A recent acquisition – St Andrews University archive

Sophie Gerrard's prints being signed for The University of St Andrews Special Collection

Sophie Gerrard’s signed prints from the series Tunnocks, and Drawn To The Land being prepared for The University of St Andrews Special Collection © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved

 

We delivered four lovely boxes of prints and a hard drive of digital files to St Andrews this week and are very pleased that Document Scotland’s work has now become one of the most recent acquisitions to the St Andrews University Special Collection.

Document Scotland started working with Marc Boulay and the University of St Andrews archive just over a year ago.  The University’s Special Collections Division holds over 800,000 images from the 1840s onwards and we are delighted and proud to have our prints and digital files now included in such an extensive, impressive and important collection of photography in Scotland.

 

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert's prints from the series 'Life in The Third' being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s prints from the series ‘Life in The Third’ being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s prints from the series ‘Unsullied and Untarnished’ being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Stephen McLaren’s prints from the series ‘Scotia Nova’ being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Stephen McLaren's prints from the series 'Scotia Nova' being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

Stephen McLaren’s prints from the series ‘Scotia Nova’ being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Colin McPherson's prints from the Scottish independence referendum being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

Colin McPherson’s prints from the Scottish independence referendum being boxed for the University of St Andrews Special Collection archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

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Marc Boulay of The University of St Andrews Special Collections Division, receives Document Scotland’s prints and digital files for the archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

Marc Boulay of The University of St Andrews Special Collections Division, receives Document Scotland's boxes of prints. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

Marc Boulay of The University of St Andrews Special Collections Division, receives Document Scotland’s boxes of prints and digital files for the archive. © Document Scotland 2015 all rights reserved.

 

We’ve had the pleasure of working with the ever charming Marc Boulay and his team at the University over the last year or so. Thank you Marc for all your help, assistance, support and enthusiasm for our work.

 

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Arpita Shah – Ghar

Vishnu and Lakshmi (Mr & Mrs Parkash)

Vishnu and Lakshmi (Mr & Mrs Parkash)
image © Arpita Shah 2011, all rights reserved

 

Sophie was recently invited to speak about Document Scotland as part of  TalkSee Photography at Glasgow’s Centre for Contemporary Arts. It was a lively evening – a great turnout with a good debate afterwards and also it was the first time we met Arpita Shah – and saw her speak about her photography.

One of the projects Arpita presented was Ghar – which means Home in Hindi – an ongoing series of portraits that focuses around the lives of middle class Hindu families living in Scotland.

We immediately felt it was a project we wanted to feature on the blog – Arptita took some time to share some thoughts on her work and this project in particulate with us.

DS – Hi Arpita – can you talk to us a little about your motivations for starting this project and where it began.

AS – Ghar is an ongoing project and started back in 2006 during the final year of my post grad in Photography at Napier University. At the time I was writing a research paper on family photographs, in particular exploring my own family album. I became fascinated with childhood photographs of me and my brother dressed up as mythological Hindu characters or standing in front of very theatrical painted backdrops, which is quite common in the Indian family album. And so it was this concept of theatre and mythology and it’s relationship to Indian vernacular photography that visually inspired the work.

In terms of the motivation behind the project, ever since moving to Edinburgh I was really curious about the Hindu Community in Scotland, because I didn’t realise how large it was. With my interest in family photographs, I wanted to collaborate with Hindu families and make work, which explored the idea of home and identity. There was also this element of curiosity I had, having not grown up in Scotland, on what Hindu homes would be like, and if there would be any similarities or differences to my own childhood home which was scattered between India, Ireland, Saudi Arabia and England.

What I discovered was that, there was this strange familiarity in each home and in each family that reflected my own home, and even though I hadn’t met these families before there was just something intrinsically there that connected them to me.

Annapurna & Shiva (Mr & Mrs Sengupta)

Annapurna & Shiva (Mr & Mrs Sengupta)
image © Arpita Shah 2011, all rights reserved

 

DS – How did you meet and select your subjects?

