Tom Leppard, the Tattooed Hermit

Last week, via Twitter I found this little set of images by a good friend and colleague, the London-based photographer Richard Baker. I was struck by the text and images which I thought formed a tender little portrait of both a day out as a working photographer, and also of Tom Leppard, the tattooed hermit of Skye. Within my own years as a Glasgow-based photographer working in papers and magazines I was aware of Tom Leppard, but never ever photographed him, so I was interested last week on stumbling into Richard’s pictures and text below. Kindly Richard has allowed us to share them with you, many thanks! – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Tom Leppard, by Richard Baker.

In the winter of 2007, as part of a book project on the concept of Home, I was asked to travel to Scotland to visit a tattooed hermit, called Tom Leppard (then 72), who had for 22 years, been living in seclusion in a self-adapted retreat, at a secret location on the Isle of Skye.

The tattooed hermit, Tom Leppard (1935-2016) at his secret island hideaway on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 2007. ©Richard Baker.

Converting the north-facing dry-stone walls of a sheep shelter into a sunken, habitable space, he had created a roof using a blue tarpaulin weighted down by heavy rocks to stop the strong winds – a technique used throughout the Western Isles and outer Hebredes. Entering the shelter was like experiencing Shackleton’s cabin on ‘Endurance’ – every nook and cranny, crammed with the items of a survivalist and with blue tarpaulin light that gave the eerie impression of a twilight world.

Protected inside against harsh winters, he used his knowledge of survival skills learned from his career in the Royal Navy and army, to help him stay fit and largely healthy. By then however, his memory was failing and muscular ailments troubled him. Few, except trusted friends who concerned themselves with his welfare, knew his exact whereabouts and they came to check on him periodically when poor weather prevented him from crossing a 2km-wide Loch in an old canoe to pick up mail and to buy essentials. His days were spent washing, cleaning and carrying out maintenance jobs that kept his home meticulously clean.

The tattooed hermit, Tom Leppard (1935-2016) at his secret island hideaway on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 2007. ©Richard Baker.
The tattooed hermit, Tom Leppard (1935-2016) at his secret island hideaway on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 2007. ©Richard Baker.

I’d arranged with a local man to ferry me over early to meet Tom and I spent a cold day with him. The only thing that was asked of me was to not reveal where Tom lived, and to take a couple of bottles rum, a reminder of his Navy days. I remember we talked about his life there and how he coped with loneliness and isolation through dark winters. He showed me his collection of books, all carefully wrapped in plastic covers and how he carefully stored his dry food, to stop them going mouldy from damp. We warmed ourselves with a tot of rum and I photographed him going about his daily chores: fetching water, washing his clothes in freezing water, and feeding his beloved birds.

Tattooed hermit Tom Leppard replenishes bird seed for nearby beloved wildlife in trees near secret hideaway shelter on Skye, Scotland in 2007. ©Richard Baker.
The tattooed hermit, Tom Leppard (1935-2016) at his secret island hideaway on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 2007. ©Richard Baker.

“I decided I wanted to be the biggest of something, the only one of something .. it had to be a tattoo,” said Tom. And after a few more tattoos, he at one time became recognised in the Guinness Book of World Records as the most tattooed man in the world. The idea was that I would photograph him showing off his body markings but I soon realised when I reached the island, that it was much too cold to ask him to disrobe.

The tattooed hermit, Tom Leppard (1935-2016) at his secret island hideaway on the Isle of Skye, Scotland in 2007. ©Richard Baker.

At some point in the afternoon, the boat to collect me again turned up and the last I saw of Tom was a small, waving figure on the beach – a happy, smiling man on the periphery of society totally comfortable, seemingly at peace, with his own off-grid social distance.

Tom Leppard (b1935) was a remarkably resilient septuagenarian who eventually agreed to move off his island hideaway to enter local sheltered accommodation on the mainland. He passed away in 2016.

