Salon event 2016

Our Salon events for 2016 start next month, and we are delighted to be partnering with the University of Highlands and Islands to bring you events across Scotland. On the 18th February 2016 we will be hosting an event from Perth College which will be streamed live to venues across Scotland.

We hope you’ll be able to join us!



Please jois us in Perth or at any of the venues here;

Room 325, Perth College UHI, Creiff Road, Perth, PH1 2NX  tel: 0845 270 1177

Inverness College UHI, 1 Inverness Campus, Inverness, IV2 5NA tel: 01463 273 000

Moray College UHI, Moray Street, Elgin, Moray, IV30 1JJ tel: 01343 576 000

Orkney College UHI, East Road, Kirkwall, Orkney, KW15 1LX tel: 01856 569 000

Shetland College UHI, Gremista, Lerwick, Shetland, ZE1 0PX tel: 01595 771 000

Lews Castle College UHI, Stornoway, Isle of Lewis, HS2 0XR tel: 01851 770 000

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‘Klondykers in Shetland’

*** New just in! There’s going to be a second edition of the book printed. Another 150 are being printed to meet demands! More news soon, once they’re available ***

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s fourth Café Royal Book was released last Thursday, and very nicely sold out overnight! Thank you everyone for your interest and support.

Klondykers in Shetland 1994‘ is the last collaboration from Jeremy and Craig Atkinson at Café Royal for this year. If you do wish to try and get your hands on one then Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow, the shop at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, and possibly Foyles in London, have limited numbers still I believe.

Klondykers, Shetland 1994
Release Date 18.11.15
28 pages
14cm x 20cm
b/w digital
Edition of 150





“There’s blue on red, red on red, green on black, and that one over there is just rust on rust”, chortled the Coast Guard helicopter pilot as we flew over the waters of the Shetland isles and looked down on the fleet of East European ‘Klondyker’ fish factory ships all moored, all awaiting the arrival of the silver fish.

It was the early 1990’s, Communism had collapsed and new economies were struggling in Eastern Europe. Ships had been sent to Scottish waters to buy up the mackerel and herring catches, and take them back frozen or tinned to feed Bulgaria, Romania and the countries of the former Soviet bloc.

But the arrival of the Klondykers as they were known was gaining unwanted attention, ships were running aground all too frequently on the rocks of Shetland, and on visits into port others were detained, deemed as being unseaworthy. With ships impounded, and without work, crews went unpaid, and the men speaking no English drifted to the garbage dumps to look for items which could be salvaged, recycled, and taken back to Eastern Europe.



I went to the Shetland twice, around 1994, to photograph, both times on assignment, badgering fish merchant agents to take me out to the ships on their speedboats when they visited to cut deals with Bulgarian skippers. Or another time I agreed with the Coast Guard to be used as ‘live practice’, to be lowered by harness and winch onto a moving ship in exchange for getting up in their helicopter to shoot aerial shots of the Klondyker fleet. I readily agreed, for the excitement, for the adventure, and for the access knowing that Colin Jacobson, then picture editor at the Independent Saturday Magazine, would never hire me a helicopter.

Cyrillic signs hung in Lerwick town centre, telling the men of the Klondykers where they could find the Fisherman’s Mission, where they could find God, cups of tea and some help, and you could spot the men as they walked the town, in their Eastern European fashions of leather jackets and jeans. Up at the garbage dump I photographed as islanders drove up to offer the Klondyker men old televisions and electronics, or just to stop by and bring them cigarettes and gifts.




Out on the ships I got lucky and found myself on a ship crewed by Romanians, and I managed to use the little Romanian language skills I’d learned while working on another project outside of Bucharest. I chatted with the ship’s doctor, and he played his accordion for me, we toured the ship, and I photographed as men and women worked, cleaning the mackerel which had just arrived, or played table tennis as they awaited more fish.

The ships have gone now, but the word Klondyker still holds resonance in the Shetland, and of course upon the rocks are the ships which never left. – Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.


Visit Café Royal Books website.


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New book by Marc Wilson

We interviewed Marc Wilson and featured his impressive project ‘The Last Stand‘ on the Document Scotland site a while ago. His project beautifully documents some of the physical remnants of the Second World War on the coastlines of the British Isles and northern Europe.

When we first spoke to Marc, he had already travelled to over 100 locations and was in the process of crowd funding  to complete the project and travel to further locations all over Scotland, England, Wales, France, Denmark, Belgium, The Channel Islands and Norway. The result is a beautiful book and an impressive document of the various bunkers, gun emplacements and observation posts which exist on these coastlines. Many of these locations are no longer in sight, either subsumed or submerged by the changing sands and waters or by more human intervention. At the same time others have re-emerged from their shrouds.

In Scotland, the building of coastal defenses was concentrated on Scotland’s east coast as anti-aircraft defenses existed to protect strategic locations on the west, such as the Firth of Clyde, the region’s industries, the shipyards and the city of Glasgow. Some of the locations Marc photographed in Scotland include Lossiemouth, Newburgh, Findhorn, Loch Ewe, Hoy, Flotta, Northmavine, Unst and Lerwick.


