The Photographs of Archie Chisholm

It was with interest recently that I spotted a little link in a mailer from Street Level Photoworks / Photo Networks Scotland, that author Michael Cope would be doing a talk (last week) in Uist about his new book on The Photographs of Archie Chisholm.

I wasn’t aware of the name Archie Chisholm, or of his photography, and on following a few links, and a few emails, Michael Cope (and his publishers Thirsty Books) generously shared a pdf of the new book, and have allowed us to reproduce below an introductory text to the photographic works of Archie Chisholm along with a few of his images. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

 

The Photographs of Archie Chisholm: a unique documentary source for the Outer Hebrides in the Late Victorian and Edwardian eras

 

 

Archibald Alexander (‘Archie’) Chisholm (1859-1933) was the Procurator Fiscal in Lochmaddy, North Uist during the years 1881 to 1913. Outside of his professional life Archie had many other interests including archaeology and natural history, field sports, especially fishing, and, importantly, photography. What or who sparked Archie’s interest in photography? It is interesting to speculate that he developed his interest through his friendship with Erskine Beveridge the renowned archaeologist, antiquarian and photographer who also lived in North Uist at the same time. We know that in the preface to his book North Uist: Its Archaeology and Topography Beveridge acknowledges Archie as ‘among friends who have been most helpful’.

 

Archibold Alexander ‘Archie’ Chisholm, 1859 – 1933.

 

Archie’s photographic archive comprises nearly 300 images taken in the years 1892 to 1905. The images, taken from Harris to Barra, range from landscapes to portraitures, especially of the working and crofting communities, and from aspects of trade and commerce to the means of transport and communications. As such this is a unique documentary source of the life and times in the Inverness-shire part of the Outer Hebrides during the two decades at the turn of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Importantly all the photographs are attributable to one person – so providing continuity across a wide variety of themes not usually seen in other compilations.

Archie’s earliest photograph is dated 1892 and the first public exposure of his work was a series of plates contributed to W.C. Mackenzie’s book History of the Outer Hebrides in 1903. In the same year he provided some images to a series of picture postcards published by the Scottish Home Industries Association. In 1904 he published his own edition of 140 picture postcards known as the Cairt Phostail series.

 

A whale’s tongue, Harris [Cairt Phostail series postcard: 2005; scan courtesy of Norman Hudson].

 

Shipping a Uist pony at Lochmaddy Pier [Cairt Phostail series postcard: 2165; scan courtesy of Norman Hudson].

 

Archie was keen chronicler of events with many of his photographs taken in and around Lochmaddy to include local celebrations at the annual cattle markets and fairs and a rare glimpse into the festivities surrounding Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in this remote corner of the realm. Also in the late 1890s he produced the contentious ‘eviction photographs’ which showed at least two families being evicted from their houses in Lochmaddy. Archie was active in upholding the rights of crofters and probably saw these events, very close to where he worked and lived, as a way to embarrass the estate owner at the time.

 

Distressed women and children at an eviction scene. [Original Archie Chisholm photograph reproduced from lantern slide collection of Margaret Paterson: 1931].

 

Family researches have gathered together all of Archie’s known photographic images from various museum archives, published pictures and postcards and family and other private collections. As far as possible all the original locations of the images have been established and present day photographs of the same places have been taken to highlight the changes, or lack of them, over the intervening hundred or so years; approximately three-quarters can be properly located.

These researches have been collated in the recently produced book The Photographs of Archie Chisholm: Life and Landscapes in the Outer Hebrides 1881-1913 by Michael Cope, published by Thirsty Books, Edinburgh.

An exhibition featuring Archie’s photographs is being planned for display at Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre, Lochmaddy in 2020.

 

With many thanks to Michael Cope, and Sean Bradley at Thirsty Books.

Did you like this? Share it:

Sophie Gerrard featured in ‘209 Women’ and ‘Sixteen’

There are less than a week to catch 2 exhibitions featuring work by Sophie Gerrard this month. ‘209 Women’ at the Open Eye Liverpool and ‘Sixteen’ at Format Festival in Derby. Both exhibitions finish on the 14th April 2019. If you are in Liverpool or Derby do try and see them.

 

Deidre Brock MP for Edinburgh North & Leith in her constituency at her surgery, Carlton Hill and Leith Walk, Edinburgh, September 2018. All images © Sophie Gerrard 2018 All rights reserved.

209 Women

Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool

209 Women marks 100 years since the first general election in which some women could vote. It seeks to champion the visibility of women: particularly in politics, where decisions are made that affect people of all genders. It features new portraits of the UK’s women MPs, shot entirely by photographers that identify as women. 

It launched on 14 December at the Houses of Parliament, 100 years to the day that the first women walked into polling stations to cast their ballots. Now, it opens in Liverpool with the full set being shown for the first time — including Sinn Féin MPs who abstained from showing their images in the Houses of Parliament.

It’s an opportunity to reflect on how much progress has been made towards gender parity, whilst also highlighting how much more needs to be done, across all spheres of society, each and every day. 

Photography is a tremendously powerful medium of communication, yet all too often we see images in which women have had their agency denied. All the women in this project – both MPs and photographers – worked together to create images that communicated their identities on their terms: their own sense of justice, their own vision for a better world.

The ‘209 Women’ exhibition, featuring Sophie Gerrard’s portrait of Deidre Brock MP, install shot at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool. Image © ‘Open Eye Gallery, Tabitha Jussa, 2019’. 

 

I was delighted to be invited to be part of this ambitious and important group project. Deidre Brock MP is an Australian-born Scottish National Party politician. She was first elected as the Member of Parliament for Edinburgh North and Leith in May 2015 — the first SNP representative to hold the seat at either a Westminster or Scottish Parliament level.

Most of my work focuses on contemporary land use and environmental politics and I frequently explore this subject through the eyes of women. So it was a real pleasure to meet and photograph Deidre Brock for this important project. Deidre is a politician I admire in her role as SNP Spokesperson for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and her constituency is one I used to live in.

Huge thanks and congratulations to the great minds and curators behind this initiative Tracy Marshall, Hilary Wood, Cheryl Newman & Lisa Tse

For more info and to take a look through all the fantastic portraits in the 209 Women project please visit the website at www.209women.co.uk , and read about the photographers’ experiences of photographing their chosen MP.

Read about 209 Women in The Guardian, the BBC and hear from some of the MPs including Deidre Brock an article in the Sunday Post 

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/gallery/2018/dec/14/209-female-mps-by-209-female-photographers-in-pictures  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/in-pictures-46553515  https://www.sundaypost.com/fp/women-about-the-house-new-photography-exhibition-unveils-portraits-of-the-uks-209-female-mps/

 

 

Sixteen

FORMAT International Photography Festival, Derby

 

In a major new touring exhibition leading contemporary photographers join forces to present the multimedia project Sixteen, exploring the dreams, hopes and fears of sixteen-year olds across the UK.

What’s it like to be sixteen years old now? This is the central thread running through multimedia project Sixteen.

Kirsty Noble, 16, Edinburgh. September 2018 Kirsty does a paper round everyday before school – she’d like to be a paramedic. Her granny is the only person she knows who reads a newspaper, all of her friends and classmates read their news online. Image © Sophie Gerrard 2018 All rights reserved.

 

Elsa Galbraith. 16, lives in Braes on the Isle of Skye. She attends school on the island and goes wild swimming in the sea in the mornings. Braes, Isle of Skye, August 2018. Image © Sophie Gerrard 2018 All rights reserved.

Photographer Craig Easton conceived this ambitious project following his engagement with sixteen-year olds at the time of the Scottish Referendum. It was the first, and as yet only, time that these young people were given the vote in the UK. Building on the success of that work he invited 16 of the UK’s foremost documentary portrait photographers to collaborate with young people across the country to make a visual vox pop on what it means to be sixteen now.

Sixteen is an age of transition, of developmental, and of social change. At this time of increasing national and international anxiety, these young people are shifting from adolescence to become the adults who will live in a politically reshaped country, divorced from the Europe Union.

Robbie Strathdee, 16, lives in Leeds. He’s photographed here working as a conservation volunteer in the Flow Country, in the NE of Scotland. “In 10 years time I’d like to feel as if I was part of a movement towards a more sustainable future for my whole generation, I think it would be really cool to be part of a new era of the way humans interact with the world around us.” Image © Sophie Gerrard 2018 All rights reserved.