Richard Baker is on Instagram, and Twitter.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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Document Scotland launches its Patreon initiative

DOCUMENT SCOTLAND SEEKS SUPPORT TO CONTINUE MAKING AND SHOWCASING THE BEST OF SCOTTISH DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHY

Document Scotland is launching an initiative to continue the work they do to support photography in Scotland. They are inviting individuals and organisations to become their patrons, and in doing so, putting the work of the collective on a sustainable financial footing.

Since their formation in 2012, Document Scotland’s photographers Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Colin McPherson have worked on collaborative and individual projects which have led to a series of high-profile exhibitions at home and abroad, the production of a number of publications and the staging of live public events in towns, cities and communities across Scotland.

Through our website, Document Scotland has been able to showcase new and historical work by Scottish photographers or stories about their nation. The website is now regarded as an important public resource for anyone interested in Scottish photography.

In order to continue this work, Document Scotland is launching our own Patreon site, where supporters will have access to added content which will be produced in addition to the website which will continue to be freely available and publicly visible. It can be viewed here: www.Patreon.com/DocumentScotland

Commenting on the initiative, Sophie Gerrard said: “Document Scotland’s commitment to photography in this country is at the heart of everything we do. We have collaborated with individual photographers, organisations and institutions over the last eight years to promote and disseminate outstanding work. We want this to continue, but recognise that we are living in a new financial landscape and that to be able to work this way, we need the support of people to become our patrons.

“By launching our Patreon initiative, we hope to take people on the next leg of our journey. Patrons’ support will mean we can work on our own projects and help other photographers. We are committed to remunerating contributors who work with us and as our support network grows, so will the opportunities for photographers to collaborate and work with us.”

Formed in 2012, Document Scotland is a collective of three Scottish documentary photographers brought together by a common vision to witness and photograph the important and diverse stories within Scotland at one of the most important times in our nation’s history. 

Document Scotland’s major exhibitions include their seven-month show entitled The Ties That Bind at the Scottish National Portrait in 2015-16, Beyond the Border, their first major exhibition outside Scotland, staged at Impressions Gallery in Bradford in 2014, Common Ground at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow in 2014, at the Festival Interceltique, the world’s largest Celtic cultural event in 2017 and latterly through A Contested Land, which premiered at the Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol in 2019 and toured across Scotland and England throughout last year.

We look forward to hearing from you and taking you on the next stage of our journey!

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The Story Behind the Photograph with Colin McPherson

Hailstones, Kinnaber, 2000. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

This Saturday, 30th May 2020, is the twentieth anniversary of the day I took a photograph that has come to symbolise my work and the project Catching the Tide, which documented Scotland’s last salmon net fishermen. To mark the occasion, Document Scotland is hosting a special online event, where my colleague Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and I will be in conversation about the image, and what it has come to mean to me.

Entitled Hailstones, Kinnaber, 2000, the photograph was the high point of a dramatic day spent with two fishermen as they worked on the large, sandy expanse of beach at Kinnaber, just north of the town of Montrose on Scotland’s east coast. The image came to represent many things about the work that the men undertook: the physical nature of it, the constantly changing weather and the adherence to using traditional methods to fish for wild Atlantic salmon.

As the new century began, five years into my project, few could have imagined that two decades later a Scottish Government moratorium on net fishing on Scotland’s coast and in rivers would have effectively killed off the industry for good. At the time I took the photograph, there was an ever-dwindling number of men fishing this way around Scotland’s vast and varied coastline. The stocks of fish had withered, and pressure from scientists and anglers to stop the practice had led to the closure of the big salmon companies, leaving just a few individual fishermen and their families with the right to maintain working in a way which had sustained rural communities for centuries.

The photograph itself has become the leading image for a project which lasted two decades. Since I started photographing Catching the Tide in 1995, the work has been published and exhibited extensively, both in Scotland and internationally. The image has been used to illustrate newspaper and magazine articles and has appeared in reference books on the subject of the salmon.

For me personally, this one single image came to encapsulate everything about the project. It was not the first, or last, photograph, but undoubtedly the most significant. As well as being published widely, it also resides in a number of important archives, such as the photography collections of the National Galleries of Scotland the University of St. Andrews and others.

To mark the occasion, I have produced a special, limited edition A3 commemorative poster, which you can buy from my website. All the proceeds raised from the sale will go towards photographing Catching the Tide, the Final Chapter, which will commence later this year.

I hope you can join us on Saturday, when we will explore and discuss many of the aspects of how, where and when the photograph was taken. I look forward to seeing you then.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin.

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What Does Photography Mean To You?

Over here in Document Scotland HQ we’re fans of those who promote democracy within photography, who give voices to all photographers, where all opinions are welcome and valid. For that reason we enjoy the podcasts brought to us by Grant Scott’s UN of Photography every Wednesday, in which he explores the topic of the week in photography, the debate, the controversy and what’s being said on social media. The weekly podcast has become a great source of interest and inspiration, as a photographer is invited to join the chat, and to send Grant an audio file in which they try to answer the question “what does photography mean to you?”

Today, it’s the turn of Document Scotland’s Colin McPherson who gives his thoughts and opinions on where we are now when it comes to support, funding and opportunities for photographers. Although it was recorded before the current coronavirus crisis, the ideas and observations are as relevant now as they were before as we move beyond, what he describes as, “the end of photography”.

Listen to Colin here:

A while back now, in the same series, Glasgow-based photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert posted his views in response to an invite from Grant. Jeremy talks in the below podcast about how he views his camera as a passport into different situations and cultures, and how he hopes his photography can be shared and make a little difference in the world, to help change prejudices, or to educate, and to share the feeling of being somewhere for those less fortunate to travel.

Have a listen, and let us know what you think, you can always tweet Grant on @UNofPhoto, Jeremy on @JshPhotog, and Colin on @germanocean. Many thanks.


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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On call on Colonsay

Life is changing for all of us. That much we know about the world we live in as the conseqienses the coronavisrus pandemic become more apparent. The future has never looked more uncertain and we can only guess and speculate what is in front of us now.

A year ago, Document Scotland photographer Colin McPherson visited the small inner Hebridean island of Colonsay to shoot a short story about two of its residents for whom life was about to change. Or so they hoped at the time. One year one, due to the global pandemic, that change has been put on hold.

Colonsay’s medical services are run and co-ordinated by husband-and-wide doctors David Binnie and Jan Brooks. In May 2019, they were nearing retirement after eight years overseeing the GP practice there. Colonsay’s approach to health is a bit old school: it relies on involving as many members of the community as necessary to deliver services by pooling and sharing knowledge and resources. It is not uncommon for the islanders to be called upon to use their skills as firefighters, ambulance crew, flight controllers or administrators to help keep the island’s 135 permananet residents and thousands of annual visitors safe and well.

Whilst he was there, Colin was given privileged access to all facets of the service, from attending consultations at the surgery which overlooks the main settlement and ferry terminal at Scalasaig, to accompnaying Dr Binnie on home visits. It gave him a chance to see how this beautiful island worked and what it looked like.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, however, the doctors’ retirement plans have been put on hold. Although at the time of writing there have been no cases on the island, Colonsay effectively remains closed to the outside world, with a lifeline ferry service delivering food and essentials the only contact with the mainland, a two-and-a-half hour sailing from Oban. Once the outbreak subsides and life starts to return to normal, the doctors will try to get their retirement plans back on track and renew the process of recruiting a replacement GP.

As well as photographing the doctors’ work and capturing aspects of life on Colonsay, Colin also shot a short film which has been used in the advertising campaign to find David and Jan’s replacement.

It was Colin’s first visit to the island in over thirty years. Like so many Hebridean islands, so much has changed, yet stayed the same. It will be fascinating to see how it changes as a result of the conronavisrus outbreak.

Island of Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
The ferry arriving, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
A patient receives treatment, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Burial ground, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Dr David Binnie during a home visit, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Dr Jan Brooks, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.
Card in doctor’s practice, Colonsay. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2019 all rights reserved.

We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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Peter Degnan’s ‘Mother Glasgow’

Trying to keep up to date with the current tumultuous news of life on Twitter it’s heartening to scroll to a Tweet which shows images and catches your eyes. Such has been the way this past week or so when I’ve discovered two photographers posting old images of Glasgow and beyond.  I dropped them both a note, and now have the pleasure of sharing some of their work and a few Q&A’s with them, over the coming days. Hope you enjoy them.

Today we start with the lovely work of Peter Degnan. I look at his images of the Jock Stein testimonial and get jealous; his image of the Granary building bring back memories of myself being on top of it photographing ship launches; and the whelk shop in the Barras, a place I was discussing with someone just recently… Great to see Peter, thank you for sharing it all. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

Peter introduces himself on his website with these words: 

I have been involved with photography seriously since about 1976 when I bought my first SLR camera, a Russian “Zenith E” with a 50mm lens. I became involved with camera clubs in the early days and although I enjoyed my time in them socially, the competitive and prescriptive nature of them was not always to my liking.

I was predominantly shooting in black and white and processing and printing all my own work at this time.

I am self-taught in both my photography taking and processing and printing and I was fortunate enough to always have a darkroom at home, so more often than not I could be found in there working on new projects. Although I did not set out to profit from my work I did manage to sell a few images following a small exhibition of my work in The Paisley Arts Centre.

Around the late 1990’s until about 2002 I took a break from working at the level I had been for a number of reasons. Firstly I had a major move of jobs and living location, secondly the kids were growing up and finally the dawn of digital photography was starting to take a hold and I was watching with interest.

Although I still had my film cameras and lenses, my first digital camera was to be a Fujifilm Finepix. I was basically dabbling with digital until such time as I switched from Windows computers and bought an iMac and simultaneously took out an Adobe subscription to Lightroom and Photoshop and this gave me the encouragement to start back where I had left off.

Up until about 2012 my taste in photography was wide ranging and included taking landscape, portraits and transport photographs. My passion however is documentary and street photography. I have always endeavoured to record as I was going about my photography and still do to this day. Although street photography can take many forms, it is the documentary element that interests me most. In 2019 I produced my first photo-book entitled “Mother Glasgow” and some of the images it contains can be seen in my My Galleries. This was followed up with a Zine version and both of these can be purchased using the Publications like above.

In 2019, in order for me to try and progress with my documentary/street photography, I decided to end my association with Nikon equipment and purchase a Fujifilm 100X-F camera which is my first mirror-less camera and I am enjoying using it as it is so discrete on the streets. I have recently supplemented this with the purchase of the excellent Fujifilm X-T3 and some lenses.

 

 

Govan, July 1977. aken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

Govan, July 1977. Taken from the bottom of Water Row in Govan this view shows what was the Meadowhall Granary on the north side of the Clyde. This whole vista has disappeared now, replaced by modern flats. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Document Scotland – Roughly what period did you shoot these b/ws?

Peter Degnan – All of the photographs were produced between the mid 1970s and the late 80s. It was a very interesting time for Glasgow with lots of changes going on. It was also back in the film era and one regret I have is that I didn’t take more. I have resisted going public with a lot of the images because leaving a gap of over 40 years since I took them makes the contrast in people and places more noticeable.

 

The Barras, July 1978. This chap could be found roaming around The Barras at the weekend, and was one of many characters that frequented the area. There was so much underhand dealing going on at times in the Barras that his message I fear would fall on deaf ears. ©Peter Degnan.


What was the motivation behind you going out on the streets looking for images, and for attending events such as the Jock Stein testimonial?

From the outset my photography style has always been of the documentary/photojournalistic style. It wasn’t a conscious decision it was just something I felt comfortable doing and always had a fascination for old photographs that recorded life. I was always on the lookout for events. The Jock Stein Testimonial I knew would be a huge event given the love the support had for him so I was determined to get in on that. I have also taken pictures at political rallies, marches and some during the miners strike. I am glad for example that I took photographs of The Barras in its heyday, because it is just a shadow now of what it was.

 

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Was it easy getting access? You look very close to your subjects, and in amongst it all, what was your approach?

