A Contested Land – behind the lens #5

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

 

In the lead up to the opening of our latest showing of A Contested Land, which takes place as part of FLOW Photofest in Inverness in September, Document Scotland’s photographers give an insight into the work they have made for the show. Here, Colin McPherson, tells us about one of his favourite images his project entitled Treasured Island.

“Serendipity is one of the great pleasures of photography. Some might confuse it with the famed and often-debated ‘decisive moment’ but in order to get into that space and place to click the shutter at the correct time, the photographer does rely on what in everyday life can be termed good luck.

And so it was with this image. I was nearing the end of making the work for my contribution to Document Scotland’s A Contested Land exhibition which was due to launch at the end of January this year at the Martin Parr Foundation. Being from an editorial background, I always believe in shooting until the very last available moment, and was fortunate enough to be given the time over Hogmanay to finish of the project with some key images at what is a very important time annually for the people of Easdale Island, the subject of my work.

The small inner-Hebridean island is famed for its flooded slate quarries, a legacy of a once thriving industry long-since moribund. One of the quarries is the venue each year for the World Stone Skimming Championships and in recent years, the quarries have become ever more popular with locals and visitors alike looking for cool places to swim. With the explosion in interest recently of cold water or wild water swimming, Easdale has become a destination for those prepared to dip their toes – and more – into its cold, clear water.

The photograph featured here was taken on New Year’s Day. Twenty-nineteen had dawned bright and blue, and as always with the first day of January, there seemed to a mood of optimism in the air. A time to clear out the bad memories and start afresh. Everything that day appeared quiet, calm and perfect, like the undisturbed surface of the water in the quarries. First-footing is still a tradition on Easdale island, where shortly after midnight people visit their neighbours, wish them well and head off into the night. Just before midday, I came across my own group of first-footers, intrepidly about to take their first steps into what the islanders call ‘the swimming quarry’.

At that moment, as the group moved in unison towards the water, it was time to forget the trials and tribulations that the world faces. Climate change, Brexit, austerity, whatever your political poison, was lost and forgotten in that magical, optimistic moment when a phalanx of young people went where no-one else had so far ventured in 2019.

Set against the open sea, the quarry’s water appears as if it is made of a different substance. The mountains in the background gives the image its scale and drama. I composed the frame to allow a sense that the group were walking towards, or into something. Their pale skin marks them out brightly against the blue background. I took about three or four shots, but this one was the only one in which their bodies are all balanced and natural, although a couple of them are obviously trying hard to stay upright as the cold water hits them. I love the way their clothes are all piled up on the water’s edge, metaphorically they are leaving their cares behind them.

It was a bit of luck that I’d been first-footing the back shore of the island and therefore  happened to be there to see this scene with my camera. Serendipity, indeed.

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Drawn To The Land – Perth Museum and Art Gallery

Sophie was commissioned by Perth Museum and Art Gallery to continue her long term project Drawn To The Land, the resulting work is currently being exhibited at the gallery until the end of October.

Anna MacKinnon rolling fleeces at Amulree, Perthshire. June 2019

Anna MacKinnon rolling fleeces at Amulree, Perthshire. June 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Laighwood, Perthshire, May 2019

Laighwood, Perthshire, May 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Lucy gathering ewes, Foswell, Auchterarder, Perthshire, June 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Mary, Connachan, Perthshire, April 2019.

Mary, Connachan, Perthshire, April 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

Drawn To The Land continues to be a fascinating journey for me. For this chapter it took me to Perthshire, where I also worked with Perth Museums’ photographic archive, following the journey of John Watt who documented Laighwood, a hill farm near Dunkeld, in the late 50s. I returned to that farm and met and photographed Elizabeth, who features in some of Watt’s earlier images. I also continued to work with Mary, a farmer who featured early in Drawn To the Land, revisiting her and continuing her story. Anna and Lucy are in their 20s and work as contract shepherds in Perthshire, their lives are an important new addition, giving alternative perspectives and a fresh approach to a traditional farming way of life.