AS – The Hindu community is quite tight knit, so at the start it was a little challenging especially because my family are not based in Scotland and so I was a complete stranger asking if I could come over to their homes and take portraits of their family.

So initially, I started off by contacting Hindu organisations such as the Mandir (Hindu temple) and meeting the community through events held there. Once I met my first family, they recommended me to another and it sort of continued that way. I always go visit the family first to get to know them between and once I learn more about them, it inspires the portrait and mythological characters they take on in their staged portraits.

DS – We at Document Scotland  are fascinated by the way this project documents the homes of the people you photographed. Other projects you’ve made feature anonymous coloured backdrops, what made you want to photograph these subjects in their homes and can you talk a little about the importance that that plays in the images.

The home plays a very important role in Ghar, because it’s the interiors that initially transported me back to my memories of my own family home. The homes, I entered were so familiar, they were full of elements that reminded me an aunt’s house in India, or my childhood home in Saudi or England. And the families I met somehow reflected similarities to my own family, so the work is all about how these homes can be located anywhere in the world but when you enter one, there’s something universal and familiar about them which makes them a Hindu home and a Hindu family.

In terms of the staged aspect in the portraits, the home acts as an ideal backdrop for the themes explored in the work. After meeting each family, I selected Hindu mythological characters for them to take on in their portraits. Each family restaged a story that somehow reflected and revealed something unique and important about them and their family values. So having the portraits taken in the home is also really symbolic, because it’s all about retelling ancient Indian stories and placing them in a domestic setting, and so in a way bringing these cultural myths’ to life and showing how they still continue to have cultural relevance to contemporary Indians.

King Dasaratha and Queen Kausilya (Mr and Mrs Agarwal)

King Dasaratha and Queen Kausilya (Mr and Mrs Agarwal)
image © Arpita Shah 2011, all rights reserved

 

DS – How does this project fit within your practise in general?

AS – As an India-born artist, my work is fascinated with exploring themes around identity home and diaspora. I grew up between India, Saudi Arabia, Ireland the UK and so my work tends to focus around exploring the experience of shifting cultural identities.  I am always meeting individuals in Scotland that share similar narratives to me, and the photographic work I make is all about collaborating with them, and sharing and celebrating their journeys, their histories and identities. I tend to reference cultural mythology a lot in my images, and Ghar is one of my earlier bodies of work where this interest began.

 

 

Yama & Yami (Guarav and Nisha Ramayya)

Yama & Yami (Guarav and Nisha Ramayya)
image © Arpita Shah 2010, all rights reserved

 

DS – With your continuation of the work are you looking for more subjects?

AS – Yes, I would be keen to collaborate with the Indian community in the Highlands. I think it would be great to represent a variety of Hindu families from all over Scotland.

DS – What do the subjects think of the work?

AS – As the work is ongoing, only a small preview of the work has been exhibited. The subjects have been really positive about the work, and I think when they see the portraits together – it really enhances their understanding of what the project is all about. Because there is such a large Asian community in Scotland, it can be hard to distinguish the various communities within it, so the Hindu community have been really excited about the project, as there hasn’t been specific work that has documented that particular community.

Riddhi and Siddhi (The Doshi twins)

Riddhi and Siddhi (The Doshi twins 2011)
image © Arpita Shah 2011, all rights reserved

 

DS – Where is the project heading and any thoughts on its conclusion/display/exhibition /publication etc ?

AS – I would like to continue photographing Scottish Hindu families, and would also like to expand the series to documenting families in England and Northern Ireland. I envision the final work to be a touring exhibition as well as a publication documenting different generation Hindu families who have settled in UK. I think in the future, a book would great, because it would retell ancient Hindu stories through the experiences of contemporary Asian families living in UK.

Thanks Arpita –

To see more of Arpita’s work take a look at her website here  www.arpitashah.com

 

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Commitment

Craig Buchan has been photographing, the Sisters of the Poor Clare Order, in Humbie, near Edinburgh. The work constitutes a photo exhibition starting at the recently opened Trigg Gallery in Dundas Street, Edinburgh, on August 15th. Gallery is open Monday to Friday 8.30am – 18.30pm and Saturday 8.30am to 13.30pm.

 

Commitment by Craig Buchan.

“Sisters Dominique and Veronica live in the quiet countryside village of Humbie, 20 miles east of Edinburgh. Their home is a modest convent with a chapel and a well-tended garden, which they share with their well-loved two pet dogs Zara and Craigen, who also feature in the photo-essay.  They are Sisters of the Poor Clare Order.

©Craig Buchan 2013, all rights reserved.

 

“The form of life of the Order of the Poor Sisters . . . is this: to observe the holy Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ by living in obedience, without possessing anything as my own and in chastity.” – Rule of St Clare.

Founded by Saint Clare and Saint Francis of Assisi, the Poor Clare’s are contemplative communities with lives centred on prayer in praise of God, and in intercession for the needs of the world.

Daily life in a Poor Clare Monastery is centred around the Eucharist and communal recitation/ singing of the Divine Office – the Prayer of the Church. Seven times a day the sisters gather for the different “Hours” of the Divine Office – Morning Prayer, the Office of Readings, Terce, Sext, None, Vespers (Evening Prayer) and Compline. They also have private prayer – one and a half hours – and spiritual reading, as well as Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament on specific times and days. They also manage to find time to receive many visitors each week and emails requesting prayers from people from all around the world who are worried about illness, are bereaved, anxious about relationships, family difficulties or anything else.

“A vocation to be a nun comes from God’s free choice of certain individuals; commitment comes from our free choice to cooperate with the graces received with His call and is the fruit of our loving self-surrender to God”.

©Craig Buchan 2013, all rights reserved.

 

As an outsider and a photographer I was welcomed into their own quiet and private lives, they were open and honest and happy to let me document their world. I feel that their kind and generous characters, playful nature and selfless lives are honestly shown in my photo essay. It was fascinating for me to see things develop and get an insight into the parts of their lives that you would not normally see or associate with being a nun. To someone on the outside looking in it had a feeling of surreality seeing them doing the simple everyday things like playing with their pet dogs or washing their car or gathering wood. As sister Dominique said to me ‘like seeing how the other half live’.

I was intrigued by the kind of person that devotes their life to a faith and to help others especially in such a self-obsessed climate like today’s society where material belongings and career climbing mean more to people than any kind of spiritual enlightenment. Religion, to me, has a very mixed image in Scotland today. Most coverage in the media is of a negative nature, whether it be war or scandals involving priests or poor bank investment choices, but from getting to know the Sisters of Humbie and spending time documenting their everyday lives it was somewhat reassuring to see the positive nature of their religious beliefs and how this contented and fulfilled them.” – Craig Buchan.

Click here to see more of Craig Buchan’s photography.

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Middlemen

Today here on Document Scotland we post a portfolio of Sarah Amy Fishlock’s ‘Middlemen’ series, work examining the lives of former Iraqi translators working for the British Governement and army in Iraq. We caught up with Sarah and she kindly agreed to answer some questions about her project via email:

DS- What made you take on this project, how did it come about ?

SF- I was interested in documenting the lives of people from the Middle East who have settled in Glasgow. I spent a few months researching and trying to make contacts, with limited success. As it turned out, the Scottish Middle Eastern Council were receptive to my ideas and helped put me in touch with three men who had worked with the British forces and government in Iraq, and who were now settled in Glasgow under the Locally Engaged Staff Assistance Scheme. My project then evolved into a portrait of these three families and their new lives in the UK.

DS- How difficult was it to gain the access to the people you’ve photographed, and what was their reaction to your request to show a little of their lives ?

SF- Once I had built up a rapport with SMEC, they passed on the email addresses of the three men, who had agreed to meet with me to discuss the project. I then met with the families individually to present my ideas and discuss how we might tell their stories without revealing their identities. All three men and their families were incredibly accommodating and enthusiastic about the project. I see ‘Middlemen’ as a collaborative project between myself and the three families: the images were born out of an ongoing discussion about the best way to present the stories while still preserving the subjects’ anonymity. One of the men is a calligrapher and helped me with the beautiful cover for my book, while another translated my interviews into Arabic for inclusion in the book. So I think it was also a way for them to tell their stories, and I hope that taking part in the project was useful in helping them to process their experiences.

Sarah Amy Fishlock’s ‘Middlemen’ book.

 

Sarah Amy Fishlock’s ‘Middlemen’ book.

 

DS- Was it difficult to build their trust, how did you go about this ?

SF- I had done a lot of research into Iraq’s history and customs beforehand: i think it’s really important to have a solid understanding of your subject, especially if your project involves a culture that you are unfamiliar with. I began by explaining why I wanted to do this project and what it would entail, as well as setting boundaries with my subjects so that I was completely certain of what I could and couldn’t photograph.  I then interviewed my subjects to gain background knowledge: I did this by asking general questions which then often led to specific recollections. My attitude to interviews is pretty straightforward: I research, prepare well, and turn up on time! I think most people will give you the time of day, if you show that you respect their time and attention.

DS- How long have you been working on the series, it is finished, or do you envisage adding to the work ?

SF- ‘Middlemen’ took about 9 months to complete – I see it as a finished body of work, although I am still in contact with my subjects and would consider revisiting the project in the future. I feel that it’s a very intimate body of work that encapsulates a moment in time: three families starting their new lives in an unfamiliar country. I don’t know if it needs to be added to.

DS- has the work been exhibited or published, or are there future plans for it to be shown or published ?

SF- The work was shown in the Scottish Parliament in 2011, and the Lighthouse, Glasgow and V&A London in 2012.

Sarah Amy Fishlock’s ‘Middlemen’

 

Sarah Amy Fishlock’s ‘Middlemen’ book.

 

DS- Many thanks Sarah, best of luck with your work, and thanks for sharing it here with us.
See further work photographic work by Sarah Amy Fishlock, and send her a note on Twitter @SarahFishlock.

 

 

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Last chance to see

Photographing conflict and post-conflict arenas is one of the most interesting sub-genres of documentary photography.

There are many different approaches which make for outstanding viewing. From the monumental landscapes of Donovan Wylie and Simon Norfolk, depicting the theatre sets of war to the late Tim Hetherington’s claustrophobic and intimate moments with the dramatis personae, there is barely a facet of modern conflict which is not explored and exploited by photographers today.

In ‘Legacy’ Scottish artist Roderick Buchanan focuses on post-Troubles Northern Ireland and uses two Scottish flute bands to demonstrate the current and historical links between the peoples of the two territories. Using simple, striking portraits on the one hand and film footage of re-enactment scenes and marches on the other, Buchanan produces a tableau which invites us to examine our own links with the Troubles and our attitude to history, conflict and memory.

As Buchanan states: “My proposal was to make a portrait with grass-roots activists who had lived through the Troubles, processed the Good Friday Agreement meant for them, and who continued to march and stand up for what they believe. As both bands say about themselves, ‘We’re still here’.”

Although chilling to look at, there is something almost charming about the men depicted. The faces are earnest, determined, hard and unforgiving, but there is something almost comedic about them too. These are men you could meet anywhere in Scottish society and you wouldn’t presume that they could be so passionate about a cause which most people regard as a hangover of a bygone age of pugilism and insanity. But these are the men (and boys) of the Parkhead Republican Flute Band and on the other side the Black Skull Corps of Fife and Drum and they mean business. You walk away from the portraits casting a glance back to make sure they aren’t actually following you.

‘Legacy’ by Roderick Buchanan is on at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh until 16th September 2012. Admission free.

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