Document Scotland is a photographic collective comprising of Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren — four Scots-born photographers, each exponents of documentary photography.
This exhibition took place one year after the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014. It featured 75 photographs of, and about, Scotland and its people created by this photography group. Their work has been published in various international magazines and newspapers, in addition to featuring in exhibitions around the UK. While the work touches on the political landscape around the Referendum, the images do not affirm any one position but seek to portray a multiplicity of views that portray the complex challenges and subtle nuances surrounding the larger debate.
Image: Sophie Gerrard, Blackfaced ewes with wind turbines, The Scottish Borders, 2013 from the series Drawn To The Land
© Sophie Gerrard/Document Scotland
About the Exhibition
Document Scotland was formed in 2012 by four Scots-born and internationally acclaimed photographers: Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren. In the last few years Scotland has witnessed an intense period of self-examination that has brought about questions of personal and national identity. Collectively and individually, the four photographers explore particular strands of Scottish culture and heritage.
For The Ties That Bind, they have created four groups of work that consider:
- Legacy — Scotland’s role in the slave trade and sugar plantations of Jamaica in the 18th century;
- Tradition — the centuries-old celebration of Border towns in the Common Ridings festivals;
- Engagement — the devotion and commitment from football supporters in small towns and communities across the country; and
- The Land — focusing on contemporary farming through the experiences of six women.
Together these images create a compelling dialogue about Scotland, its people, diversity and culture, revealing the subtle nuances that shape a nation’s identity.
About the Artists
For 'Unsullied and Untarnished', Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert focused on the Scottish Borders area and its traditional summer festivals, known as the Common Ridings. During the Common Ridings, riders chosen as champions for their communities go out to the boundaries of the town to check the fortifications are in order. Participating in the yearly ritual is considered as an honour for the local youths; the Common Ridings are an opportunity for them to demonstrate their sense of allegiance to their town by carrying its standard around the common land, before bringing it back “unsullied and untarnished”. During the festivals, “exiles” return home to partake in events and greetings are often sent by those unable to make the journey, while bonds are re-established with neighbouring towns. Intrigued by the history of the festivals Sutton-Hibbert visited various sites, including Hawick, Selkirk and Jedburgh among others and made portraits of the riders and other attendees in traditional outfits. By looking at how the history and sense of community is kept alive, Sutton-Hibbert explores traditions and their legacy in modern society.
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert grew up in Scotland, where on his 13th birthday he received the gift of a camera. A few years later he subsequently became a UK based freelance photographer for editorial, corporate and NGO clients. His work has appeared in magazines such as Time, National Geographic, Italian Geo, Le Figaro, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and many others. For the past decade Jeremy has been one of the principal photographers for Greenpeace International. In recent years Jeremy was based in Japan, but missing the Scottish light and weather he has now relocated back to his home country of Scotland. His work has taken him to over 80 countries, as far flung as Antarctica and Outer Mongolia and his personal and commissioned work, for which he has been the recipient of photojournalism awards, has been widely published and exhibited in Europe, Asia and USA.
'Drawn to the Land', is Sophie Gerrard’s ongoing exploration of the contemporary Scottish landscape. Gerrard’s photographs offer a glimpse into the lives of six women farmers in Argyll, Perthshire, the Scottish Borders and the Isle of Mull, and how they shape, and are shaped by, their landscapes. Working as hill farmers and responsible for remote and diverse parts of land, the women identify as custodians rather than as landowners, and often talk of being drawn to the hill and countryside. For “Drawn to the Land”, Gerrard initially set out to understand her own connection with the Scottish landscape, which she sees as a symbol of national identity and nostalgia as well as a romantic and rural fantasy. To explore the topic she chose to focus on female farmers who she feels are under-represented in the UK, despite the number of women in farming increasing by almost 25% in the last 10 years. Through each of these women’s compelling stories, “Drawn to the Land” presents an emotional response to its rugged mountains and remote lochs and islands and a wider story of Scotland’s national identity.
Born in Edinburgh in 1978, Sophie Gerrard began her career in environmental sciences before completing a BA in Photography at Edinburgh College of Art and then an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at London College of Communication in 2006.
Sophie pursues contemporary social stories with environmental themes, and her work has been featured in Esquire Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Financial Times Magazine, The Telegraph Saturday Magazine, The Independent on Sunday and more. A recipient of the Jerwood Photography Award, a Fuji Bursary and a Magenta Foundation Flash Forward Award, Sophie has been nominated for the Prix Pictet Award on numerous occasions and shortlisted for the 2015 Remote Photo Prize.
Sophie's work has been exhibited internationally including at The Jerwood Space, Flowers East Gallery and The Photographers' Gallery in London, Streetlevel Photoworks in Glasgow, Paris Photo and a solo show in The Arbetes Museum Sweden. Her work is held in a number of national and private collections including the Sir Elton John Collection.
She is a lecturer in photography at Edinburgh Napier University and a member of the board of Trustees at Impressions Gallery, Bradford. She is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery. In October 2012 Sophie co-founded Document Scotland, a collective of four internationally acclaimed photographers dedicated to chronicling the social, cultural and economic life in Scotland.
Colin’s contribution to Document Scotland’s exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery is entitled 'When Saturday Comes'. The eponymous title comes from the magazine which has commissioned him over the last 10 years to photograph all aspects of football culture both in Scotland and further afield. As an ardent football fan himself, this has allowed Colin to explore the game at all levels from international fixtures and the Champions League to non-League and grassroots football. The photography on show as part of The Ties That Bind concentrates on lower-league football and looks at the rituals, sense of belonging and the commitment shown by supporters, players and those charged with running clubs from Berwick Rangers to Fraserburgh, which helps keep the sport alive in Scotland.
Born in Edinburgh in 1964, Colin McPherson has been photographing in Scotland and abroad for a quarter of a century. He undertakes long-term projects alongside commissions and assignments for a number of newspapers and magazines and is represented by the Corbis agency. