‘Six Percent’

Six Percent. ©Graham Miller 2013, all rights reserved.


Scottish-based photographer Graham Miller has been photographing families with a person with Down’s Syndrome, capturing their intimate moments and everyday family life. The resulting work is on show at Summerhall Gallery, Edinburgh, from 22nd March – 22nd May 2013. The exhibition photographs are accompanied by audio interviews and quotes with the families featured.

The work is also available as a book, called ‘Six Percent Down’s Syndrome – My Photographs, Their Stories‘, made in conjunction with Down’s Syndrome Scotland. Profits from the first 500 copies will go to Down’s Syndrome Scotland.


Cameron and parents. ©Graham Miller, 2013, all rights reserved.


The below text comes from the advance information for the book, supplied by Graham Miller:

‘I hope it will be an inspiration to people who might find themselves in what they think is an impossible situation’ – Ross Irvin (Jamie’s dad)

‘We know that new parents want to see real families just getting on with life after having a baby with Down’s Syndrome’ – Pandora Summerfield, CEO, Downs Syndrome Scotland.

The book’s title, Six Percent, is taken directly from statistics presented by the UK Cytogenetics register which show that of all the pregnancies diagnosed as being Down Syndrome, 6% result in a live birth, 91% are terminated and a further 3% of babies are miscarried, or die at birth.

This book is unusual in that it presents striking black and white photographs with captions derived from interviews, with a number of affected families by one photographer. A number of books already exist which show a very personal view, within one family, while the aim of this book is to show a diverse and balanced perspective across a number of family groups from the viewpoint of someone who knows nothing about the condition. This then reflects the
experience of many families who are introduced to Down’s Syndrome for the first time when they are told that their child has the condition.

Likely to be of interest to the photographic book community, expectant and new parents of children with Down’s Syndrome, medical professionals and the public at large. Six Percent aims to present real images and quotes from families describing their experiences. This includes very personal accounts of thinking around the time of diagnosis and then birth where families describe how they felt and how their views have developed. Some of the captions are shocking while others will prove uplifting.

Many families describe a feeling of shock, a period of adjustment and then acceptance. Those featured have all been determined to share their experiences, so that others can learn from them.

Through Six Percent, the photographer and interviewer, Graham Miller, does not seek to take a position as to whether the decision to terminate a pregnancy is justified or not. Instead he seeks to present ‘What I saw and heard – no more, no less’. On that basis, it is to be hoped that this book then provides a welcome additional source of information alongside that already available in the public domain which often focuses more on the medical ramifications rather than day to day life.

Graham admits that through this project, in common with his other documentary photography work, he seeks to address the underlying theme of the importance of individuality. ‘When I take photographs of someone affected by disability I see their condition as just one more aspect of them which goes towards creating the whole person. Small, tall, black hair, no hair, young, old and indeed having Down’s Syndrome are our ‘specifications’ and its society that tries to put us in a box. I pursue ‘humanity without constraint’ and it is my passion that we all do the same one day’.

Six Percent will be published on UN World Down Syndrome day March 21st 2013 alongside a touring exhibition.

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‘Seeing Ourselves’ exhibition

Document Scotland, in conjunction with FOTOSPACE Gallery, are very pleased to announce the ‘Seeing Ourselves, New Documentary Photography from Scotland’ photography exhibition, which will take place in June and July of this summer.

“With ‘Seeing Ourselves’ FOTOSPACE is proud to be showcasing the best in new Scottish documentary photography. Curated by the recently-formed Document Scotland collective, this exhibition brings together ten leading photographers working in Scotland right now. A dynamic and varied range of projects are presented all exemplifying the strength and depth of current photographic practice in the country. Beguiling images and strong sense of national story-telling make ‘Seeing Ourselves’ a photography exhibition that is both timely in its presentation and ambitious in its subject matter. See Scotland through the eyes of ten photographers with a unique vision.”

The photographers whose work will be on show are Document Scotland’s Sophie Gerrard, Stephen McLaren, Colin McPherson, and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, along with Jenny Wicks, Martin Hunter, Sarah Amy Fishlock, Giulietta Verdon-Roe, Radek Nowacki, and Robert Ormerod.

‘Seeing Ourselves’ will be on show at FOTOSPACE Gallery and FifeSpace Gallery, situated in Rothes Halls, Glenrothes, Fife, Scotland. The show will be open Monday-Saturday, 10am-5pm, and will be on from June 3rd- 31st July 2013.


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Self, #1

“A couple of months ago Document Scotland were invited by Stephen Mather, at the City of Glasgow College, to give a talk on documentary photography, and also to set a brief for  the student’s documentary photography module on which they were about to embark. We chose the title, or subject, of ‘Self’ as the brief, asking the students to tell  us who they were in 10 images or less. And then we sat back and await the results coming in by email.

It was great to see the different interpretations of the short brief, and to see who had also read the ‘rules’ of the brief. We negotiated the project like a real assignment out in the commercial editorial world, images had to adhere to certain size constraints, have IPTC information and metadata filled out etc. Alas, some students missed these things out, but many did not.

We mentioned whilst setting the brief that we’d post some of the work on our blog, and today Ladies and Gents, we do just that. The work below comes from student Chantel Ng, and she has written a few words to introduce it.” – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert


“This project was chosen to illustrate a significant current event in my life. I have been short-sighted since the age of 12. Being dependent on both prescription glasses and contact lens was a hindrance to me. I wake up every day with poor vision. On awaking in the morning, I reach for my glasses. Then, the hated routine of fitting the contact lens (and removing them before bed) has to occur. Since becoming a photography student 3 years ago, my vision further deteriorated. So, 3 weeks ago (in Nov2012) I decided, it was time to get perfect vision back. Since having laser treatment on both eyes, I no longer need prescription glasses or contact lens. The same daily routine I had for 20 years has finally come to an end. This little routine had been carried out every day in my life for 20 years. However, this marks a whole new beginning of my life.

Thank you for looking at my project.” – Chantel Ng.

“How I saw my blurred self”, ©Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


“The most frightening moment, staring into the flashing red and green light before the laser cuts both my eyes cornea”. ©Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


“Eye examination (slit lamp) chair, eyes checked after laser eye surgery”. ©Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


“In bed the whole day after my laser eye surgery, eyes sore, vision highly senitive to light.” ©Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


“A pair of sunglasses and a bag full of eye drops for post surgery.” ©Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


“A fresh new day after my laser eye surgery, new beginning of my life.” ©Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


“Journey to my college with a whole new perspective.” © Chantel Ng, 2013, all rights reserved.


At the moment Chantel does not have a website or Twitter account, but you can email Chantel here. Many thanks for looking.

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Document Scotland were approached by Gemma Ovens, a student at the City of Glasgow College, about showing her photographic work on the Skeklers, and skekling tradition from the Shetland Isles, and we felt both that the images Gemma had sent over were so interesting, so strange looking, and also that Gemma had linked to a very professionally done little Vimeo piece that her article and images deserved to be shown.

It was also interesting to us, to find out from Gemma, that no images of real Skeklers exist, or certainly none that Gemma has yet found, and that to preserve the idea of skekling, or the look of it, Gemma recreated some scenes, using local people and locally made skekler outfits. Is it documentary or not? We’re not sure, but we’re interested in it, and Gemma’s work has an appeal. So we present it here today, and hopefully you will also find it interesting, perhaps some of you may like to comment on whether you feel it is documentary in nature ?  –Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.


‘Skeklers of Shetland’ by Gemma Ovens.

“Whilst visiting the island of Fetlar in Shetland, I stumbled across curious old photograph of straw-clad children. I was intrigued to find out more – what were they? What were they doing? With a bit of research and help from local historians, I discovered that they were ‘Skeklers’.

Skekling is an old Shetland folk tradition. A Skekler is the name for a type of disguised person dressed in a distinctive straw costume; it is a variant of the term ‘guiser’. Skeklers would go round the houses at Halloween, New Year, and turn up at weddings in small groups performing fiddle music in return for food and drink. It is believed that this fascinating custom had all but died out by 1900 and the children I had seen in the old photograph were actually part of a ‘squad’ dressed as Skeklers as part of the Up Helly ‘A festival.

Children from Fetlar dressed as skeklers, Shetland, 1909. ©Shetland Museum. Used here with the kind permission of the Shetland Museum.


In recent years, Shetlanders have been trying to revive this ancient tradition and I managed to get in touch with a local band (Fiddlers Bid) who regularly dress in Skekler outfits made by local craftsman Ewan Balfour. I borrowed these authentic costumes to recreate scenes of Skekling as there is almost no real photographic evidence. My aim for this project was to ‘resurrect’ this ritualistic custom and to create a surreal world; a fusion between the fantastic and historical documentation. I wanted to find out if there was still a place in our contemporary consciousness for Skeklers – the primordial need to adorn fancy dress and disguise ourselves. I am currently documenting a similar folk tradition – the Whittlesea Straw Bear, and hope to compile a body of work tracing the straw related, pagan and folk traditions of Great Britain and Europe.” – Gemma Ovens.


Recreating skeklers in the Shetland Isles, Scotland. ©Gemma Ovens 2012, all rights reserved.



Recreating skeklers in the Shetland Isles, Scotland. © Gemma Ovens 2012, all rights reserved.


Gemma Ovens’ photography website is here.


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