney Flashers and the Polysnappers. We also had available a number of copies of Photography Politics which she co-edited with Terry.

 

DS: Ben, why did you focus on the particular elements of Jo Spence’s work you’ve gathered together for this exhibition at Stills?

BH: We wanted to find a way of presenting work that Jo is well-known for as well as material that hasn’t been seen in Scotland before. In this way the exhibition might serve as a point of interest for those that are familiar with her work as well as an introductory overview for those that are not.

Past exhibitions in Scotland, such as at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow in 2005, have covered much of the ‘Final Project’, her last series made in collaboration with Terry Dennett, so we are only exhibiting two works from that series.

The term ‘Self Portraits’ is a bit inadequate in relation to Jo’s work which was always in collaboration with others but we found this to be a useful umbrella title under which to show examples from a variety of her projects and collaborations from the late 1970s onwards. These are presented in our front gallery.

The photographs from Children’s Educational Work has been available as research material but is very rarely seen. I felt it was important for this to be on display as it provides a fascinating background to Jo’s later work and shows where she wanted to take photography at a time when she had become completely disillusioned with her commercial photography business.

The Polysnappers material is quite simply unique and has not been on public display on this scale since 1981. The group were formed at the Polytechnic of Central London, where Jo had enrolled as a mature student in 1979, and Family, Fantasy & Photography was their final degree show. At the core of this work is a concern with the politics of representation. For the inclusion of this work I have to thank Mary Ann Kennedy who was a member of The Polysnappers (along with Jo Spence, Charlotte Pembrey and Jane Munro) and is based in Edinburgh.

 

Family, Fantasy & Photography, (1981) by The Polysnappers Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016 Courtesy Mary Ann Kennedy, Jane Munro, Charlotte Pembrey and Jo Spence Photo © Alan Dimmick

Family, Fantasy & Photography, (1981) by The Polysnappers Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016 Courtesy Mary Ann Kennedy, Jane Munro, Charlotte Pembrey and Jo Spence Photo © Alan Dimmick

 

Family, Fantasy & Photography, (1981) by The Polysnappers. Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016. Courtesy Mary Ann Kennedy, Jane Munro, Charlotte Pembrey and Jo Spence Photo © Alan Dimmick.

Family, Fantasy & Photography, (1981) by The Polysnappers. Installation view at Stills, Edinburgh, 2016. Courtesy Mary Ann Kennedy, Jane Munro, Charlotte Pembrey and Jo Spence Photo © Alan Dimmick.

 

DS: Speaking of the Polysnappers, Mary Ann – in this exhibition at Stills we see a large (and rare) display of panels produced in 1981 by ‘The Polysnappers’ a group which you were a part of  – could you tell us a little about who they were and how/why they came about?

Mary-Ann Kennedy: I was a photography student at the then polytechnic of central London with a determination to work collaboratively whenever possible and a commitment to education and visual literacy. Charlotte, Jane and I had been working together when Jo joined the poly in our second year.  By the end of that year we formed the Polysnappers to address the politics of representation, visual literacy and the responsibilities of the image maker within an educational format – the travelling exhibition- that was accessible to a wide audience.

 

DS: What was the focus of your work as a group?

MAK: ‘Three Perspectives on Photography’ opened at the Hayward Gallery in 1979*, Community arts was beginning to embrace the use of photography, predominantly in its documentary format. Media education was interrogating film, TV and advertising but not the production and use of the photograph. We felt there was a space to visually work through the role photography plays in the formation of identities, in our understanding of the world and our place/position within it – and to make visible the personal as political.

Photography is a communicative tool, great for telling stories – as image makers we were concerned with the paucity of stories told, the voices silenced, and how photography too often colluded in those absences.

(* The Hayward Gallery’s first exhibition of photography described as “groundbreaking” by Gloria Chalmers in Portfolio Magazine)

 

DS: What was your experience of working collaboratively?

MAK: As with all collectives – we debated (argued!) but we found, acknowledged and worked to our individual strengths.  My memory may be of continual exhaustion but our depth of engagement and production level was only possible through collaboration.  We were able to push each other, network beyond our imagining as well well as learn new skills.  It was quite magic!

 

DS: What do you feel is the relevance and importance of showing this work in 2016?

MAK: The work was exhibited by the Cockpit Community arts project  for over 10 years but it has formed the basis of over 30 years teaching in higher education for me.  It may have been nostalgic for me to see it exhibited in a ‘retrospective’ –  I was rather concerned about how ‘dated’ it would look.  But it has been a salutary lesson in the response of, particularly, young women – the recognition that far too little has changed.  If the work is resonating with the current wave of feminism – a wider, more inclusive reflection on the role that photography plays in lived experience, then I’m indebted to Ben for showing it.

MD: The exhibition at Stills is a critical re-evaluation of Jo’s work and hones in on certain key material largely unseen since its original production – the collection from the Polysnappers for example; the original photographs from the studio portrait days and early days of Photography Workshop. It combines all the elements of Jo’s practice as a visual artist, activist, and educationalist very well and these elements are vital components in helping the public and younger artists to understand the inextricable link between them in a ‘practice’

 

Image credit: Various poster works, 1979 – 1995, Jo Spence. Courtesy Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow & Terry Dennett

Image credit: Various poster works, 1979 – 1995, Jo Spence. Courtesy Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow & Terry Dennett

 

DS: Ben, what was the reason to include only a small collection of Jo’s documentary work from the 1970’s in this current exhibition?

BH: It was important to have a representative balance of work in the exhibition so I didn’t want the content to be weighted too much in any one direction. However, Jo was extremely prolific and any one series or aspect of her work, such as this, could easily be drawn out for an exhibition in itself. There is also the practical reason that much of the documentary material from the 1970s is unframed and this has an affect on exhibition design and related costs.

I hope that each of the three sections of our exhibition offer enough of a taster to encourage visitors to go away and find out more about Jo’s work and ideas. A few comments have been made referring to our exhibition as a ‘retrospective’ which is flattering but far from the truth. Our presentation is really just the tip of the iceberg but the work must be seen!

In a note from Jo to Terry Dennett, discovered after her death in 1992, she quoted Woody Guthrie: “When I am gone don’t mourn – organise.”

 

Jo Spence, Adventure Playgrounds: Photographing housing communities and children’s playgrounds (1973-1975). Copyright the Estate of Jo Spence. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery

Jo Spence, Adventure Playgrounds: Photographing housing communities and children’s playgrounds (1973-1975). Image © Copyright the Estate of Jo Spence. Courtesy Richard Saltoun Gallery

 

DS: What do you feel is the relevance and importance of showing Jo’s work in 2016. How is the show being received?

BH: We are 1 month into the exhibition and we are on track to have one of our busiest exhibitions on record. This is partly due to the enduring influence, importance and relevance of Jo’s work and ideas. The issues of class, illness, ageing, sexuality, family and gender politics that she addressed have not gone away. Her development of the Photo Therapy technique (with Rosy Martin) and her use of the camera as a tool to empower herself and others and to construct her own image seems to have anticipated contemporary trends.

MD: Although ten years apart, I think the recent show at Stills and the earlier one at Street Level have given substantial representation of Jo’s practice, and provided understanding of the convergence of political and artistic concerns that index community photography to all subsequent socially engaged practices in British Art.

I first met Jo in 1990 when she came to Glasgow and did a talk through the Free University of Glasgow that I was involved in at the time. She contributed an article around her book ‘Cultural Sniping’ to the relaunched Variant and her image was on the cover. The purchases made by Glasgow Museums of her work are very important in keeping her work circulating – Ben was an advocate of that in his previous role and it’s really satisfying to see that coming through in this excellent exhibition at Stills.

 

Jo Spence, Contact Sheet - Gypsies, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print, 1974 © Jo Spence & Terry Dennett image courtesy of Hyman Collection, London

Jo Spence, Contact Sheet – Gypsies, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print, 1974 Image © Copyright the Estate of Jo Spence. Courtesy Hyman Collection, London

 

Jo Spence, Contact Sheet - Gypsies, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print, 1974 © Jo Spence & Terry Dennett image courtesy of Hyman Collection, London

Jo Spence, Contact Sheet – Gypsies, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print, 1974 Image © Copyright the Estate of Jo Spence. Courtesy Hyman Collection, London

 

 

 

Many thanks to Malcolm, Ben and Mary Ann for speaking with us. Generous thanks also to Terry Dennett, The Jo Spence Memorial Archive & The Hyman Collection.

The Jo Spence exhibition is on at Stills Gallery, Cockburn Street, Edinburgh until 16th October 2016.

Further Resources:

 

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St Andrews Photography Festival & Salon

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

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

 

Document Scotland Exhibition

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Salon Event 28th August 2016 3-5pm

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Press Release

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

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

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

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

The Festival was recently featured in The Scotsman

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Further info

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Salon event 2016

Our Salon events for 2016 start next month, and we are delighted to be partnering with the University of Highlands and Islands to bring you events across Scotland. On the 18th February 2016 we will be hosting an event from Perth College which will be streamed live to venues across Scotland.

We hope you’ll be able to join us!

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Please jois us in Perth or at any of the venues here;

Room 325, Perth College UHI, Creiff Road, Perth, PH1 2NX  tel: 0845 270 1177

Inverness College UHI, 1 Inverness Campus, Inverness, IV2 5NA tel: 01463 273 000

Moray College UHI, Moray Street, Elgin, Moray, IV30 1JJ tel: 01343 576 000

Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LX tel: 01856 569 000

Shetland College UHI, Gremista, Lerwick, Shetland, ZE1 0PX tel: 01595 771 000

Lews Castle College UHI, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0XR tel: 01851 770 000

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Common Ground Exhibition – Part Two!

Happy 2016 everyone – to kick start this year Document Scotland have once again joined forces with our good friends the Welsh collective A Fine Beginning. Continuing our theme of collaboration and partnership to show our exhibition Common Ground.

The exhibition opening evening (to which you are all most welcome) is on Thuesday 4th February at 6pm at Wales Millennium Centre, Bute Place, Cardiff Bay, CF10 5AL.

The show was first exhibited at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow from August to October in 2014.

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It will now travel to Wales to be shown at The Millennium Centre in Cardiff from 5th February – 10th April 2016. Where Document Scotland and a Fine Beginning will also deliver a series of FREE talks and portfolio reviews.

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The publication to accompany this exciting collaboration, also called Common Ground, is on sale via our website, and at various retail outlets across Scotland.

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Here’s the press release for the Cardiff phase, Part 2, of Common Ground.

We hope you can join us at one or more of the events.

Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-1 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-2 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-3 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-4 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-5 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-6 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-7 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-8 Common-Ground-Press-Release-Wales-9

As ever thank you to our partners and funders.

 

 

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National Galleries events – Curators’ Tour

On Thursday 14th January 2016 Anne Lyden, International Photography Curator of our exhibition “The Ties That Bind” currently on at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, will lead a tour of the exhibition from 5pm – 5:30pm.

All are welcome – this event is FREE.

For more information please see here

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