Marc sent us some information about the book which you can pre-order here – we hope you enjoy it…


Stanga-Head, Unst, Shetland, Scotland image © Marc Wilson 2013 all rights reserved

Stanger Head, Flotta, Orkney, Scotland, 2013 © Marc Wilson 2013 all rights reserved.  To protect Hoxa Sound, the main entrance channel to Scapa Flow, new coastal defences were established during WW2. They included gun and rocket batteries, boom nets, searchlights, also anti-aircraft and barrage balloon sites. The Navy’s signaling and observation station on Stanger Head was also enlarged.



Lamba Ness, Unst, Shetland, Scotland, 2013 © Marc Wilson 2013 all rights reserved. Because of their proximity to occupied Norway, where the Germans had established U-boat and Luftwaffe bases from which they threatened Allied shipping in the North Atlantic, it became urgent for Britain to extend the range of the radar covering Orkney and Shetland. A Chain Home Low radar station (RAF Skaw) was set up at Lamba Ness in Unst, the most northerly island of Shetland. It could detect enemy aircraft flying at a minimum altitude of 500 feet.

marc-wilson-last-stand-book-5 marc-wilson-last-stand-book-4


You can click here to see more of Marc Wilson’s project The Last Stand on his website

Marc is also on Twitter here.





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Document Scotland Summer Salon 2013

A full crowd at the Document Scotland Summer Salon event, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh

A full crowd at the Document Scotland Summer Salon event, Stills Gallery, Edinburgh


Edinburgh during the festival is a lively place, full of energy, excitement and a melting pot of ideas, inspiration and passion. What better reason to invite friends and colleagues to an evening of Scottish photography, multimedia and conversation at Stills Gallery, Scotland’s centre for photography in the heart of the city. All of us at Document Scotland would like to extend a huge thank you to all of you who came along and helped make the night such a success.

We were also delighted and honoured to be joined by Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs. Thank you for coming Fiona, and your kind words about the work.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Colin McPherson talk to Fiona Hyslop, the Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, at the Document Scotland Summer Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh.


Stephen McLaren welcomed us all, and the evening kicked off with Jeremy’s new, and as yet unseen multimedia work on the Scottish Borders Common Ridings. A fascinating glimpse into a world of tradition, ritual and history (and a follow on from his work on the subject started in 2000 which you can read about here.)

Next up was Tom Kidd’s stunning black and white work from 1970’s Shetland, more of which can be seen here. Tom was there to answer a few questions for us and tell us a little about his experiences of photographing there. It was great you could join us, thanks Tom.


Tom Kidd with members of the audience.


Sophie Gerrard talks to Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop.


We then went to our first Glasgow story of the evening, Chris Leslie’s evocative Red Road Underground which tells the story of the unique Brig bar, a hidden underground bingo hall underneath the now demolished Red Road flats in Glasgow. Chris’ ability to transport us to that place through the voices of those who frequented there led to an interesting conversation about legacy, regeneration and memory. We’re really glad you could join us Chris and tell us more about your work.


Chris Leslie talks to the audience about his project The Glasgow Renaissance.


Gemma Oven’s “Skeklers” documents an ancient the lost tradition of Skekling from the Shetland isles through photography, film and reconstruction. We featured this work by Gemma on the blog back in March this year after finding learning about her project that she undertook as a student at the City of Glasgow College. We were very pleased that Gemma was able to join us last night and answer a few questions about the ancient tradition and her experience of recreating it. Take a read of the blog piece to see more of Gemma’s pictures and watch the film.


Gemma Ovens tells the crowd more about her work “Skeklers”.


Colin McPherson was up next with his new work, “Avenue” – a work in progress which is in the very early stages and looks at the street in which he grew up in. Colin talked us through his idea for the work, his motivation and where he planned to take the project. As it’s so new, we don’t have a link for this project, but please do watch this space, Colin will be updating us all as it progresses and as the work continues – we can’t wait to see more Colin.


Colin McPherson presents his new work to the audience


The second Glasgow project of the evening was work by Hugh Hood. His photography website is here. We watched a slideshow of 1974 Glasgow images set to music. Documenting  vanishing Glasgow neighbourhoods. It’s a poignant project and one we’ve featured on the Document Scotland blog – take a read here.


The audience at the Document Scotland Summer Salon event at Stills Gallery, Edinburgh


Last up – and for desert as Stephen put it, was Sophie’s piece on Tunnocks and the Scottish institution that is Mr Boyd Tunnock – some call him a modern day Willy Wonka, others call him Mr Tea Cake. Having always wanted to get inside that wonderful factory and see how it worked, Sophie was given the opportunity earlier this year and the resulting film and photographs were published, you can see them here.


What remains to be said is a huge big thank you from all of us. Thank you to Evan and his team at Stills for hosting us and making us feel so welcome, thank you to Neil from Beyond Words for being there with an ever fantastic collection of books and publications for sale, thank you to our wonderful guest contributing photographers showing work alongside us namely Chris Leslie, Gemma Ovens, Tom Kidd and Hugh Hood. Thank you to Fiona Hyslop, for joining us and thank you most of all to our wonderful audience for turning up in such numbers and making this night such a success.


Here’s to you all, and to the next Salon event!

The four founding members of Document Scotland (l-r Colin McPherson, Sophie Gerrard, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert & Stephen McLaren)
outside Colin McPherson’s childhood home in Edinburgh.

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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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