The impulses behind the formation of Document Scotland are many, but one of our most important ambitions is to try and re-establish Scotland’s reputation for producing and appreciating great documentary photography. That tradition goes back to the Victorian era and encompass such world famous photographers like John Thomson and Thomas Annan and then in the 20th century with work by the likes of Oscar Marzaroli and Paul Strand, who, although not Scottish, produced a world-class photography book about South Uist which set a global benchmark for inspired and dramatic photography books about landscape and people.
In recent years we regret that serious photographic culture in our country has drifted towards more conceptual and inward-looking concerns and subsequently the documentary tradition has been under-valued. Exhibitions have been few and far between and photographers have not been able to find an audience for the great work that is still being done up-and-down the country. Consequently, the wider population have not had the opportunity to view important bodies of work which record and critique major issues of concern in our society.
Document Scotland is currently a collective of four Scottish documentary photographers with a passion for creating new work which talks to some of the major issues of concern in Scottish life and which explores big and important stories with a keen and incisive eye. Our membership is currently Sophie Gerrard, Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Stephen McLaren. Here are a couple of recent examples of what we have been upto.
– Sophie Gerrard’s project, “The Dunes”, is a beguiling project which mixes landscape and portrait to tell a complex and important story about land use and management and the rights of the people who now live cheek-by-jowl with Donald Trump’s “world class” golf course.
– Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s ongoing series, “Life in the Third”, is a bang-up-the-minute project following Rangers Football Club and their fans as they try and re-establish themselves in the foot-hills of the league. Jeremy’s shots of die-hard townies from Glasgow venturing to rural back-waters for this make-or-break season are occasionally poignant and often downright hilarious.
Like much of modern Scotland we are not into naval-gazing. We will be featuring work from Scottish photographers who are working abroad and who are looking at stories which reveal their visual intelligence and ability to work within other societies and cultures. Likewise, non Scottish photographers working here and recording Scotland with the fresh and un-encumbered mindset that a visitor often brings, will be championed.
Like much of modern Scotland we are also very engaged in this period in Scottish political history. We recognise that there is a national conversation going on which will pause for a referendum in the Autumn of 2014 and we want our work to record and comment on some of the main issues of concern within that debate. It’s not our job as documentary photographers to be cheerleaders for the status quo or a new national settlement, but we will be using our cameras to explore areas of modern scottish life which are intertwined with the wider debate about national concerns.
On a wider front we would like to be involved in educating young and old in making and appreciating photography. Thanks to camera phones and cheaper digital SLRs photography has become such a democratic cultural form and we would like to empower other citizens to use their phones and cameras for more than snapping their friends and sharing the results of Facebook. So as we mature we envisage Document Scotland expects and looks forward to leading workshops and community-based projects.
Ultimately though, we want to see the rich mine of Scottish documentary photography being seen in books and in exhibitions, in newspapers and on computer screens. We want to showcase the amazing work of Tom Kidd who covered the Shetland Islands and its oil boom in the 70s and Glyn Satterley whose witty black and white long term project on outdoor sporting and hunting pursuits reeks of passion and great access. We want to shout loudly about the seductive and un-settling urban landscapes of Martin Hunter’s Glasgow and Robert Ormerod’s pigeon fanciers from inner-city Edinburgh.
If you come by our website now and in the month and years to come I think you will be amazed at the breadth of subject matter, locations and terrain we will be covering. Land and city, islands and new towns, backyards and football stadiums, it will all be there. Covered by photographers with an empathy for Scotland and its citizens and a visual intelligence to produce world-class documentary photography.