I began photographing sixteen year olds around the time of the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014, Craig also began his project at that time, at a time when 16 year olds could vote in a major political decision, it was a unique time, and hearing the voices of those young voters was inspiring. Many were well informed, opinionated and responsible. Craig then broadened out his project to include 16 photographers and the whole of the UK ands also included curator Anne Braybon and producer Liz Wewiora. I was proud to be invited to join such a talented group of photographers. The resulting exhibitions in Salford, Manchester and Derby highlight just how important it is to listen to young people. At a time of uncertainty and fear, these young voices offer hope, insight, maturity and positivity. It’s been an inspiration to be involved.

 

 

 

Project Sixteen at Format 19 International Photography Festival, Derby, March 2019.

Photographers: Jillian Edelstein, Kalpesh Lathigra, Lottie Davies, Simon Roberts, Sophie Gerrard, Stuart Freedman, Kate Peters, Roy Mehta, Abbie Trayler-Smith, Antonio Olmos, Linda Brownlee, Christopher Nunn, Michelle Sank, Ronan McKenzie, Kate Kirkwood and Simon Wheatley.

Read more about Project Sixteen in The Guardian and the BJP and see fantastic portraits by all the photographers involved. You can also watch a excellent film of the project made by Robert Brady here

     
Did you like this? Share it:

A Contested Land, at Perth Museum

Our touring show for this year, A Contested Land, opens on 23rd April at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. The show will run until 23rd June, with talks about the exhibition and work by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Colin McPherson, on the evening of Thursday 9th May, 7pm.

Perth Museum and Art Gallery,

78 George St, Perth

PH1 5LB.

Tel. 01738 632488

Tuesdays- Sundays, 10am- 5pm. Closed Mondays. Free entry.

 

‘Tresured Island’. © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Set within the context of contemporary political debate and social changes, A Contested Land consists of four new projects by photographers Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard, Colin McPherson and Stephen McLaren. Collectively, they examine the complex relationships between the nation’s people, history and land at one of the most important times in Scotland’s recent past.

The works reflect upon Scotland’s precarious environmental and economic landscape, within ongoing political conflicts that give these issues relevance and urgency. During both the Independence and European Union referendums, the word that dominated discussion was ‘change’ – it became the go-to for the dissatisfied. However, even with this uncertainty, the referendums have highlighted the fact that the Scottish people are proud of their identity and independent voice.

 

Faslane, Scotland, on 22 September 2018. ‘Nae (No) Nukes Anywhere’ anti-nuclear weapons demonstration at the Faslane Peace Camp and walking to a 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”. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2018.

 

The four bodies of work presented in A Contested Land – exhibiting for the first time in Scotland at Perth Museum & Art Gallery, reflect upon the ongoing changes Scotland continues to face.

The show launched at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, in January and February, and now moves to Scotland for a run of showings

– Perth Art Gallery and Museum – 23rd April 2019 – 23rd June 2019. Preview on 9th May, 7pm.
– Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
– FLOW Photofest, Inverness, September 2019.
– Photo North festival 2019, Harrogate, England, 30 November – 2nd December 2019. This showing of A Contested Land will also include work by Margaret Mitchell.

 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018.

.

Did you like this? Share it:

Forthcoming attraction

As part of the launch of A Contested Land, the first exhibition of which is currently on show at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, we are staging one of our popular salon evenings at Stills Gallery in Edinburgh.

The event takes place on Thursday, 7th February and as well as presenting work from our new show, we are delighted to have two additional contributors to the evening’s entertainment. This will be our third salon at Stills, and we are very much looking forward to a stimulating, relaxed and enjoyable event.

Central to the evening’s programme will be presentations by three of Document Scotland’s photographers who will each talk about their own individual projects: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert will guide us through Let Glasgow Flourish, his insider’s view of street politics in his native city, which has been the frontline in many of the recent political campaigns, from the Independence and Brexit referendums, to protests about refugee rights, arms fairs and nuclear weapons. Sophie Gerrard will talk about The Flows, her evocative and beautiful study of the unique landscape of the Flow Country in Caithness and Sutherland. The work discovers and explores issues behind the degradation and regeneration of this iconic location, which now enjoys protected status from rapacious exploitation. Colin McPherson’s Treasured Island looks at contemporary life through a historical prism on Scotland’s smallest permanently-inhabited inner Hebridean island, Easdale in Argyll. By weaving together the past and present, he tells the story of an island whose very survival is always in question, but whose population – numbering just 65 – is as resilient and imaginative as anywhere. Finally, we will look at Stephen McLaren’s Edinburgh Unchained, a fascinating investigation into the links between the wealth of Edinburgh and the city’s links to the African and Caribbean slave trade. This body of work poses questions which go beyond the merely rhetorical in seeking an explanation as to why Scotland’s capital still benefits for the actions and injustices carried out by Scots abroad in the 18th and 19th century.

We are delighted also to be able to include work by two of Scotland’s most outstanding current photographers, both of whom are making consistently captivating work. We have previously featured Arpita Shah’s work live and it is a pleasure to be able to invite her back again to see her latest stories. She is a photographic artist and educator based in Edinburgh and works between photography and film, exploring the fields where culture and identity meet. As an India-born artist, Shah spent an earlier part of her life living between India, Ireland and the Middle East before settling in the UK. This migratory experience is reflected in her practice, which often focuses on the notion of home, belonging and shifting cultural identities. Arpita is also co-founder of Focàs Scotland, an initiative that supports local and international emerging photographers.

Glasgow-based Margaret Mitchell’s work spans over two decades and has recently started to receive the recognition it richly deserves. A first-time collaborator with Document Scotland, Margaret will talk about two projects: Family (1994) & In This Place (2016-17). Taken over 20 years apart, these two connected series ask whether the choices we have in life are ultimately predetermined by upbringing, locality and socio-economic position intertwining with the issues of social inequality that they raise.

Document Scotland is looking forward to a great event and we hope that those who have already bought tickets will have an enjoyable and thought-provoking evening.

Please note that the event is now officially sold out, however, if you wish to attend, please email colin@documentscotland.com for the up-to-date situation regarding the waiting list and returns.

‘Edinburgh Unchained’. © Stephen McLaren, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘The Flows’. © Sophie Gerrard, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘Treasured Island’. © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘Let Glasgow Flourish’. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘In This Place’. © Margaret Mitchell, 2019 all rights reserved.

‘Nalini’. © ArpitaShah, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Did you like this? Share it:

A Contested Land

Document Scotland’s A Contested Land has now opened at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol, England. The show runs until 16th March, 2019, before further showings in Scotland at Perth, Dunoon and Inverness.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019. 

 

It gives us great pleasure to announce that our latest show, A Contested Land, successfully opened last week at the Martin Parr Foundation. Surrounded by friends, family, colleagues and esteemed members of the photographic community, a lively evening kicked off the show’s run in Bristol.

With talks by all four Document Scotland photographers – Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Stephen McLaren and Colin McPherson, the crowd was entertained and the works on the walls introduced before the socialising began over drinks.

With thanks to all who attended including Annie Lyden of the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, David Hurn/Magnum, Homer Sykes, Tony O’Shea, Brian Sparks, Daffyd Jones, Miles Ward, Craig Easton, Toby Smith, Jon Tonks, and many, many more. And of course many thanks to Martin Parr and his wonderful team for their support, generosity and hospitality.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019. 

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

Document Scotland exhibition ‘A Contested Land’ opens at the Martin Parr Foundation, in Bristol, England, 15 January 2019. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, 2019.

 

See more information about the show 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 – 23rd April 2019 – 23rd June 2019. Preview on 9th May, 7pm. .
– Dunoon Burgh Hall – 20th July 2019 – 18th August 2019. Preview on 19th July.
– FLOW Photofest, Inverness, September 2019.
Did you like this? Share it:

A Contested Land: Behind the lens #4

In the lead up to our forthcoming exhibition A Contested Land opening at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol on 15th January 2019, each of the Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into their work, this week Stephen McLaren talks about his new and ongoing work Edinburgh Unchained.
“After I finished taking photographs for my 2015 project, A Sweet Forgetting, which looked at how Scottish slave-owners made their fortunes in the production of sugar by thousands of enslaved Africans in 18th and 19th century Jamaica, I felt that there was some unfinished business here for me. Specifically I wanted to know how wider Scottish society had related to the rapacious nature of the slave-colonies in the Caribbean? What did they know, when did they know it, and what did they do about it? 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

These are the kinds of historical questions that photography struggles with, or certainly my kind of photography struggles with. How to photograph the social and historical attitudes of a population?

Anyway, one way through the puzzle, I found was to look at one specific Scottish location, Edinburgh’s New Town, and using historical records try and make some kind of visual record of how slavery impacted the lives of the city’s denizens.

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In Edinburgh Unchained, I have attempted to show how those genteel Georgian streets laid out to create room for a burgeoning Scottish middle class, benefited enormously from slavery in the Caribbean during the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In 1834, when slave-ownership was finally abolished, the British government paid out £20m to compensate around 3,000 families that owned slaves for the loss of ‘property’. This sum is the equivalent of around £16.5bn today and equates to around 40% of UK’s gross national product in that year. This was the biggest bailout of private interests in British history and the government debt was only finally paid off in 2017.

The New Town in Edinburgh benefited disproportionally from this bailout and thanks to a ground-breaking database from University College London, we know that 320 Edinburgh addresses were compensated by the government for every slave that was owned by these households. 

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In Autumn 2018, I downloaded the UCL database of compensated slave-owners from New Town, Edinburgh, and using GPS I walked and cycles around every street. I photographed every address in whose owners had been compensated in 1834 and found that, thanks to very strict preservation orders, virtually all these addresses currently still exist. Not every house contained slave-owners as many were represented by local agents and lawyers, but a great many were fairly ordinary people, who just happened to own slaves.

Virtually all of the properties I visited are respectable Georgian-era buildings, most are still private dwellings, but occasionally we see how commercial life has taken over some of these properties in the intervening period. What is certain is that Edinburgh, as a city, benefited from slavery, both from the huge government compensation bailout, but also from 150 years of brutal human exploitation of African labour.

Edinburgh Unchained. Photograph © Stephen McLaren, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

In Edinburgh Unchained I suggest that the profits from slavery have been deeply embedded in the very fabric of Edinburgh life and society, and that ultimately, the city, and Scotland as a whole, has a massive debt to pay to the countries of the Caribbean for the depravity and human exploitation which lay at the heart of this transatlantic crime against humanity. 

If you would like to read my Guardian article on why Scotland has a real financial debt to pay the countries of the Caribbean for the era of slavery please follow this link…https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/13/slave-trade-slavery-scotland-pay-debts

 

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.
Did you like this? Share it:

A Contested Land: Behind the lens #3

In the lead up to our forthcoming exhibition A Contested Land opening at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol on 15th January 2019, each of the Document Scotland photographers gives an insight into their work, this week Sophie Gerrard talks about her new and ongoing work The Flows.

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

As a young child, one of my early memories is the car journey we took as a family some summers to visit friends in Dunnet Head in Caithness, the most northern point of the Scottish mainland. This 7 hour drive took us north from Edinburgh over the Forth Road Bridge, up the A9, through the majestic Cairngorm mountains, onwards to Inverness then up the east coast by Dornoch and lastly through a very flat place. Often dusk by this point in our journey, endless flat views of boggy moorland flew past the windows,  stretching as far as we could see, “bleak” was the word so often used to describe it as we passed through – “empty, wasteland, nothing here, featureless and eerie”, not a place of picture postcard views, nor a place to stop for picnics or walks, a flat area of nothing to drive through in anticipation of reaching the rugged north coast on the other side.

This was the Flow Country and it’s a place which has fascinated me ever since.

In 2016 some editorial assignments took me to Durness, Bettyhill and Tongue, on the north coast of Scotland. As I drove though that landscape again, I was reminded me of my childhood journey to such an unusual and far away place.

The Flow Country (from the Norse ‘floi’ meaning ‘flat, deep, wet land’) is the largest blanket peat bog in Europe, possibly the world. There are no main roads through it, rather you choose your single track route through the peatlands and navigate it carefully. I took for ever, stopping every few miles to marvel at what I could see. This “bleak and featureless” place changing hourly, with its huge skies, far away horizons, and undulating topography, I couldn’t get enough of it.

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

It quickly became a project in my mind, and so my research began, the more I read, the more it intrigued me – as a place from my childhood which had been spoken of so negatively, I learned of its fascinating political and ecological story.

Peatlands are a globally rare habitat, vital in combating climate change. They hold almost 30 per cent of all global terrestrial carbon – twice as much as all the world’s forests. Scotland holds a vast amount of this vital global resource. However during the 1980s, the Conservative Government under Margaret Thatcher offered tax incentives to the super rich, resulting in vast areas of the Flow Country being planted with non-native Sitka spruce which drained, damaged and ultimately killed large areas of the bog. Over 80 per cent of the UK’s peatlands have been damaged by decades of such mismanagement.

