When We Were Young

We’re delighted that the next photography exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, ‘When We Were Young’, will include work from the Scottish photography archive by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert. Included in the group show will be Jeremy’s images of Roma children, photographed in Sintesti Roma camp in Romania in the early 1990’s, part of his multi-year project photographing the Roma settlement on the outskirts of Bucharest, ‘Satra, The Roma of Sintesti.

 

WHEN WE WERE YOUNG:
PHOTOGRAPHS OF CHILDHOOD FROM THE
NATIONAL GALLERIES OF SCOTLAND
14 October 2017 – 15 April 2018
Scottish National Portrait Gallery, 1 Queen Street, Edinburgh EH2 1JD
Admission FREE
nationalgalleries.org | 0131 624 6200
#WhenWeWereYoung

Part of Photography Scotland’s 2017 Season of Photography

The magic and wonder of childhood will be the subject of a new exhibition of photographs at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery (SNPG) this autumn. When We Were Young will delve into the rich collection of the National Galleries of Scotland to explore how the lives of children have fascinated photographers from the earliest days of the medium to the present. More than 100 images, which capture children at play, at work, at school and at home will reveal how the experience of being a child, and the ways in which they have been represented, have changed radically in the past 175 years.

The photographs not only reveal the shifting attitudes towards children and their representation, but also show the evolution of the photographic processes from early daguerreotypes to contemporary digital prints.

Opening on 14 October 2017 at the SNPG, When We Were Young is the second in a series of thematic exhibitions being held to inspire a new appreciation for this extraordinary art form.

One of the earliest works in the collection is a daguerreotype of a family photographed by James Howie (1791-1858). Having trained as an artist, Howie was known as a portrait and animal painter; he switched to photography and established the first professional photographic studio in Edinburgh in 1841 (only two years after photography was first introduced). His customers had to climb multiple flights of stairs, then use a ladder to access a skylight leading to the roof of his outdoor studio, where they would then perch several floors above a bustling Princes Street below and were told to “sit as still as death”.

Some photographers’ directions for children were more amenable. Julia Margaret Cameron’s literary and religious evocations of the 1860s brought an imaginative element to the depiction of childhood. In her portrait of Kate and Elizabeth Keown, titled The Red and White Roses, the two sisters are shown close up with one clutching a sprig of flowers, the other has hands clasped as if in prayer. The work was not intended as simply a portrait of the photographer’s neighbours on the Isle of Wight, rather it was a metaphor for youthful beauty and the passage of time. Cameron has posed the girls to create an artistic scene and deliberately records them in soft focus so as to create a dreamlike, ethereal quality in the photograph.

Some of the photographs show young children at work or in a work environment—apprentices at ship yards, fisher girls on the beach, or children working family farms and crofts, such as Larry Herman’s 1974 portrait of John Watson at work on a dairy farm in Ayrshire, and Paul Strand’s portrait of John Angus MacDonald on his family croft on South Uist in 1954. In the work of MacMahon of Aberdeen, the photographic studio captured three young boys at a fish processing plant in the town in order to provide a sense of proportion and scale for the giant cod that was being shipped overseas to Portugal. The picture shows the smallest boy in the middle of the composition, dwarfed by gargantuan fish.

From uniformed school pictures to class outings and lessons, another selection of photographs shows children within an educational context. Among the works on display is a series of images by Edith Tudor-Hart (1908–1973), whose intimate pictures of teachers and pupils from Camphill School, Aberdeen, were originally commissioned for a magazine essay in 1949. Tudor-Hart explored the teaching philosophy of the institution which is displayed in the tenderness of the work that addresses the school’s ethos of providing support and education for children with developmental disabilities, mental health problems and other special needs.

The exhibition also explores the notion of play, a subject synonymous with childhood. From portraits of Victorian children with their dolls and books to explorations of today’s virtual playground, the photographs reveal that while children may have vastly different toys from the past compared with the present day, there is still the desire to escape into a world of make-believe and imagination. Many photographs reveal the street playgrounds of the 1950s and 1960s, such as Roger Mayne’s Children playing on a lorry, Glasgow (1958). Like so many of Mayne’s highly contrasting, black and white photographs, it captures perfectly the children’s vitality and abandon in a simpler time, whereas Wendy McMurdo explores the state of modern play which often is situated both in the real and virtual worlds. Inspired by the recent phenomenon of Pokémon GO, which involved young children searching out computer-generated characters inhabiting physical sites and landscapes, McMurdo photographed a number of children and utilised digital technology to obscure their faces and create a splintered portrait—symbolic of their fractured play between two worlds.

