Why I Took This Picture……..Robert Ormerod

Starting a new series is always a tentative process:  The fulfilment of an idea that may have been gathering momentum in a closet somewhere in a corner of your mind.  Will a story translate from idea form to visual reality?  Will I waste my time working on something that may lead to nothing?

The night before I made this image my mind was still going through familiar questions.  I had spent a few days on the political youth project and so I was planning to visit the Conservative conference in Troon to push forward with the project.  However I was unsure if a party political conference would provide the kind of interesting images that I was looking for.  Would there be enough young people in attendance to justify making the trip?  Would the building provide the right character and back-drop to my images? I’m sure all photographers are familiar with this self-questioning and critical approach to their own ideas. The truth is it all probably stems from the same thing- fear of failure.  And there is only one to deal with this and that is to keep pushing forward.

So I made the trip to Troon, regardless of my reservations, fears and doubts, and I pushed forward with the project.  To my surprise I arrived in Troon to find that the conference was not being held in a sparkling, modern conference centre but in a town hall with original decor dating back a few decades.  As I wandered through the crowded corridors and past the various stalls it quickly became apparent that there were plenty of interesting young Conservatives to photograph.  I settled on these aged yellow curtains in, what looked like an old school gym hall, as my background.  The light was good and I decided the curtains would provide a nice contrast with the fresh, suited-and-booted individuals I had seen at the conference.  I balanced my reflectors on some chairs and began approaching subjects.

Robert’s photograph, and others from his series, Political Youth, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the ‘Seeing Ourselves’ exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition finishes today, July 31st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition, can be bought via our publications page.

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Why I Took this Picture ….. Mary – by Sophie Gerrard

Mary at home on her farm in Crieff, rural Perthshire from the series Drawn To The Land © Sophie Gerrard 2013, all rights reserved.

 

Spring 2013 was one of the coldest on record – it almost never really came. Farmers all over Scotland were concerned and anxious that by mid April, there was still no sign of grass,  that’s pretty much unheard of. 15 foot snow drifts on Arran over Easter and -5 degrees recorded in Fort William added to the worry. It was an extremely testing time for farmers as they tried to look after sheep out on the hill giving birth into what should be warmer weather with fresh spring grass to feed on.

As I’ve started to spend more time in the Scottish landscape and take more photographs over the last year or so I’ve found myself drawn to stories of human relationships with the land and the emotional connections. The more I’ve started to engage with issues concerning our Scottish landscape – the more I’ve felt drawn to look at them through the eyes of women- purely because I think its something that’s not often represented. When you look to farming all over the world – women play a hugely important role – in Scotland the same applies.

Mary runs a farm in Perthshire which has been tenanted by her family since the early 1900s. Whilst spending time with her she talked passionately and emotionally about her relationship with the farm and the landscape. The day I made this picture we’d just finished spent going round the farm checking on the pregnant ewes. The ground was frozen solid, there was no fresh grass, Mary had fed everyone by hand and checked all were alright. We’d been blown about, got muddy and dirty, crossed swollen rivers, driven up into the snow for the high fields, and returned back to the house to warm up. I took this picture as we stood at her kitchen window looking over the farm….

“I see myself not as a landowner but as custodian of this beautiful place, I feel I have an moral obligation and responsibility to leave it as good if not better than it was when I came here. I never felt forced into farming. I was told it was here if I wanted it, it’s in my blood. I can’t imagine having done anything else and I think it’d be extremely difficult to do this work otherwise. It’s not an inviting industry for young women to enter into however and the average age of a farmer now is 58. The farm is the most important thing, it’s really the only thing as far as I’m concerned. I want to leave this place in a box, and I’m left with a dilemma now that neither of my daughters are interested in the farm. ”

 

Sophie’s photograph, and others from her series, ‘Drawn To The Land’, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the ‘Seeing Ourselves’ exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition, can be bought via our publications page.

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‘Britannia Herself’ by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

Rangers fans exiting Galabank Stadium, after the Annan FC v Rangers FC game, in Annan, Scotland, Saturday 23rd September 2012. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2012, all rights reserved.

 

It was the second Rangers away game I’d been to for my, at that time, new project ‘Life In The 3rd’. I wished to follow Rangers FC as they travelled around the country and through the Scottish footballing 3rd Division, taking in the small towns and lesser stadiums of the land. I’d just recently returned from ten years of living in Japan and this seemed like a good way to see the country and get back in amongst a good story to shoot.

