We are proud to showcase work made by nine young participants who took part in Show Us Shetland, a collaborative project between Document Scotland and Shetland Arts which was staged in spring, 2021 and took a look at photography from the Shetland Islands.
The brief we set for the photographers was simple: use your camera (or smartphone, as this is 2021) to explore where you live to interpret what is around you and represent that through a series of individual images or a series of pictures. Although the idea behind it was straightforward, the conditions in which they, indeed all of us, were living through at the time, made the project potentially more difficult to deliver. Given the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic and all the restrictions the young people faced in their everyday lives, it is all the more remarkable that they produced such insightful, interesting and varied photography.
The work was made by the photographers during February and early-March following an initial online workshop session at which Document Scotland’s photographers got to hear a bit about where the young people lived and what was going on in the islands at the time. Although events like the annual Up Helly Aa festival had been cancelled, along with all over communal events and activities, there was a real enthusiasm to get involved amongst the nine participants who signed up to take part after responding to a media call out. We got the impression from the off that they were keen to show us the diversity of the islands, of how they were living and to do this by experimenting and developing their creative talents. The results were impressive, and offered us glimpses into their worlds through subtle and creative interpretations of their local environment.
There followed a group curating session – again held online and remotely due to pandemic restrictions – where we sifted through the photography and got to hear first-hand how the participants had made their work, where they had been and what they had focused on. The big news during February had been the weather with an unusually cold blast sending a covering of snow to the islands which lasted most of the month. Along with the pandemic, this seemed to give the photography a certain zeitgeist, and placed it squarely at a defined time in the Shetlands’ story.
Using the material we had collaborated on with the participants, we were then able to curate a programme of work which we showed at an online public event. It was Document Scotland’s first digital salon evening, and formed part of a wider project we have been researching and developing on over the last few months which looked at ways in which we can use new technology to extend the range and scope of what we do and how we work. The informal evening saw the youths present their new work, interspersed with photographers Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert presenting his work on ‘Klondykers’ in the 1990’s, Tom Kidd’s seminal and much loved ‘Life in Shetland’ work, and also work from Craig Easton, and Map6 Collective photographers Heather Shuker and Richard Chivers.
Looking into the future, the work the participants made is going to be exhibited at Mareel in Lerwick over the summer. It will give the public the opportunity to see the photography and learn a bit about the islands today, as seen through the lens of nine remarkable young people who showed us Shetland.
The Show Us Shetland participants were: Katrena Anderson, Martha Brown, Aileen Cumming, Freya Deyell, Sophie Manson, Kiera Nicolson, Kiy Rafferty, Lucy Renwick and Kailee Tait. We would like to thank Esther Renwick and Jane Matthews from Shetland Arts for their help and support in organising and delivering the project, which staged through support for Document Scotland from Creative Scotland.
All images © individual photographers, 2021, all rights reserved. Banner photo by Freya Deyell.