The exhibition includes images made earlier in the project, around 2015, these new works and archive images from John Watt’s collection made at Laighwood and other locations in Perthshire from 1959 – 1961.

 

Shepherd moving blackface sheep at Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

Shepherd moving blackface sheep at Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

 

Elizabeth Bruges, Perthshire Highland Show. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

Elizabeth Bruges, Perth Highland Show. Image by John Watt between 1959 and 1961, © Perth Museum and Art Gallery archive.

 

Elizabeth Bruges, shown above in a photograph by Watt, at a time when her father oversaw the hill farm, is now herself an owner of Laighwood, alongside with her brothers, I met and photographed her for this recent chapter of the project. Hers is an interesting story and one which highlights in many ways the hurdles many women in agriculture faced at the time.

Elizabeth, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, May 2019.

Elizabeth, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, May 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

A photograph of Elizabeth gathering sheep, Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire, April 2019. From the series Drawn To The Land.  Image © Sophie Gerrard 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Elizabeth Bruges of Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire with copy of The Story of a Scottish Black Face Sheep.

Elizabeth Bruges of Laighwood, Butterstone, Perthshire with copy of The Story of a Scottish Black Face Sheep. © Paul Adair, Perth Museum & Art Gallery 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

 

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Paul Adair of Perth Museum said…

 ‘My  first encounter with Sophie’s exhibited work was at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in 2016. The Ties That Bind was a Document Scotland group show and Sophie was exhibited work from her Drawn to the Land series. I loved everything about her work. The quiet stillness of her studies- portraits of lives through carefully observed details. The colour palette of her film-based work seemed so right for the material she was recording.

Sophie’s series on women working the land included Mary McCall Smith’s farm near Crieff in Perthshire. I saw an opportunity to work with Sophie to develop her Perthshire work for a display at Perth Museum & Art Gallery. I am delighted that Culture Perth & Kinross has been able to commission Sophie to work with additional Perthshire women in farming. As well as making a fantastic exhibition, acquiring some of Sophie’s work is a valuable addition to the photographic archive here at Perth Museum & Art Gallery. The archive already has a strong documentary theme and this cross over between art and social document inherent to photography fulfils makes for a potent combination.’

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

Installation shot of drawn to The Land at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. July 2019

 

It’s important to me to continue this work, and I’d grateful that Perth Museum saw an opportunity for collaboration. Working with the archive has been a fascinating addition. Women who work the land in Scotland are under represented, they have been for centuries, indeed representations of landscape, landscape photography and farming have often been presented through a male viewpoint. I hope that this project can continue to explore these themes and continue to take me to the far corners of Scotland.

Sophie Gerrard’s Drawn to the Land is on until 31 October 2019 at Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Admission is free. Read the full press release here.

Perth Museum & Art Gallery, 78 George St, Perth, PH1 5LB

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Scottish Orange Walks, 1993-98

A new publication from Scotland-based photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Café Royal Books, their 7th collaboration, has been recently released.

From a series of photography Jeremy undertook in the early 1990’s, in the West coast of Scotland, photographing the annual Orange Order marches, and the spectators who accompany the walks.

Edition of 250
32 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital

Copies can be bought for £6.00 from Café Royal Books.

 

Other titles from Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Café Royal Books:

The Common Ridings

North Sea Fishing

Klondykers, Shetland, 1994

Nelson Mandela, Glasgow, 1993

Shipbuilding On The River Clyde

Longannet Colliery 2001

 

 

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A Game of 2 Halves in Coatbridge

The memories are still ripe in my mind. The rain sliding in a grey sheet across the train window, the cold air colliding with our faces and the wind catching our breath as we alight from the train at the inappropriately-named Coatbridge Sunnyside station. In the distance, piercing the sodden winter gloom, bright stripes of red and yellow paint greet our arrival at Cliftonhill Stadium, home for the last century to Albion Rovers Football Club, one of the also-rans of the Scottish game who have, according to some, merely been making up the numbers since their formation back in Victorian times.