I was basically an amateur photographer trying to get the shots that I wanted so getting in close was required. I discovered that so long as I looked and acted the part nobody challenged me. For example the Jock Stein Testimonial. Myself and a friend noticed that the Daily Record photographers wore red Adidas cagoules when covering games so we bought these out of Millets Stores. On the night we entered the stadium through the turnstiles with our kit and red cagoules on and walked down onto the track around the pitch where the invalid cars would drive. The police just parted and let us through. That is why the pictures look close up, I was standing on the pitch trying my best to look professional and it worked. Probably impossible to attempt now due to security and issuing of accreditation bibs etc.

1978. A full stadium welcomed Jock Stein on the night and his Lisbon Lions. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Did the work get exhibited much or published back then?

No not really. I was basically doing my own thing and building up an archive of work. I was doing all my own darkroom work at the time as well. I did have a small exhibition of work in the bar of the Paisley Art Centre which resulted in a few sales of prints but that was about it. I never really pushed my work but I knew there could be interest in it at some time.

Were you looking at other photography back then? Who was inspiring you, if anyone?

I would have to say that the biggest influence on my work has been Oscar Marzaroli. I became aware of his work early on in my photography journey and have been an admirer to this day. I met him briefly at the Third Eye Centre in 84. I was looking at one of his photographs and I became aware of him standing beside me. We chatted about his work and I asked him for advice on how maybe some day I could get work exhibited. His simple advice was, “Just keep taking photographs”. I have also been a big fan of Don McCullin. Not so much his excellent war photography but they way he would capture every day life.

 

Govan, 1981. I took a number of shots in and around Govan capturing the change to that part of Glasgow. It was in the process of loosing its tenement community and ship building industry. This was taken just after a snowfall and captures two policemen wandering down one of the oldest streets in Govan, Water Row, towards what was the ferry landing. ©Peter Degnan

 

Govan Subway, 1977. As Glasgow was modernising above ground the same could be said for below ground with its Subway system. Major reconstruction meant the old Victorian era wooden rolling stock had to go and this shot was taken capturing this process at the Broomloan Road works in Govan. It shows workmen stripping the bogies off of the carriages and preparing them to be scrapped. ©Peter Degnan

 

Did you have contact with other photographers, or for in any collective way at all?

Not really, apart from the usual Camera Club experiences early on. I am self taught in both the taking and processing of my work and haven’t studied photography in an academic way. Everything I know and practice has been through experience and trial and error. Social media can be a good way of meeting like minded photographers and I have recently attended a couple of workshops on Street Photography, followed up by sharing my work with the StreetSnappers Collective both on-line and through contributing to a book we recently produced.

 

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

Glasgow Loyalist March, 1981. This element of Glasgow life was always something I wanted to capture. Not because I support it but because it is an important part of the sectarian tapestry that blights the city. The march started in North Street and meandered through Bridgeton Cross to Glasgow Green. The contrast of tenements coming down to create a new modern Glasgow is juxtaposed by the March, which was amongst other things protesting about the upcoming visit to Glasgow of Pope John Paul 2nd. ©Peter Degnan.

 

You’ve made a book recently ‘Mother Glasgow’, how did that come about and what was the process?
Did you edit that yourself?

As previously mentioned, I resisted sharing many of my B&W negative film images until I decided the time was right. Last year I decided that the time had come to do this and given it is so easy these days to produce photo books I decided to bite the bullet. I chose around 50 images depicting Glasgow in the 70s and 80s, including a section on The Barras. I edited the book and laid it out using the Book module in Adobe Lightroom. The resulting PDF of the book was uploaded to Mixam and in a couple of weeks time I had my first book which I had titled “Mother Glasgow”. It was really quite emotional to see my work like this after all these years. I realised that not everyone would want to go for the expense of a hard backed book so I decided to produce a Zine of “Mother Glasgow” and these have sold very well. The feedback I have received over “Mother Glasgow” has been very rewarding.

 

The Barras, April 1985. Taken through the window of one of the many mussel and whelk shops at The Barras. This woman wearing her headscarf whilst working inside the shop was typical of most women at the time. The absence of pre-packed food and scales for weighing loose produce is a sign of the time. ©Peter Degnan.

 

The Barras, October 1977. At this time The Barras was great for photography, but it could also be a dangerous place with traders often asking if you were from the DSS (Social Security) and even getting “Heavies” to stand beside you watching what you were photographing. This chap had just pointed me out to the crowd as being from the DSS. It gives the picture a sort of Thomas Annan feel with all the people just staring into the camera. ©Peter Degnan

 

Where can people buy your book?

The hardback version of “Mother Glasgow” is available from Blurb at the following location:
https://www.blurb.co.uk/b/9436438-mother-glasgow

The smaller Zine (A5) version is available to order through my website by ordering using the Contact Me form.  https://peterdegnanphotography.com

Are you on Social media, if so, what are the accounts?

I have the website as mentioned above and I am also on Twitter @peterdegnan2.


 

We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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The Great Football Grounds of the North by Brian Sweeney

It’s Saturday afternoon during the coronavirus outbreak and I have the blues. Our football grounds, like the cities and towns across the country, are silent and empty. Like everyone else, I won’t be going to a game today.

There’s something particularly sad and sombre for a football fan to see our stadiums unused and redundant. No cheering crowds or chanting. The weekly routine of supporters making their way to see their favourites, criss-crossing the country in support of their heroes, has been paused. Local pitches, which would normally echo to the exhortations of amateurs are deserted. Turnstiles locked, kiosks closed, bars devoid of punters. It’s a desolate scene being played out across Scotland and beyond.

As a photographer and football fan who spends a lot of my time combining both activities, this current period or furlough (where did that word spring from?) has allowed me to look at work on the subject of our national game by a number of other photographers. It’s always interesting to see work that approaches a subject from a different angle to oneself. For me, there is no game without the fans, and the architecture of the grounds and stadiums remains soft-focused in the background. Others take a different view.

I was delighted to discover a series of photographs by Glasgow-based Brian Sweeney in the new edition of Nutmeg, the Scottish football periodical. In an oddly prescient feature, one conceived, no doubt, before any notions of a lockdown of society and a shutdown of sport, they have reproduced a selection of Sweeney’s images from his project entitled The Great Stadiums of the North. The title is somewhat ironic. It is a playful documentation of football’s far-flung outposts in Scotland, the Faroe islands and Iceland. It is a lyrical look at venues which we wouldn’t normally associate in our minds as being hotbeds of football, but serves as a reminder just how important the game is to local communities in sparsely-populated areas on the fringes of the North Atlantic. An avid football fan and proferssional photographer himself, Sweeney has been shooting the series for over 25 years and it has been shown at various locations across Europe. A planned show at Sogo Arts in Glasgow, however, has been postponed indefinitely due to the current situation.

The images resonate charm and individuality and take us on an odyssey from fog-filled Paisley to snow-covered Akranes. Some grounds are merely rectangles hewn out of the rock. Others are mini-Hampdens, with neat rows of terracing and ramshackle stands. They are all theatres of dreams. The linear collides with the wonky in grounds which look home made and fragile. On the edge, in more sense than one. What marks the photos out is the northern light: penetrating and freezing, even when the sun is shining. It has you reaching for the Bovril, toes curling with cold. As Sweeney states in Nutmeg: “There’s no frills and flourishes on these stadiums. They’re put together in the most practical way possible, matching the local environment and often using local materials. Not too much design has gone into them, yet they have such beauty.”

When this is all over, whenever that is, then we can populate the football grounds again and enjoy the Saturday afternoons we have become accustomed to down through many decades and generations. Maybe it will be a time too to discover these wonderful little grounds, tucked away, anonymous, but still a beautiful part of the beautiful game?

Isle of Eriskay. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Forres Mechanics. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Embo, Sutherland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Akranes, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Reykjanes, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Wick Academy. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

Keflavik, Iceland. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved

 

John O’Groats. Photograph © Brian Sweeney, 2020 all rights reserved


We hope you have enjoyed the above article and images. Since forming in 2012 all the work featured on this site, and the work undertaken to enable it, has been free of charge. Now, times are changing. To continue we feel we need to ask for your support, to help us manage our time and energies, and to continue sharing photography we care about. Please visit our Patreon page and consider being a supporter. Thank you – Jeremy, Sophie, Colin. 

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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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