When We Were Young is also a chance to see, for the very first time, new works recently acquired by the Gallery from artists including; Wendy McMurdo, Glasgow-based Margaret Mitchell and leading South African photographer Pieter Hugo. The carefully selected photographs, all from the national collection, celebrate the notion of childhood as recorded by the camera since the 1840s with a delightful and engaging selection and coinciding with the Year of the Young Person in 2018.

“This is the second of our thematic exhibitions drawn from the photography collection here at the National Galleries of Scotland. This fun and engaging display of childhood from all over the world will feature iconic images alongside less well known works, old favourites and new acquisitions—essentially something for everyone, no matter what your age!”

Anne Lyden, International Photography Curator, Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

Part of Photography Scotland’s, Season of Photography 2017, a lively series of exhibitions and events taking place across Scotland from September to November 2017.

Part of Luminate, Scotland’s creative ageing festival
Luminate runs a diverse programme of creative events and activities throughout the year, including a nationwide festival of arts and ageing. Luminate’s sixth festival takes place 1 – 31 October 2017.

About the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery
When We Were Young: Photographs of Childhood from the National Galleries of Scotland is being shown in the Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery and is part of a continuing series of photographic exhibitions (including Lee Miller & Picasso and Ponte City) in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The Robert Mapplethorpe Photography Gallery, named after the renowned American photographer, is supported by a very generous donation from The Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation. The gallery is the first purpose-built photography space of its kind in a major museum in Scotland.

Did you like this? Share it:

‘Gravitas’ at London Art Fair

We’re delighted that Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ‘Unsullied And Untarnished’ project, which examines the culture of the Common Riding festivals of the Scottish Borders, has been chosen to be included in the Photo50 show at London Art Fair which runs this week from Wednesday 18th – Sunday 22nd January.

Photo50 is London Art Fair’s annual exhibition of contemporary photography, providing a critical form for examining some of the most distinctive elements of current photographic practice. 2017’s installment is ‘Gravitas‘, a group exhibition of lens-based works, curated by Christiane Monarchi, editor of Photomonitor photography website.

Also from Scotland and included in the show are works from a new portrait project by Wendy McMurdo which examines the dual existence of children and their digital online worlds.

GRAVITAS

“‘Gravitas’ refers to one of the core personal virtues taken by ancient Roman society as an important part of the expression of a purposeful life, a facet of the ideal and well-rounded citizen. It denoted depth as well as a seriousness and solemnity of character. The presence of gravitas signalled the transition of the Roman youth from the ranks of boyhood to become a respected member of society.

Artistic representation of the interior world of children and adolescents as they enter the adult world is fraught with challenges: not least the existence of taboos regarding the portrayal of children in the media under the age of consent. However, at a time when childhood itself comes under increasing pressure from society in many real and virtual arenas, the path through adolescence constitutes a fascinating journey worth illuminating for both artistic and sociological discourse.” – Christiane Monarchi explains the exhibition.

 

Ethan McMurdo as monk, St. Ronan’s games festival, Innerleithen, Scotland on 19th July 2014.

 

Jeremy will be exhibiting portraits of youths (above) participating in the Common Riding festivals from his Unsullied And Untarnished project, photographic portraits of the people of the towns of the Scottish Borders who each year undertake the maintaining of tradition, commemorating their local history and strengthening the bonds of their communities, during the annual Common Riding festivals of the summer months. Braw Lassies and Honest Lads, Left Hand Lassies and Right Hand Men, Cornets, Hunters and Coldstreamers – all titles given to the upstanding youths who lead the festivities, and whose duty it is to carry the burgh or town standard around the common lands, to “bring it back unsullied and untarnished”.

Wendy McMurdo’s work focuses on the now ubiquitous role of the computer in the lives of the majority of western children. The rapid proliferation of computers in schools has provided the context for the development of much of her work, which looks directly at the influence of computers on early years education. Working closely with local schools, she has explored the role of the child within the school, the growth of the Internet and the development of networked play. In related projects, she shadowed school parties on educational visits to various local museums, a process which evolved naturally from photographing in the classroom. From this, she produced series of works that explored the ways in which children related to the museum and its objects in a world of increasing simulation. She is based in Edinburgh.

Young Girl (iii), photo © Wendy McMurdo 2016.

 

Talking of the project Wendy says, “In the summer of this year, my youngest daughter was about to leave primary school and I wanted to make a final piece of work documenting her class. I’d worked with this group on many occasions over the years, mainly looking at the impact that the computer and digital culture had on their lives.

That summer, location based gaming exploded onto the scene and it seemed that much of this group’s time outside school was spent chasing Pokémon around the streets of the city. Using GPS and their camera functions, they roamed the city, inhabiting two worlds at the same time – one geographic and one imaginary. In this set of portraits, I wanted to capture that dual existence, now that space has been re-imagined for us by the appearance of location-based gaming.”

‘Gravitas’ Exhibiting Artists.

Did you like this? Share it: