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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Lewis Legacy

The family of John MacKay with his wife Anne (born Morrison), 20 South Shawbost, circa 1900-1905.
Photograph © Proiseact Tormod an t-Seoladair, 2013, all rights reserved.

An afternoon of talks and photographs will take place today at the Old School Community Centre at Shawbost on the island of Lewis to celebrate the life of Dr Norman Morrison (Tormod an t-Seoladair), whose pre-World War I photographs of life in the area are being presented in public for the first time.

Dr Morrison (1869-1949) had a long an interesting life; he completed a short spell of education in a so-called blackhouse school, but despite this rose to prominence as the co-founder of the Scottish Police Federation, a pioneer in herpetology in Scotland, an author on books on history and folklore as well as gaining a reputation as a fine glass-plate photographer.

Dr Norman Morrison in police uniform, circa 1905 holding an adder.
Photograph © Proiseact Tormod an t-Seoladair, 2013, all rights reserved.

Now, a one-day symposium (open to the public tickets on the door) celebrating the many facets of Dr Norman Morrison’s work accompanied, for the first time ever by a public display in Shawbost of the striking photographs that have inspired this initiative. A variety of invited expert speakers will give talks on the many achievements of Tormod an t-Seoladair.

Comann Eachdraidh an Taobh Siar were gifted the intellectual copyright over copies of these negatives by the descendants of Dr Norman Morrison, and intends to appreciate and explore Dr Morrison’s legacy through reproduction of the images and collaborative projects in the community. Roddy Morrison, Chairman of the Westside Historical Society said, “This discovery lifts a curtain, allowing us to look at an unseen chapter of our past.”

Kate Macleod of 21 North Shawbost and her father’s sister in bed, Shawbost, Lewis, circa 1900-13.
Photograph © Proiseact Tormod an t-Seoladair, 2013, all rights reserved.

The negatives are historically invaluable, unique in content and previously unknown; they skilfully show groups of villagers and individuals posed in the local landscape. The photographs have merited national and local interest from the Scottish National Galleries and CNES’s Tasglann project, in addition to being a source of fascination for the local community.

These images are significant and unique in portraying community life in the early 20th century. Photographer Murdo Macleod, who was born and brought up in Shawbost and has been invaluable in bringing this project forward, commented, “The photographs, whilst fascinating in themselves, are also a missing piece in the photographic heritage of the Hebrides – predating Paul Strand’s Hebridean work by up to fifty years and standing in stark contrast to the output of George Washington Wilson.”

Dr Norman Morrison in police uniform, undated.
Photograph © Proiseact Tormod an t-Seoladair, 2013, all rights reserved.

A lasting legacy from Dr Norman Morrison will remain in the community for future generations through photographic archives and the production of a DVD recording, documenting community inter-generational walks, observing and listening to the history of the area in partnership with Iomairt Ghaidhlig Iar Thuath Leodhais.

Dr Morrison will also be the subject of an hour long documentary to be produced by Corcadal Productions for BBC Alba.

Catherine Maclennan (1827-1912) of 44 North Shawbost, Lewis, circa 1905-12.
Photograph © Proiseact Tormod an t-Seoladair, 2013, all rights reserved.

Further information can be found at the Proiseact Tormod an t-Seoladair website or on their Facebook 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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The Common Riding

“I’m are very pleased to announce that today Cafe Royal Books, run and published by Craig Atkinson, have published a little limited edition (of 150) ‘zine book of my Common Riding photographs. All the images were shot in 2000, in the Scottish Borders, and 14 of them form the 28page black and white ‘zine.

All the ‘zines are numbered and if you’d like to buy one they can be found here on Cafe Royal Books website and are on sale at £5.00 each, plus package and posting. The ‘zine is published in an edition of 150, but not all of those will go on sale.

Other photographers published by Craig as part of the same series are Homer Sykes, David Levenson, Craig Atkinson, Peter Dench, John Claridge and more. Many great photographers whom I admire, and much great photography. I’m very pleased and excited to have my work alongside the work of them in the series, and I’m grateful to Craig at Cafe Royal Books for his interest in my work and bringing it to a bigger audience. I hope you can take a look.” – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert


Curds and Creams Repast, in St. Leonard’s Hut, Hawick. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Cafe Royal Books 2013, all rights reserved.


Catching packets of snuff, at dawn, Hawick. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Cafe Royal Books 2013, all rights reserved.


‘Crying the Langholm fair’, Langholm. ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Cafe Royal Books 2013, all rights reserved.

See the whole set of Scottish Common Riding photographs, from 2000, in Hawick, Langholm and Selkirk, here.


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The Stone of Destiny

“On Twitter and the BBC this morning I read that Kay Matheson, one of the four students whom on Christmas Day 1950 liberated the Stone of Destiny from it’s position in Westminster Abbey, had passed away aged 84. The story of Kay Matheson,  and her three accomplices Ian Hamilton, Gavin Vernon and Alan Stuart, is infamous in Scottish politics and is one of many milestones on Scotland’s journey to the referendum on independence next September.

As far as I know there are no images from 1950 when Ms Matheson and her colleagues returned the Stone to Scotland, but when the Stone was eventually returned in 1996, from London to Edinburgh, the nation’s press watched. But as the Stone made it’s way from Albermarle Barracks in Ouston, to Coldstream, and right into Edinburgh Castle’s Great Hall perhaps no photographer had a better chance to witness the journey than Gary Doak, a freelance photographer working in Scotland, who was assigned to photograph the various stages of the historic journey…” -Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.


The Return of The Stone of Destiny, by Gary Doak.

With the acquisition of a new scanner I recently decided to re-visit some old negatives. One event I was keen to review was the return of the Stone of Destiny to Scotland both because of its historical importance and as one of the milestones on the road to the vote for independence next year. I was also aware that I probably had the most comprehensive coverage of the event of any photographer.

The Stone leaves Albemarle Barracks in Ouston, near Newcastle. ©Gary Doak 2013, all rights reserved.


In 1996 I was mainly freelancing for newspapers and a fair slice of my work was commissioned by Scotland on Sunday. I was initially sent to cover the first leg of the Stone’s journey from the North of England to Scotland on the 15th of November. This involved an early start to catch it leaving Albemarle Barracks in Ouston, near Newcastle. There was no ceremony to speak of and I had no access to the barracks, and I was the only representative of the press there. I just had to wait by the main gate and grab what I could as it left in plain reguluation Army Landrover. Then I had to make a mad dash back up the road to get to Coldstream to await its arrival.

What a contrast I found when I arrived in Coldstream: the place was heaving! The streets were lined with people from the bridge to the town. Press everywhere: photographers, journalists and tv crews. Just getting a vantage point would be a task in itself. There was definitely an air of expectation and a sense of celebration in the town. I had a good view of it crossing the bridge into Scotland – you had to get that shot.

The Stone makes its way through the town of Coldstream. ©Gary Doak 2013, all rights reserved.


The Stone makes its way through the town of Coldstream. ©Gary Doak 2013, all rights reserved.


Two weeks later it would make the final trip to Edinburgh Castle on St. Andrews Day. I was tasked with covering the event along with a few other photographers for Scotland on Sunday. I had an initial position on the Royal Mile (on top of the arch entrance of the City Chambers) and followed its progress up through the crowds to St. Giles Cathedral. Again there was a huge turnout, this was a significant event without a doubt.

The Stone of Destiny makes it’s way up the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle. Its on display in the back of the Landrover at the tail of this line of vehicles. ©Gary Doak 2013, all rights reserved.


I then had to make my way up to the castle, grabbing a shot of it traversing the esplanade, before making my way up to The Great Hall for the official handover. And this is where I was fortunate to have the trust of my picture editor, Alex Aikman, because she could easily have sent one of her staff photographers to cover what was probably the most important part of the day. There was a pool of just three photographers; me, PA and Reuters.

The return of The Stone of Destiny to Scotland. Michael Forsyth during the official handover ceremony in the Great Hall at Edinburgh Castle. ©Gary Doak, 2013, all rights reserved.


This was it. The pomp and ceremony with the great and the good. A hush falls over the room. The Secretary for State for Scotland, Michael Forsyth steps forward. The Queen’s letter is read aloud. Prince Andrew steps up. They pose for another picture. And that’s it, everyone files out and there, left on a little plinth on some red carpet, is the Stone. Back where it belongs. Until it’s needed for the next coronation, of course, because if you read the t&c’s in the Queen’s letter you’ll see that we’re only looking after it.

The Queen’s letter setting out the terms and conditions of the Stone’s return. ©Gary Doak 2013, all rights reserved.


Alex Salmond and Winnie Ewing of the SNP escort Kay Matheson (2nd from left) to view the stone. ©Gary Doak 2013, all rights reserved.


Once the official party has left, some other interested parties arrive. Alex Salmond has brought a couple of visitors, including Kay Matheson who, on Christmas Day 1950, along with three fellow students, removed the Stone from Westminster Abbey and spirited it away under the cover of darkness back to Scotland. That was its first, if unofficial, return to its homeland. But that’s another story…

Kay Matheson views the Stone in the Great Hall, Edinburgh castle. ©Gary Doak, 2013, all rights reserved.


More on the story of Kay Matheson and the Stone of Destiny can be read here. Kay Matheson passed away on Saturday at the age of 84.

All images and text are ©Gary Doak, 2013, all rights reserved. You can see Gary Doak’s photography website here, and send him a note on his Gary Doak Photography Facebook page here.

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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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Review of ‘Seeing Ourselves’

Document Scotland were delighted to be interviewed by The Dundee Courier about the exhibition ‘Seeing Ourselves’. Stephen spoke with Jennifer McLaren and explained a little about what brought us together, our aims and our passions and how we curated the exhibition.

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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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