Installing the LCC Survive show… opens 12th Feb!
Being part of Document Scotland continues to be a joy as we speed towards the Referendum and all the events which Scotland will enjoy this year. 2014 has begun with a flying start, Document Scotland have exhibitions, events and publications coming up - more to be announced soon.
In the meantime we are all enjoying the continued communication with phtoographers making exciting work about Scotland. I interviewed Glasgow photographer, filmmaker and multimedia producer Chris Leslie last week for the Document Scotland blog and he told us more about his work The Glasgow Renaissance - take a look - it’s a brilliant project….
I am very pleased to have been invited to show my work E-Wasteland, in a group show at London College of Communication, this February 2014. The private view is Wednesday 12th Feb and the show will be up from 6th - 16th Feb. Details are below -
A Scottish still life best served with tatties and haggis…..
It’s 2014 - a new start to regularly posting interesting pictures, thoughts and other bits and pieces….
On assignment for the Financial Times at the beginning of the new year involved driving through some spectacular countryside especially around the River Tweed - this view of flooded fields caught my attention as dusk fell and I returned towards the city. Flooding in the Borders.
There was a story in the Guardian this week about India’s Coal Cycle Wallahs, and it took me straight back to when I photographed them in Jharkhand, back in 2010.
The story on my website is here where you can read some interviews I carried out with some of the men. And I am really pleased that this year, the project has been nominated for the Prix Pictet award, a prestigious environmental photographic award, under this year’s theme of consumption. It was an extraordinary story to shoot.
Durga Singh, Coal Cycle Wallah, Jharkhand, India
I was visiting the neighbouring state of Bihar in 2010 for an NGO client, I was shooting a story on cataract blindness and working in a remote hospital there for a number of weeks. It was an intense time, I was working alone, living in a temple in the middle of rural Bihar, miles from anyone and anywhere it felt. (That project became Protectors of Sight which you can see on my website.)
While I was there we often drove for many miles to visit remote villages and communities where the hospital conducted their outreach. It was on one of these journeys where a companion of mine mentioned “men like ants pushing bicycles full of coal up hills through the jungle.” It was a description which stopped me in my tracks. Where the hell was this place? I wanted to find these men. It sounded extraordinary.
Fagula Hora, 35, Coal Cycle Wallah, Pithauria, Jharkhand, India
So, as luck would have it, the family of the director of the hospital lived in Ranchi, the state capital of Jharkhand, and I was offered a place to stay. I flew to Jharkhand and set about finding fixers, local journalists, anyone who could help me. As I have often found in India, someone always knows someone and very soon I had a car, a driver, a translator and a guide. Off we set.
It didn’t take long to find the men, with their bikes loaded high with coal they travelled the long distances from the mines in the area back to Ranchi where they sold the coal in villages along the route. They often travelled in groups, for companionship and for safety. And many of them, along the way, stopped to talk to me and tell me a little about their story and allowed me to take their photograph.
Rahul Munda, 30 & Siwanth Mahto, 35, Coal Cycle Wallahs, Ramgarh, Jharkhand, India
Raj Kumar, 35 and his son Suresh,10, Sirka, Jharkhand,India
It was an interesting story to shoot, I met many of the Coal Cycle Wallas as they walked on their long journeys, and I also travelled to the mines and got some amazing access into the working coal mines of some of India’s largest coal belt. Not all the images appear in the story - I wanted to keep it simple. So the project focuses on the portraits of the men as they move along their route. I may add to it in the future, but for now this is how it’s edited, you can see the whole story here.
Oh it’s been too long since the last post - I wonder if I’ll ever be capable of making this a truly regular thing - I am not so sure. No excuses though, I have been busy on other things and neglected this blog - but here is a post from not so long ago which I put up on the Document Scotland blog. It explains a little about my newest and ongoing project - Drawn To The Land is the working title and it’s about women and the Scottish landscape - here’s the post… it’s about an image of Mary.
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. ”
Since the end of last year I’ve found myself spending more and more time in Scotland, particularly Edinburgh. Whilst overseas work continues to be a great passion and I am fortunate to have a job which will always necessitate trips to far away places, exploring new stories and gaining insight into people’s lives, for now, I find myself increasingly focusing my attention nearer to home.
I’ve been splitting my time between Edinburgh and London for a while now. There have been editorial assignments and jobs in Scotland, as well as commissions in and around London and the south east. Since my three colleagues and I established Document Scotland, I’ve been shooting a lot of new work and travelling all over Scotland for both personal projects and also to meet with new and inspiring photography contacts. I’ve been working on projects in London and presenting work alongside Slideluck London, Miniclick in Brighton as well as with the gallery that have represented me for 6 years, The Photographers’ Gallery. In the autumn term of 2012, I was a visiting lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University, a fantastic experience which taught me a lot and allowed me to see the students through a great term of documentary photography to the production of some excellent projects. I also presented work at Hereford College of the Arts and talked to the students there as well as giving a similar presentation with Document Scotland at The School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh. Personal commitments have also given me reason to be in two places at once as it were, there have been important people to spend time with in both. It’s involved quite a juggle.
Partly, those contributing factors have made me feel more and more at home in each city, given me a real sense of place and the travelling in between has felt quite freeing. I look out of the train window as I travel up and down on the east coast at the sea and the cliffs and the waves and I think - there are worse office views. That journey has given me a real sense of geography, of knowing where I am. At times, however, this dual existence has been slightly more unnerving. It’s left me with a feeling of restlessness, of unease and that something isn’t quite right.
I’ve tried to make sense of this, to articulate it, and to organise my thoughts and put them in neat little labelled boxes - but you know, that doesn’t work for me. Then I remember, the great thing about photography is that often, it can help you address questions. It can be used as a tool to explore, to go wandering and to stop and think.
So, a while ago I decided it might be time to stop trying to make sense of it all in my mind - and instead to make photographs about it.
With the working title of ‘Homecoming’ I’m embarking upon a new and on-going project about the communities, people and places which evoke a sense of place for me. Sometimes, that feeling is a familiar one, and sometimes not, there aren’t necessarily any themes. Sometimes I photograph strangers, people I meet for a fleeting second as they walk past my front door, sometimes it’s views, of places I’ve looked at a thousand times since my childhood. Whatever this project is, it’s personal, it’s new and it’s finding it’s feet and tentatively putting a toe in the water. Here are a few images ….
I was asked by Stuart Pilkington a while ago if I would take part in his latest project called Someone I Know - I immediately said yes. He’s approached me before for a previous project of his called The Chain which I’d been really pleased to take part in - so I agreed straight away to be included in this one.
The formula is a group project - woldwide in this case - and profiled online, I think this projects results are really interesting - there are some really beautiful and evocative portraits included here.
My image is of Caz - we’d been walking and talking our way through a woodland on the way to one of my favourite beaches just outside Edinburgh. It’s a place I’ve visited over and over and can never imagine getting tired of. Caz is also one of my oldest friends and someone very important - it seemed a fitting combination.
Here’s my image and also the links to all the photographers who took part - it’s an impressive list Stuart and once again an impressive project. Thanks for inviting me.