The conference and related exhibition explore the ways that photographic images address notions of a Northern landscape – whether drawing on established traditions of art and photography or whether concerned with contemporary photographic and lens based practice. The conference will bring together scholars and practitioners to discuss a wide range of practices and critical approaches, from both contemporary and historical perspectives.
The group exhibition features work by Mark Adams, Tom Baskeyfield, Jacqueline Butler, Anne Cambell, Matthew Conduit, Kevin Crooks, Michael Day, Liza Dracup, Sabine Dundure, Sophie Gerrard, Alexandra Hughes, Henry Iddon, Mitch Karunaratne, Anna Lilleengen, Adam Murray, Mario Popham, Simon Roberts, Theo Simpson, Ravinder Surah, Jonny Sutton, Patrick Wichert, Chi Yan Wong
Key note speakers at the conference were photography writer and curator Liz Wells and photographer Simon Roberts. The two days were filled with interesting discussion and debate around representation of the north and landscape photography from UK and worldwide based colleagues and photographers.
Northern Light, An exhibition exploring contemporary photographic practice in relation to the northern landscape and its representations is on at SIA Gallery in Sheffield until 31st July.
Gregor Schmatz has recently finished a BA Photography at Edinburgh Napier University. Document Scotland caught up with him and had a chat about his ongoing degree show project about Methil in Fife, Scotland.
DS: Tell us a little about yourself Gregor, and why you decided to make this particular project.
GS: I was born in Germany but grew up most of my life in Luxembourg. After a brief year in Australia I moved to Edinburgh where I completed a degree in Photography at Edinburgh Napier University. Currently I am pursuing a career as a freelance editorial photographer.
I thought about doing a project about Methil or the area for a while and then I had to decide on my final year project for University. Since it became a project for University I had enough time to drive up there on a regular basis.
DS: What were your original hopes, objectives and ambitions for shooting the work? Why make this project?
GS: I knew that there was a lot to explore visually, just interesting photos to be found. But I also liked the project because it is of contemporary interest on a national and UK wide basis, I could sell this project in different ways. But the subject matter was different from what I have done before, so I also had to adjust and think things through a bit more. Plus after 4 years in Edinburgh I am very happy I ended the course with a particularly Scottish project.
DS: Why did you decide to shoot it in the way you did?
GS: I thought the project through more because it was a new subject matter for me, but I still shoot everything more or less instinctively. Currently I shoot everything medium format, it just works for me.
DS: Did you know Methil before? Why there?
GS: I drove through Methil with friends from Fife, that’s how I came across the area first. I knew I could shoot there pretty much immediately.
DS: What do you think these photographs say about Methil?
I tried to portray it in a way that people can make up their own mind but at the same time I was also aware that Methil had a overly bad reputation already and I wanted to focus on the everyday there, not the extreme.
DS: In your introduction you call Methil “an overlooked Scottish town.” What do you mean by that?
GS: Simply that most people never heard of it, or if they did, it was something bad. And there are many places like this; unknown towns, which actually have a huge history but lost their industry and slowly became increasingly desolate.
DS: Have people in the images, from Methil seen the work and if so what feedback, thoughts do they have on the work?
GS: Only one pair have seen them and they liked the images, but they were also surprised of the images. I think it was just a bit strange for them to see a series of images about their town, places they see everyday. All the other people in the photos were short encounters, I have no contact details.
DS: You’ve been studying at Napier for the last few years, how did you get started in photography and can you tell us a little about your journey to where you are now as a photographer?
GS: I think I first bought a SLR before travelling, that’s when I started seeing all the possibilities and just started taking photos and never got bored of it. My project “Amerikanare” was a project I started at the end of the first year at University. It was my first serious project and I went back last summer to finish it and the final project was exhibited in Boston and published in a couple of magazines. This is the project where learning curves were the most obvious and I learned a lot from doing it. Looking back I definitely feel more secure in my image making and more defined, but it just took time. I think I always had certain tendencies or preferences in photography but the course at Napier gave me the chance to explore many different styles and get better at taking photos through many many small projects. But I am far from settled, there are exciting times ahead.
DS: You mention that this project is still on going – what plans do you have to continue?
GS: I just learned that the Windmill plant will actually shut, so this is a bit a sad ending, however I will try and expand the series to the Levenmouth area.
DS: What are you up to right now? How are things since graduating and what are your future plans?
GS: Very good! I had a great exhibition in Boston as part of the Flash Forward Festival and some nice magazine and online features, creating some important contacts for the future, so I feel pretty lucky!
Over the last few months here at Document Scotland we have been pretty busy, however, we always make time to see new work. Here we take a look at some of the work by graduates from Edinburgh Napier University 2014 which was on show earlier this year in their degree show and also at Free Range in London.
Here is a taster of some of their work which caught our eye… do take a look at their individual websites for further images.
Glasgow Mods by Lisa Boyd
“This project is about the Mod subculture in Glasgow, focusing on original and long time members. I have always been interested in people and their uniqueness. My father was an old mod and seeing the mod subculture re-emerging was my main inspiration to do this project. Several recent photographic projects have focused on the younger mod generation. I was interested in telling the story of the originals for whom being a mod has always been a part of their life. I started researching the subculture and going to a few mod events and club nights. These portraits were taken outside the ‘Tailor Made’ (previously ‘Friday Street’) club night round at the smoking area. I really enjoyed the time I spent doing these portraits. Speaking with the mods I heard some great stories and learned a lot about the subculture. After finishing this portrait project I am still photographing the mods. I am focusing on the different aspects of the subculture, in the end I hope to have a comprehensive body of work documenting the subculture from all perspectives.”
“A Lolita could be best described as an individual who follows the Japanese subculture of wearing western inspired Victorian and Rocco style Japanese fashion. The history of the movement began in Japan during the 1970’s, with fashion companies such as Pink House, Milk and Pretty. Although Lolita is fairly unknown, this fashion subculture has become a growing trend among young women in Scotland. Lolita has dominated Japan for many years it has only been in the last decade that it has spread to many other countries in the world.
I am passionate about people and culture; I love to learn about new cultures and peoples stories. The inspiration for the project came from a long love of Japan and Japanese culture, I have an unexplored fascination with Japan and I created this project in order to find Japan and aspects of its culture in my home country. The difficulty in finding such a secretive subculture is in gaining the access required in which to meet, learn about and photograph the girls who wear Lolita. My love of Japan and Japanese culture gave me a connection with the girls and slowly they allowed me into their world. Most Lolita’s enjoy being photographed; they like to show off their immaculately co-ordinated outfits.”
“Situated between Edinburgh’s city prison and the financial sector, resides Gorgie. The densely inhabited area has one of the highest populations per square mile within the country. Historically it contained the largest pig farm in Scotland, with local residents claiming that the creation of the digestive biscuit hails from the area.
This project views the social network of people and place along the main western artery into Edinburgh city life and the chance encounters along the route.
Since completing the project and graduating from Napier, I currently work as a summer school photography teacher at Queens College, Cambridge. I intend to use images from the project towards my submission for several MA courses. However, for the time being I am based back in South Yorkshire and will begin work on several fresh longer-term projects, collaborations and commissioned work soon.”
The entire project with 30 images is available in a newspaper format here.
Limited Edition – £20 One Project One C-Print of choice from the series Protective cardboard sleeve.