North Sea Fishing

We’re delighted to write that Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert currently has two bodies of work exhibiting with Shetland ArtsNorth Sea Fishing is showing until August 27th at the Bonhoga Gallery, and Klondykers is showing at the Mareel arts centre for the next year, both in the Shetland Isles.

 

About the North Sea Fishing exhibtion, Shetland Arts wrote: “Scottish documentary photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert captured the reality of the life at sea for the fishermen of Scotland’s North East fishing communities aboard the seine net fishing boats, Mairead and Argosy, in the North Sea in the 1990s.

These images serve as an important record of a period and style of fishing which is already passing into history, an insight into the working conditions for seine net fishermen, operating far from the safety and comforts of the shore. They capture the cramped conditions, monotony, and the grueling work in harsh conditions.

The North Sea – “a confused sea” as it was once described to me and, as one fishing trawler skipper told me, late at night, only the instrument panel lighting the bridge room, “the north sea, she’s a cruel mistress”.

With thanks to Ronnie Hughes and the crew of the Mairead, and Duncan Mackenzie and the crew of the Argosy, for their hospitality and generosity. All photographs shot in 1993 on the Mairead, and 1995 on the Argosy.

This is a touring exhibition hosted by the Scottish Fisheries Museum in Anstruther. The production has been made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of several organisations including Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, Scottish Fishermen’s Trust, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and Loxley Colour Photo Lab.”

The Klondykers work (2 images above), shot in 1994, and published as a zine by Cafe Royal Books, looks at the period in Shetland’s history when fish processing ships from the Eastern Bloc countries would come to Shetland waters buying up catches of mackerel and herring from Scottish fisheries. The Klondykers work was written about by Shetland News here on the publication of the Cafe Royal Books. Very limited numbers of the Klondykers book will be on sale fro Shetland Arts during the run of the exhibition.

Speaking to the Shetland News, Jeremy says of his time photographing in Shetland “It was the period when communism had collapsed and Eastern Europe was opening up. To come to Shetland to see street signs in Cyrillic and people in all these foreign accents walking around – it was a fascinating time.

I remember driving out to the garbage dump. A couple of ships had been impounded in the port and hadn’t been allowed back to sea, and the company weren’t paying the crews any wages.

You had all these guys in the Lerwick garbage dump looking for things they could refurbish to take home, or things they could sell.

And I remember Shetlanders driving up and giving them packets of cigarettes, or bags of clothes and things. It was interesting to see that Shetlanders were rallying around to help them.”

North Sea Fishing, 8th July – 27th August, Bonhoga Gallery, Weisdale Mill, Weisdale ZE2 9LW.

Klondykers, for the next year, at Mareel, North Ness,, Lerwick, Shetland ZE1 0WQ.

The North Sea Fishing exhibition, on completion of its run in Shetland, will travel onwards to:

Wick, St Fergus Gallery, 9th September – 21st October.

Thurso Art Gallery, 28th October – 9th December.

Greenock, Beacon Arts Centre, 6th January 2018 – 24th February 2018.

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A portrait of Tanera (Ar Dùthaich)

Tanera (Ar Dùthaich) is a project by Derbyshire-based photographer Kevin Percival which will be exhibited from this Sunday, 18th June, at Rhue Art in Ullapool.

The photographs featured focus on a tiny island off the west coast of Scotland, where Kevin lived and worked for several years. Like many of Scotland’s coastal communities, the challenges facing local people revolve around the struggle for employment, affordable housing and access to education and other services, and often uncertainty surrounding who actually owns the spaces and places around their homes. Tanera Mor is no different, having been bought and sold – and recently withdrawn from sale – several times over the last few decades. Nevertheless, people living on Tanera Mor, the largest of the fabled Summer Isles, work hard to make the place habitable and sustainable. As Kevin notes: “The island had a very small population when I lived there, but has a particularly interesting and close relationship with the local mainland communities. Many have lived or worked on the island, on the fish farm in the bay, fishing or running tours in the waters around the Summer Isles archipelago. As such Tanera occupies a specific place in hearts, minds and mythologies of the local people. The photographs are a ‘portrait of place’, shown through the people and the marks and effects they have on the landscape around them. Given the island’s small size, these traces often exist together, in close proximity, so you can see the effects of families living on the land 200 years ago, right next to what is happening today. Over time these traces build up, layered on top of each other forming a kind of catalogue of existence like a palimpsest. This becomes particularly evident in smaller, self-contained or continually populated landmasses, such as Tanera Mhor.”

Giving a voice to people in marginalised places, whether they reside in inner-cities or in Scotland’s vast, rural landscape, is often a calling for photographers. In many locations, history is buried beneath layers of time. Kevin’s interest and approach bears this out: “With this work I wanted to explore both this rich past, as a Viking sanctuary, and a fishing and crofting community, and its current state and the people who are leaving their traces today. Visually, I wanted to acknowledge the Romanticism of the Scottish wilderness, but contrast that with modernity – emphasising that this is a current workplace and home. Rural populations in Britain seem under-represented, both politically and photographically, and I wanted to present a project which encourages conversation around rural living and issues”

The project started in 2012 when Kevin moved to Tanera Mor for a job and it developed from there. He spent two years living on the island seasonally; eight months on, four months off and has returned to the island for at least a few weeks every year since. Shooting mostly on black and white film, Kevin’s aim was to reference the Romanticism and the photographers who have depicted Scottish islands before. As is common these days, Kevin’s approach sought to tap into the pace of life in the islands: “I also love using film because it slows me down, makes me really look at a scene and work through different compositions in my head. When every shot costs a few quid you quickly realise you can’t walk around with a motordrive going, you have to take your time with your subjects”

The project is not intended as a complete history of Tanera, nor a catalogue of everyone who has ever lived there or ever contributed to the fabric of the place. With a place like Tanera Mor, periodically inhabited for over 1000 years, such a task would be impossible. Kevin’s intention is to create a small but timeless snapshot, focused on the particulars of how the island has been managed for the past 20 or so years. Luckily, Kevin found the people he was living and working with supportive, as he explains: “I was really lucky that everyone was so welcoming, from the people who own/run the island to the local fish-farmers, course tutors and tour boat operators. I ended up photographing people from wildly different backgrounds, but for whom the island was a strong presence within their lives. Most people living in remote areas like the Highlands and Islands find they have to become modern crofters, or I suppose you could call it ‘portfolio workers’. In order to survive, most people work two or three jobs. Likewise, the island takes on very different roles for each person. For artists, writers and other creatives it is a gateway to contemplation or inspiration, for the scallop divers, creelers and fish-farmers it is their living”

Tanera (Ar Dùthaich) will be on show from this Sunday until 24th August, 2017.

 

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

Tanera. Photograph by Kevin Percival, 2017 all rights reserved.

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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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WildFires

WildFires is a new collective of female photographers working in Scotland. Initiated by Dr. Katherine Parhar, the group’s first exhibition, When the Light Shifts, is on display at Glasgow Women’s Library until 1st April. Here, Sarah speaks to Katherine about the ideas and aims behind the initiative.

Be, Still © Mairead Keating all rights reserved

 

SAF: Katherine, can you tell us a bit about yourself, your background and how you became interested in photography?

KP: I’m a photo historian, writer and curator. I teach at Napier University in Edinburgh, but I studied in Glasgow, where I began to specialise in the art of the inter-war era, a time when new technologies in print and photography altered, quite profoundly, how people saw and experienced their world – be it through war reportage fashion ephemera or x-rays of the human body. Photography developed so rapidly, so much the fabric of an increasingly unstable social climate, that I became fascinated with its creative possibilities, yes, but also with its moral and ethical place in our world. I like working with photographers because they – and their images – balance creative, ethical and personal drives in ways that other art forms don’t necessarily demand at every turn, as photography – I believe – does. So I love photography as a force in contemporary life, for its dilemmas and for its power – though, like many photographers, I’m cautious of it too.

 

Crosskennan © Zoe Hamill all rights reserved

 

SAF: What made you decide to begin the process of bringing together female photographers working in Scotland?

KP: As a historian, I’ve spent a lot of time looking back to recover and reinterpret the work of female photographers who were not acknowledged, collected, or written about by the institutions and individuals who decide what makes ‘History’ in the history of art and photography. I’ve been to all sorts of conferences and events that gathered together people like me. And yet the balance, for working photographers, hasn’t shifted as much as one might want to believe. In the British Journal of Photography, in this decade (so far), only 20% of the projects featured are by women. In the 1970s, that was 4%. So I began to think, how can I apply my energies to the future, to creating a living structure that promotes and records the women where I work, in Scotland? Back in 2016, September I think, I asked a few friends to the pub to ask what they thought that structure might look like – or to decide if we even needed one. Would we create exhibitions? A journal? A website? Or books? Over 20 women turned up and now we have all of these things under one name: WildFires. Our first exhibition is supported by Napier and Glasgow Women’s Library. We also have a pop-up projection at OCAD in Canada just now so we’re international already. And we have a book coming soon. But we’ve still to go for that drink!

 

Household Forensics © Susanne Ramsenthaler all rights reserved

 

SAF: What do you think people in the industry – artists, curators, photo editors – can do to ensure more visibility of women’s photographic work?

Well WildFires is something that yes, I initiated, but it’s been carried as far as it has, as quickly as it has (though it’s still new) by the people involved, from the photographers themselves to our partners (like Napier and Glasgow Women’s Library) who have all said ‘I’m in’ and pooled their energies without hesitation. WildFires is still taking shape but I initiated it with an eye to creating a platform for women photographers that would also plug in to more general needs for the photography community in Scotland – for example ‘home-grown’ international opportunities for emerging and established artists, and all who consider themselves in between. For every creative community the answer is different. But something Sophie (Gerrard) said, at our first meeting, is true across the board – if another woman has a good idea, second it; in other words, image-making is, professionally and creatively, always a network of relationships – give each other voice and volume, and with these comes visibility for us all.

Thank you Katherine. When the Light Shifts is on at Glasgow Women’s Library, 23 Landressy Street GlasgowG40 1BP until 1st April. See more work from the WildFires photographers here.

 

Fantastic New Community © Gina Lundy all rights reserved

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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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Frank McElhinney

Frank McElhinney’s work first came to our attention in 2014 when he won first place at that year’s Jill Todd Award for his intriguing, unique aerial photographs. Since then this prolific artist has gone from strength to strength, creating several bodies of work focussing on Scotland’s landscape and how it relates to our country’s past, both near and distant. One of these, Adrift, is currently on display at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, as part of Tabula Rasa II. Here, he speaks to Sarah about his projects, processes, themes and methods.

Adrift: Learable, Sutherland (2016) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Frank, you graduated from the Glasgow School of Art in 2014. Can you tell us a bit about how you got into photography? What were you doing before you became a student?

FM: After working in manufacturing for 20 years I decided out of the blue to become an artist. I attended several different night classes whilst building up a portfolio for entry into art school. So it’s a rather mundane answer I’m afraid, but I got into photography through adult education courses at Glasgow City College and GSA.

SAF: Your degree show plans were forced to change when the Mackintosh building caught fire in May 2014 – can you explain how this affected your work?

FM: Yes, it was a bit of a shock at the time. I’d spent over three years working on a project about the Battle of Bannockburn whose 700th anniversary was to coincide with the degree show that never happened. The main affect on my own work was the instillation of a great sense of urgency around production. Three days after the fire I went to the source of the River Forth at Loch Chon and began making a series of kite aerial photographs that won first prize in the Jill Todd Photography Award. The drive towards constant production has stayed with me.

Fire in the Mack, Friday the 23rd of May (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Speaking of the work you entered into the Jill Todd competition, how did you come to use the kite for making your photographs? Were there any technical challenges to this approach?

FM: Using the kite came from the need to make one specific picture. At the Battle of Bannockburn thousands of people drowned in the burn and the River Forth. I wanted to photograph the confluence of these two bodies of water from above and the kite was the simplest way to achieve that perspective. The kite is literally a joy to work with. The only challenge is the wind itself. Too much gusting and the kite will crash, not enough and a long journey might be wasted.

False Start, Limitless Ending: Confluence of Kelty Water and River Forth (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: Your recent work, Adrift, also uses aerial photography – this time, to respond to the current migration crisis with reference to areas of Scotland once inhabited by subsistence farmers. The link is an oblique rather than an obvious one – can you tell us more about your process with this project and how you decided which locations to concentrate on?

FM: Even sympathetic media coverage of today’s migration crisis often represents refugees in problematic ways. I chose not to photograph people at all but to look instead at migration through the lens of Scottish history. The Scottish diaspora has affected all parts of the country but I focused on abandoned settlements in the Highlands and Islands. I was inspired by the early work of Tom Devine who described how the Highland Clearances were underpinned by ethnic inferiorisation of the Gaels and resulted in an almost complete cultural erasure. Whilst working on a previous project I’d also been struck by the fact that even today, of the 45 most populous cities and towns in Scotland only four of them appear on the northern side of the map.

SAF: Your work creates interesting visual conversations between past and present – responding to current events while illuminating Scotland’s history. You mention a previous project – 45 Sun Pictures in Scotland, for which you used another type of alternative photographic process – pinhole photography. Can you tell us a little about how that work came about?

FM: In September 2014, I was on a month long residency in Cromarty. At the beginning I held a workshop for local people where we made pinhole cameras, filled them up with photographic paper and tied them on lampposts and trees around the village. At the end of the month we retrieved and scanned the images that had been burned into the paper. Looking at those abstract ‘solargraphs’ with the sun tracking across the sky, I reflected that the fate of the entire nation was being decided during the exposures. Within a few days of the referendum on independence it was clear nothing had been settled, the country was still pregnant with change. Solargraphs seemed an appropriate way of saying something about that unexpected situation. So I made 200 pinhole cameras and installed them around Scotland’s 45 most populous cities and towns. I made a picture of Scotland that was, in the end, woefully incomplete.

45 Sun Pictures in Scotland: Dundee (2014-2015) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

SAF: It’s almost as if, through your practice, you’re creating alternative geographical surveys of the land – linking the physical terrain to more abstract ideas about identity and nationhood, with reference to events both recent and ancient. There are definite strands running through your work, though the subject matter changes. What projects do you have planned for 2017?

FM: When I look at the land I see history and I think about how I can use history to address contemporary issues, (such as nationhood, conflict and migration), rather than simply represent historic events or the land itself. I like your description ‘alternative geographical surveys of the land’, but at the same time I am also making alternative histories that connect with the present.

Looking ahead I have two new exhibitions in development for 2017 and 2018. The first relates once again to migration but looks even further back in time to the old Roman border between Caledonia and Britannia, the Antonine wall – this will be shown at the Auld Kirk Museum, Kirkintilloch, in April and May 2017. The second project is a collaboration with John Farrell, whom I met at art school. John and I were born and raised in Lanarkshire a few miles apart, and that’s where the project is based. Our working title is Coal, Steel and Earth. I am focusing on Kingshill Nature Park, formerly the site of a pit where my maternal grandfather worked as a coal miner. John is focused on what remains of Ravenscraig steelworks, where coincidentally my paternal grandfather worked as a platelayer. The exhibition is provisionally planned for 2018, at Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life. Beyond these immediate projects I have a few ‘slow burners’ including that lost project that claims me every time I drive up the A91 past Stirling and look out over the long loop of the burn as it flows into the Forth. I used to think that the moment for Remembering Bannockburn had gone up in smoke forever, but there is still work to be done out there.

Coal, Steel and Earth: Kingshill trench and tree (2016) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

 

Remembering Bannockburn: Confluence of Bannockburn and River Forth (2014) © Frank McElhinney all rights reserved

 

Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Frank. We’re really excited to see where your work takes you!

Adrift is currently on display as part of Tabula Rasa II, Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until 4th February.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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‘Sun pictures and beyond’

Scotland’s pioneering role in the development of photography in the 19th century is being celebrated in a new display at the National Library of Scotland. The exhibition runs until March 26th, and entry is free.

It features one of the first ever books to be illustrated with photographs, William Henry Fox Talbot’s Sun Pictures in Scotland, published in 1845. Only 100 copies were produced and the National Library has one of the few complete copies that have survived.

 

A clean sandstone Scott monument under construction from 'Sun Pictures in Scotland'

A clean sandstone Scott monument under construction from ‘Sun Pictures in Scotland’ by William Henry Fox Talbot. 

 

Melrose Abbey, from 'Sun Pictures in Scotland' by William Henry Fox Talbot.

Melrose Abbey, from ‘Sun Pictures in Scotland’ by William Henry Fox Talbot.

 

The display, which opened on November 30, showcases examples of photographically illustrated books that followed this landmark publication in the second half of the century as photographic reproduction became simpler, quicker and more reliable. This includes work from some of Scotland’s early professional photographers such as George Washington Wilson, James Valentine, Thomas Annan and Scottish photographers abroad including William Notman and John Thomson.

Wilson and Valentine in particular followed Talbot’s lead by maximising the commercial opportunities of photography in book form, establishing successful studios in Aberdeen and Dundee. This included producing albums with original prints for tourists wishing to have souvenirs of the Scottish landscape and notable buildings. They also published illustrated books with photomechanical prints, which combined photography with existing commercial printing processes to create high quality prints on a large scale. Valentine went on to establish a globally successful business selling postcards.

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, Thomas and James Craig Annan became renowned for their photographically-illustrated books of architecture and fine art.

 

'Through Cyprus with a Camera, Vol 1, Cypriot Maid', by John Thomson

‘Through Cyprus with a Camera, Vol 1, Cypriot Maid’, by John Thomson

 

The display also features the work of Scots photographers abroad including John Thomson, one of the first photographers to visit the Far East. His final foreign trip was to Cyprus which resulted in a deluxe publication Through Cyprus with a camera from 1879 which can be seen in the display.

Curator Dr Graham Hogg who has produced the display said: “These books hold an important place in the history of photography and helped to establish an art form that still thrives in Scotland today. They represent only a small selection of the Library’s extensive holdings of photographically illustrated books relating to Scotland that were produced in the 19th century.”

Sun pictures and beyond: Scotland and the photographically-illustrated book 1845-1900 runs until March 26 at the National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh. Entry is free.

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North Sea Fishing

In Scotland’s Season of Photography, the Scottish Fisheries Museum is delighted to be hosting a striking exhibition of black and white images shot by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert aboard the seine net fishing boats, Mairead and Argosy, in the North Sea in the 1990’s. These images capture the reality of the life at sea for the fishermen of Scotland’s North East fishing communities – the cramped conditions, the monotony, and the grueling work in harsh conditions.

 

Bill Smith secures the nets, aboard the 'Argosy' seine-net fishing boat in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

Bill Smith secures the nets, aboard the ‘Argosy’ seine-net fishing boat in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

 

12th November 2016 – 19th February 2017
Entry included in museum admission.

Here, Jeremy talks about how the work came about:

“Considering I come from a land-locked family I’ve done my fair share of bobbing about on the waves of the planet, and no sea has more bobbing than the North Sea (although going through the 40degress and 50 degree latitudes of the Southern Ocean was quite interesting). The North Sea – “a confused sea” as it was once described to me and, as one fishing trawler skipper told me, late at night, only the instrument panel lighting the bridge room, “the north sea, she’s a cruel mistress”.

I think my first experience on the North Sea was on a fishing trawler, on an overnight assignment photographing fishing trawlers for a paper. There was a fisherman’s protest, lots of trawlers all together, protesting latest EU rules and regulations, net sizes and quotas. I got sent out to photograph. It was a night of adventure: watch dawn rise, shoot the other boats, back to harbour, home by lunchtime. The skipper that night, Ronnie, was a decent chap. I asked him how long he usually goes out for at a time, “10 days”, was the reply. “Can I come next time?” I asked. He smiled, he laughed, he replied, “if you think you can handle it, you can come, but there’s no going back. If you’re sea sick you’ll be sea sick for 10 days”. Count me in.”

The results of this expedition are captured in these striking images which serve as an important record of a period and style of fishing which is already passing into history and the Scottish Fisheries Museum is pleased to be able to provide our visitors with an insight into the working conditions for seine net fishermen, operating far from the safety and comforts of the shore.

We feel equally privileged to be hosting the inaugural display of this exhibition which will then tour other venues nationwide. The production has been made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of several organisations including Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, Scottish Fishermen’s Trust, Scottish Fishermen’s Organisation and Loxley Colour Photo Lab.

Aboard the 'Argosy' seine-net fishing boat, in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

Aboard the ‘Argosy’ seine-net fishing boat, in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. Photograph by ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 1995.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum-partnered exhibition will then tour to the following venues across the country over the next year:

12th Nov. 2016 – 19th Feb. 2017 – Scottish Fisheries Museum, Anstruther

23rd Feb 2017- End of March 2017 – Arbuthnot Museum, Peterhead

8th April – 13th May 2017 – Montrose Museum

20th May – 29th June 2017 – Signal Tower Museum, Arbroath

8th July – 27th August 2017 – Bonhoga Gallery, Shetland Isles

9th Sept – 21st October 2017 – St Fergus Gallery, Wick

28th Oct – 9th December 2017 – Thurso Art Centre

6th Jan 2018 – 24th Feb 2018 – Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock

A related Education Pack developed by the Scottish Fisheries Museum’s Learning and Access Officer will be available for subsequent venues to engage with their local young people.

The Scottish Fisheries Museum will host a talk by the photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and featured fishing boat skipper Ronnie Hughes on Friday 2nd December, from 6pm.

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The past present

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It would be easy to label Larry Herman’s work as ‘old school’.

His photography is indeed imbued with an aesthetic sense which resonates the past. Grainy, monochrome images which depict life at a time when Scotland’s Industrial Age was coming to an end and the new service economy and its illegitimate offspring, unemployment and job insecurity, had not yet pervaded everyday life. This would do an injustice to Herman’s work, however, the context of which is directly relevant to peoples’ lives today: our never-ending struggle for financial security and survival; the ceaseless toil of work; the quest to find justice in an increasingly unequal Britain.

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Clydeside 1974-76 currently on show at Glasgow’s Street Level Photoworks, offers us a glimpse of a world which, in strict terms, no longer exists: The men in the blast furnace at the Ravenscraig steel mill, the workers dwarfed by ships under construction on the Clyde; a woman, head bowed in concentration, sewing pockets to garments in a factory in Campbeltown, of all places. These locations, once the lifeblood of countless Scottish communities, swept away in the Thatcherite firestorm, now consigned to memory and preserved in a thoughtful, honest and soulful manner by Larry Herman’s photographs. They are intimate moments which humanise industry.

The title of the show may be geographically misleading, but the sentiments and honesty behind the work endures and cuts through this narrow definition of the life and land surrounding Scotland’s most famous – and infamous – river. By including images from as far afield as rural Argyll and Ayrshire, we are allowed to spy different aspects of life and work in 1970s Scotland. The pictures do not romanticise working life in Scotland, often the curse of the commentariat which likes to hark back to some ‘golden age’ when the world was Clyde built (neglecting to observe that this was all done on the blood, sweat and tears of the working man and woman). At the same time, Herman’s images do not portray a negativity and grimness of the occasional visitor or voyeur. His was a project, constructed over two years, which allowed him the time and space to develop his themes and narrate carefully a political strand to his output which subtlety and successfully takes a stand.

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If inequality is an oft-bandied word in today’s political lexicon, then some of Herman’s images in this show demonstrate starkly that it has always existed. The photograph of the fatted, ruddy country squires sits uneasily with a picture of family life in the vast, sprawling streets-in-the-sky of Glasgow’s Red Row flats. It is classic epic and everyday, woven together by a determinedly singular vision of the world, which has sustained a passion and fire in Herman’s work until this day, where he still shoots stories and projects with those same political themes at their core.

We emerge from the gallery, blinking in the early-October sunshine as people of all races, cultures and backgrounds colourfully tumble down Argyle Street, shopping bags swinging, music blaring. I remind myself that so much has changed for the better in this city and the regions surrounding it in the past 40 years, but at the same time, so much has remained the same.

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Larry Herman’s photographs are a reminder that photography can still prick our conscience and be a call to action, even after all these years. It is a timely rejoinder to anyone who thinks ‘old school’ is dated and irrelevant in the digital age.

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Clydeside 1974-76 by Larry Herman continues at Street Level Photoworks until 27th November, 2016. There will be a Q&A event with Larry Herman, Noni Stacey and gallery director Malcolm Dickson on Saturday 22nd October at 3pm, which is free to attend.

Gallery photographs © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

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Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert “Best Shot”

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Jeremy’s image from the Glasgow shipyards, taken in 1992 and currently featured in the exhibition Govan/Gdansk at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow was featured in the Guardian this week with an interview by Ben Beaumont Thomas.

 

You can read the interview here:

“In the 1990s I lived in Govan, on the south side of Glasgow, near the shipyard. At the time, it was owned by a Norwegian company called Kværner, but before that it had been John Brown’s and Fairfield’s. Those are the famous names in Scottish shipbuilding. You hear talk of the days when 10,000 men worked in the yards. Sadly, that was before my time.

In the 1990s, I travelled a lot in eastern Europe. I remember talking with a worker in north east Romania, far from any coast or shipbuilding area, and he knew of Glasgow as a shipbuilding port. I always thought that was great: I love the fact that my city is known either for Rangers and Celtic – or for shipbuilding.

I wanted to grab my own little slice of Glasgow history. These are the shipyards that helped build the city and make its industrial capabilities renowned the world over. There are three yards in Glasgow now. Two are owned by BAE Systems and dedicated to defence. I haven’t tried to get in, but I’ve been told it’s pretty much impossible. The third yard, Ferguson Marine, nearly went into liquidation in 2014.

I took this in 1992, a year before Glasgow gave Nelson Mandela the freedom of the city – another project I worked on. I was 24 and wanted to get into the yards before that world disappeared. I remember being impressed by the monumental scale of it all. Parts of the ship seem quite organic: the blades of the propeller look like the underside of a whale. I shot it on an old Nikon in black and white, as that puts the focus on shapes and sizes. People have asked me if it’s perspective that makes the workers look so tiny. But it’s not. They are to scale.

A launch is an incredible thing. You hear all the klaxons going off, the speeches, the champagne bottle being broken against the ship. Then the wedges and things that hold the ship in place somehow get removed and the ship starts to slide. As it gathers pace, those huge restraining chains make an enormous noise and all the rust and dust rises into the air. The sound would echo off the buildings all around. It was a romantic, emotional moment.

A guy agreed to take me round in exchange for a print to hang in his house. I was no student of shipbuilding. I just reacted to what was in front of me. I seem to remember thinking the yards were “stour” – that’s a great Glasgow word, meaning musty and dusty. I mean, you’re outdoors and beside a river, so you get a lot of fresh air, but these are still big dusty places.

I’ve spent a lot of time on Greenpeace ships: the Arctic Sunrise, the Rainbow Warrior. I travelled the world: the Pacific, Brazil, Korea, New Guinea. Also, in the 1990s, I spent a lot of time on North Sea fishing boats. For a landlubber, I’ve done a lot of boatwork.”

 

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s shipyard photos feature in Govan/Gdansk, at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, until 31 July.

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Northern Light Conference and Exhibition

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I was really pleased to be invited earlier this month to present a paper about my work Drawn To The Land at the recent conference and exhibition Northern Light: Landscape Photography and Evocations of The North at Sheffield Hallam University.

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Drawn To the Land exhibited at Northern Landscape exhibition SIA Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

 

The conference and related exhibition explore the ways that photographic images address notions of a Northern landscape – whether drawing on established traditions of art and photography or whether concerned with contemporary photographic and lens based practice.  The conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to discuss a wide range of practices and critical approaches, from both contemporary and historical perspectives.

The group exhibition features work by Mark Adams, Tom Baskeyfield, Jacqueline Butler, Anne Cambell, Matthew Conduit, Kevin Crooks, Michael Day, Liza Dracup, Sabine Dundure, Sophie Gerrard, Alexandra Hughes, Henry Iddon, Mitch Karunaratne, Anna Lilleengen, Adam Murray, Mario Popham, Simon Roberts, Theo Simpson, Ravinder Surah, Jonny Sutton, Patrick Wichert, Chi Yan Wong

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Northern Landscape exhibition SIA Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

Key note speakers at the conference were photography writer and curator Liz Wells and photographer Simon Roberts. The two days were filled with interesting discussion and debate around representation of the north and landscape photography from UK and worldwide based colleagues and photographers.

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Northern Landscape exhibition SIA Gallery, Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

 

Sheffield Conference

Presenting my paper at the Northern Landscape Conference at Sheffield Hallam University, July 4th 2016

 

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Some works featured in the exhibition, clockwise from top left Aileen Harvey, Liza Dracup, Alexandra Hughes and Simon Roberts

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Northern Light, An exhibition exploring  contemporary photographic practice in relation to the northern landscape and its representations is on at SIA Gallery in Sheffield until 31st July.

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