This place is far removed from the higher echelons and glories of the game. It is, however, a place of ritual and pilgrimage. Whilst bus loads of Celtic fans have departed each Saturday from this corner of North Lanarkshire for the sunny upslopes of Parkhead, the few that remain behind have cast their lot in with their local football team, and exhibit the same amount of passion, devotion and love for a club which has steadfastly refused to be pulled across the religious divide that defines so much of this part of Scotland.

In their distinctive and almost hallucinogenic red and yellow colours, Albion Rovers have been ploughing and plodding along for as long as anyone can remember, often derided, frequently ignored, but always there. That we cannot place their name on the map has even become something of a badge of honour for club and supporters. They have this unique identity, one which would be sorely missed if The Wee Rovers ever exited the Scottish League.

And this is nearly what occurred during a tumultuous 2018-19 season: somehow, against all the odds and expectations, Rovers managed to come back from the dead, overhauling fellow sufferers Berwick Rangers and condemning the Northumbrians to relegation and oblivion. It was a close thing, but Albion Rovers survived.

Set amongst these tales of the constant struggle for survival are individual stories, some of heroism, most of stoicism. And one of a photographer: Iain McLean. Almost two decades ago, Glasgow-based McLean was casting around, looking for a long-term project, something sporting to get his teeth into. After rejection from a local rugby club, he received a positive response from Rovers and set about documenting behind-the-scenes at this iconic little club.

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

After a hiatus lasting several years, McLean once again focused his attention on Cliftonhill and was fortunate enough to witness both promotions and relegations, the contrasting emotions now visible in his newly-opened exhibition entitled A Game of 2 Halves, on show at the Summerlee, the Museum of Scottish Industrial Life in Coatbridge, until 27th October, 2019. It is, due to its location, necessarily folksy and fun, but nevertheless there is a fine body of work which shows a keen eye and dedication to stick with the subject through thin and thin (as life is at Rovers).

McLean’s dynamic monochrome images sit alongside cases of ephemera and souvenirs, memory-jogging reminders of seasons gone by, all in those distinctive bright colours. McLean’s work, however, shows us a colourful side to the Rovers: a kaleidoscope of characters, often in fancy dress, compete with the friendly smiles of tea ladies and kit men, all of whom make up the cast at Cliftonhill.

My own experiences of watching my team playing against Albion Rovers in Coatbridge are many and varied: the seemingly bright idea to take a new girlfriend to her first-ever football match – a stultifying nil-nil draw, which, amazingly, never deterred her from future games. Then there was the time a young boy was admonished for throwing bits of rubble around the tumbledown terracing: “Stop that, Billy, you’re making a mess,” was followed instantly by “Fuck off, dad, I’m tidying the place up!” And no trip was complete with a pre-match pint in Owen’s bar, just a wayward corner kick away from the stadium.

And then there was Victor Kasule: the singularly most mercurial talent I have ever borne witness to on the football fields of Scotland. A diamond in a sea of mud. The grace, skill, poise and speed which could leave any opponent for dead, a winger who could weave his way through any defence and into any bar, the other place where he was very much at home. ‘Vodka’ Vic came to prominence at a time when there was not a single black player playing in any of the professional leagues in this country. And while his career may have trailed off after spells in England and Finland, his legacy and the memories of his dazzling footwork, have upgraded his status from favourite to legend at Albion Rovers and Meadowbank Thistle.

I ask McLean whether he is likely to continue the journey he has been on with Rovers. He is uncertain and I get the feeling he is worried about repetition and seeing the same places and faces over and over again. I don’t think so. My sense is there is a lot more to discover here and that the project could unfold in many ways. In the meantime, raise a glass and wave a scarf to the players, officials, volunteers and supporters of the mighty Albion Rovers. And to Iain McLean for documenting their emotions.

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

Iain McLean’s ‘A Game of 2 Halves’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

 

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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.

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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

     
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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.

.

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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.

 

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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.

 

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