The game at Annan was lacklustre, decent for photos, but the football was terrible. Low, laden grey skies weighed heavy on everyone within the small ground. My intention at these games was to photograph the fans and culture, I wasn’t too interested on what happened on the field itself. Annan’s Galabank Stadium was small enough you could move around, get access to different sections, go to where the pies were being sold out of a caravan, and generally find new angles. But during the game itself, as the pitch was so close to the fans, it wasn’t possible to move about, you had a location and you had to stay there. It was then, stuck in my one position for 45minutes, that I first saw the young lady above, wrapped in her flag, in amongst the Rangers traveling support.

She was standing, leaning on a terracing balustrade, wrapped in the Union Jack, and wearing heavy rimmed black glasses. I don’t remember how vociferous she was in her support of her team, or decrying their lack of fortitude that day, but next to her was another young lady of similar age. This second girl, a blonde, had a foul mouth on her, cursing the referee, the linesmen, the players, the football, no one escaped her wrath and cursive language. But it was the girl wrapped in the Union Jack who drew my attention. At that time I thought the two girls were pals together, but in subsequent games where I occasionally saw them, I came to realise they weren’t.

It was the start of a new project and it was interesting to me to see young ladies ardent in their support of Rangers, to see them as the hardcore traveling support. To photograph them fitted well with my aims, for myself, of exploring who makes up the support that follow Rangers at their lowest hour. I wanted to photograph the girl in the Union Jack, but I couldn’t get close as the game was in progress, and then it was over, nil nil.

I was outside the stadium photographing the fans streaming out, a moment I always enjoyed for photos. The fans would depart, criss crossing each other, some going left to cars, some right to the pub, others straight for their bus. There was always a certain energy about the crowds as they left, and it didn’t last long, a minute or two, but it was one of my favourite times of a game. The general mass of people all going in different directions always held the feeling of a battle scene.

And then, just as the crowds were thinning, it didn’t take long as the Ranger support was small in number for this game where Annan’s Galabank stadium can only hold under 3,000 fans in total, I caught sight of her. Miss Union Jack. She wasn’t carrying a trident and shield, nor wearing a Corinthian helmet, and her white robes had been swapped for her Union Jack, but there she was- Britannia personified. Britannia herself.

She was walking fast with some men, and I had to approach her, ask her if I could take her photo. I was surprised by her eagerness to stop, to do a photo. Being a photographer amongst the Rangers fans was sometimes met with suspicion and distrust, so her happiness to be photographed surprised me a little. She stood in the road, and took off her large black framed glasses, and glanced past me, her pale complexion and red lipstick perhaps slightly at odds with her stalwart expression. I shot a few frames, as others passed behind her, and around her. She never asked what the image was for, or for whom I was photographing. And then she was gone, the Union Jack still gathered tight around her shoulders. Rule Britannia.

 

Jeremy’s photograph, and others from his series, ‘Life In The 3rd‘, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the ‘Seeing Ourselves’ exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition, can be bought via our publications page.

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Break for the Border….Colin McPherson

As the old maxim in publishing goes, celebrity sells.

So I was delighted to encounter Rod Stewart on a scrubby patch of land, a few short yards inside Scotland. Not the real McCoy, of course, but an invocation to attend a musical tribute to the great Jockney singer at some nearby watering hole. An evening with Rod Stewart in Gretna? Perfect for the purposes of my project. Had it have been Elvis, Lady Gaga or, heaven forfend, Michael Bublé, then this particular picture simply wouldn’t have worked. It had to be someone whose personal identity is intwined between Scots and Cockney, fitfully patriotic, yet permanently absent. Step forward, Rod Stewart.

‘A Fine Line’ is, for me, not just about the physical border between Scotland and England, but an investigation of the criss-cross identity of people and places along the frontier. My exploration of the border is just that: a journey without an agenda, a series of chance encounters and found moments which build a mosaic of something bigger, more tangible.

There are many threads which run through the work, one of the primary strands being humour. Subtle, dark, subconscious, playful or blatant, I am constantly looking for instances which juxtapose the serious with humorous. To laugh with, more than at, but to recognise the absurdity in much of what we see.

After taking the Rod Stewart photograph, I started to think of the cover of his new album, which pictures him, guitar-slung-over-back, sauntering away from the camera, carefully avoiding the waves lapping at his feet on some anonymous sandy beach. You might believe that the shot is taken at Malibu, St Tropez, Mozambique or some other glamourous location. But I reckon it might just be staged somewhere on the Solway, possibly a few miles from Gretna. And that leads me to believe that maybe the real Rod Stewart did appear to me in that forgotten field, sandwiched between the thundering M74, the Outlet Village and the border. In fact, I can almost hear him now: “If ya want my body and ya think I’m sexy….”

Colin’s photograph, and others from his series, “A Fine Line”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition can be bought online. You know you want to.  http://www.documentscotland.com/seeing-ourselves-newspaper/

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Why I Took This PIcture……Giulietta Verdon-Roe

It had been a long day.

I had started early, going straight to Home-Start Levenmouth offices and interviewing all who worked there.

It was just before Christmas and everyone was running around trying to organise the bags of presents which had been donated. Never ending lists filled with children’s names were being checked off and discussed…

“who would like the fire-engine over the small truck?”
“is she too old for this book?”
“her sister might steal that”
“ooo this is perfect for…”
“she’s a Tom boy she won’t like that!”

I was told that these were likely to be the only presents that these children received this year, so it was very important to find the right thing for the right child.

After the morning of sorting out toys and interviewing, I had arranged to meet with a volunteer and her young charge. We went to an arts and craft centre in a park where we painted magnets. It was incredibly windy and it was difficult to even open the car doors without them closing in your face as we climbed back into the car. It was freezing cold and the last of the trees clinging leaves flew from their branches. The magnets were going to be presents that the young girl could give to her Mum for christmas.

I took pictures through-out the day and found myself learning a great deal about the community I was documenting, the role of a volunteer and the children and parents they then helped.

On our way back we stopped off at the local super-market. The little girl I was with charged around pointing at everything and hoping she could persuade her volunteer to buy it.

I was so aware of her wanting these things and equally aware of her mums inability to afford them and there it was, aisles and aisles of toys that all the parents had to walk down and say no to. That’s why I took this picture.

Giulietta’s photograph, and others from her series, “Home-Start Levenouth”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.
Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition can be bought online. Treat yourself.  http://www.documentscotland.com/seeing-ourselves-newspaper/

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A Lanarkshire Farm….Radek Nowacki

It was a foggy, cold morning  and I decided to make a round of Shotts fields to find some nice and quiet landscapes.I was driving the A71 to West Tarbrax Farm when I noticed this back road blocked by 2 huge tractor tires. It was my “Wow! Look at that”.  It was the way the light  softened by morning fog hits the object. I asked myself a lot of times what makes me stop and take my pictures. Something attracts me  in  a visceral way. I do not think about it much because it is not intellectual. It is purely visual.

After exploring many aspects of farming in Lanarkshire, after visiting a number of busy auction houses, and experiencing the energy around the industry, I came back again and again to the relatively quiet subject of one particular family farm near the town of Shotts, where I live. I am looking  for quiet and lyric documentary style, simple and strong portraits connected with lyric landscape.

Very quiet and foggy mornings full of soft and diffused light have helped me to catch the beauty of the moment, the light, the composition and structure, the tonality and emotional quality and that is the magic of photography. Finally I have decided to use black-and-white negatives to take quiet, lyric and disturbing images from hidden, farmer’s world.

Radek’s photograph, and others from his series, “The Farmer DNA”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.

Document Scotland’s latest newspaper, which accompanies the exhibition can be bought online. Treat yourself.  http://www.documentscotland.com/seeing-ourselves-newspaper/

 

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Inside HMP Low Moss….Jenny Wicks

 

(c) Jenny Wicks, 2013, All Rights Reserved

The residency I undertook last year was an incredible experience. I gained unprecedented access to three Scottish Prisons, one of which hadn’t yet opened for ‘business’. To explore a world that is shrouded in mystery and suffers from an excess of representation and to make new work in and around these spaces was, without a doubt a privilege.

The conceptual frame for the project focused on the ways criminological researchers relate to the spaces where research is conducted, analysed and disseminated. A central premise is that working in particular spaces simultaneously contributes to their meaning as places of punishment. As the residency progressed I discovered striking juxtapositions of the mundane and the spectacular in the work of criminology. Suicide watch cells, the back of a prisoner transport van, a storage room holding physical restraint chairs and Zimmer frames mark sites of extreme human experience and yet at the same time are part of someone’s day at the office: a site where data is collected, transferred to spreadsheets and displayed to audiences in lecture theatres and conference halls.

The tree and chair is an image that I find very striking. As I waked through the hall ways of HMP Low Moss, with its modern, clean design, empty spaces and static energy I was struck by the conflicting messages; the fact that soon these walls would be occupied by men who’s lives were less than ordered, where chaos was central and the contrast between the space and the lives it would soon house was huge.

The massive tree taking centre stage in the hall as a way to almost humanise the clinical space dwarfing the chair, which was still in it’s protective plastic wrapping ready to be unveiled. I wondered if the architects or designers really understood what the space was being used for or if they had a generic footprint they used for all their government or council run projects; did new build schools, health centres, hospitals also have unnecessarily massive trees inside their halls?

I’d be very interested in revisiting the site to see what human marks have been left.

 

Jennys’ photograph, and others from her series, “Working Spaces Punishing Spaces”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.

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Iraqi Middlemen….Sarah Amy Fishlock

 

(c) Sarah Fishlock, 2013, All Right Reserved

As one might expect when photographing Iraqis who were resettled in Glasgow after having worked with the British government and forces in Iraq, the security of my subjects was paramount. I learned to make alternative portraits – images that did not explicitly reveal faces or identifying features, but that communicated something essential about the situation in which these families find themselves. Leaving a war-torn homeland in which they were viewed as ‘collaborators’ with the occupying forces, they face different problems in the UK – language barriers, an unstable employment market, and social isolation.

This image was taken right at the start of the project: I planned to take a few quick shots of Joe (not his real name) in his living room, as a way of familiarising him with the process. Joe’s wife was in the kitchen and his daughter was running about excitedly, wondering who this strange person was in her house. I asked Joe to stand by the window; a dignified, fastidious man, he clasped his hands behind his back. The winter light was weak so I set the shutter speed to 1/15 and worked with the aperture wide open – a necessity that later proved fortuitous.

After I had taken a few frames and was about to tell Joe that he could move, the little girl ran into the frame and stared straight at the camera; I quickly exposed one frame before she ran away. I was left feeling that something serendipitous had occurred, and when I saw the developed negative I was proved right; the combination of wide aperture, slight camera shake and shadow had even obscured her face enough for Joe to be happy for the image to be used. And anyway, he said, she won’t look the same in a few years. Maybe he was seeing her in the future: starting school, speaking English with a Glasgow accent, going to university, having a family of her own. Asking her parents about Iraq, the far-off country in which she was born. Picturing her story as a Scottish story, and feeling he’d done the right thing.

 

Sarah’s photograph, and others from her series, “Middlemen”, can be seen at Fotospace Gallery, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, as part of the “Seeing Ourselves” exhibition, which is curated by Document Scotland. The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013.

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Dolly The Sheep……Stephen McLaren

As our inaugural Document Scotland exhibition, “Seeing Ourselves”, opens this week in Glenrothes, we are featuring a blog each week for the duration of the exhibition from all contributing photographers. The feature is called, “Why I Took this Picture”, and needs no further explanation. First-up, Stephen McLaren, on his photograph, “Dolly”.

 

“When the weather disappoints in Edinburgh I relish visiting the re-born National Museum of Scotland on Chambers Street.  As the atrium of the Grand Gallery draws light in from its amazing glass canopy you can get decent pictures in there at reasonable shutter speeds.

Most of the other galleries are moodily lit and it’s not so easy to get a stable picture without using a tripod, however, one day I noticed that Dolly, the world’s first cloned mammal, was nicely lit in her glass box. The taxidermists had done a great job on her and she resembled a fleecy movie star as she rotated under spotlight along with some fake straw and plastic dung. Dolly was a big girl by sheep standards and the story that she was born as a ten-year-old in genetic terms might account for this.

Anyway, as befits her celebrity status and her pioneering role as a global-first for Scottish science, I enjoyed watching museum goers, gaze at the woolly celeb in her rotating box. Parents would point energetically and try to explain her provenance to children, but it was a solitary man, who stood stock-still with hand over heart, who gained my attention. I don’t know if he regarded cloned Dolly as an act of patriotism, or was just wondering how big her lamb chops might have been, but his concentrated gaze made me take this picture.”

 

A Private Viewing of “Seeing Ourselves” will be held on Saturday 8th June 2013 at FotoSpace Gallerie, Rothes Halls, Glenrothes. 3-5pm. Please join us.  The exhibition continues until August 1st 2013
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