These trees are now being removed and the precious Flow Country is being repaired and restored through careful and considered conservation by the RSPB and their partners.

 

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

The Flows explores this landscape, and also introduces those who work on the restoration project; scientists, researchers, conservationists, and also those who live and work in the straths and on the peat bog; farmers, anglers, hunters, newcomers and locals whose families have been in the area for generations. The work 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.

The Flows is currently a work in progress and I look forward to developing it further. The exhibition at The Martin Parr Foundation A Contested Land will be the first showcase of this new work.

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

from the series The Flows © Sophie Gerrard 2018

 

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.
Did you like this? Share it:

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.

 

Did you like this? Share it:

A Contested Land: Behind the lens #1

In the lead up to the opening of 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. We start with Colin McPherson, who tells us about his project entitled Treasured Island.

“Last year, we sat down as a collective and discussed what the big issues were facing Scotland at present. Although it is blinding obvious to mention Brexit and all the ramifications and spin-offs from that, including the prospect of a second Independence referendum at some point, we wanted to look more broadly at what challenges and changes Scotland face, and how we could illustrate this through a collaborative photographic narrative.

One theme that we kept on coming back to was ‘land’. Taken in its broadest context, the relationship between our history and people has always been connected to a sense of place in Scotland. Whilst the issues around land-ownership and management, with its relevance to the environment and economic growth, are often debated, these subjects are best illuminated when narrated either through people, communities or by the photographer themselves. We wanted to show the diversity of Scotland within the idea of a project based around ‘land’ and to be able to stretch the imagination of our audiences to think beyond the obvious. As always, that’s a difficult task, but one I think we have achieved through A Contested Land, the title we settled on for the four individual bodies of work.

From ‘Treasured Island’, 2018. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

The problem is there are just so many interesting aspects to our ongoing relationship with the physical landscape of Scotland. Misty-eyed romanticism often clouds our judgement about where we live and how we relate to our surrounding environment. For myself, I wanted to tell a personal story, one which could resonate beyond the confines of where I made the work, and which would challenge me to re-examine my relationship and place within a very special community in Argyll.

My connection with the tiny, car-free island of Easdale goes back three decades. I first visited on holiday, and having fallen in love with the place, subsequently built a house and lived there for a year. It is a location best known for its history as the centre of the Scottish slate quarrying industry of the 19th century. Easdale slate was said to have roofed the world, and this industrial legacy is still very much in evidence today, with abandoned buildings, piles of slate spoil and disused flooded quarries configuring the landscape. I was more interested, however, in the parallels of life then and now, more specifically by looking at the difference in men’s lives in the past and today, and how memories of a bygone age still resonate today.

Life was indeed hard in the days when teams of men quarried for slate. The work was relentless and the conditions harsh. But life on Easdale was embellished by a strong sense of communal life, with a school, evening classes for adults and other activities. Paradoxically, it is much harder for islanders these days to engender the same sense of community, although Easdale today boasts a pub, has an active residents group and organises events such as the annual World Stone Skimming Championships. The main connection with the past, however, lies in the challenges and difficulties faced by the population today: the unpredictable weather and tough economic conditions both locally and further afield mean that life and living are almost as precarious today as during the quarrying heyday, when over 400 people lived on Easdale.

From ‘Treasured Island’, 2018. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2018 all rights reserved.

 

Making the work for Treasured Island allowed me to engage with the community on a new level personally. Although a frequent visitor to Easdale, I have seldom previously used my camera as a means of exploring and narrating life on the island. My family has played a small part in the regeneration of the island (the population now stands at 65, having decreased to just a handful in the 1960s), so this project, shot entirely in 2018, has been my way of rekindling my connection with the place, whilst reflecting the immense sense of pride and care people take for the island. They may not always agree on what’s best for Easdale, but the sense of ownership and a love for the island’s unique landscape is never far from any conversation with local people.

I aim to continue the work I began this year. I believe that it is important to keep documenting the changes around us. We cannot say with any certainty where Scotland, or Easdale, will be in five or ten years’ time, but whatever happens we will still look back to the past to inform ourselves about the present, and hopefully the future…”

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.

 

Did you like this? Share it:

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.
Did you like this? Share it:

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/

Did you like this? Share it:

@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.

Did you like this? Share it: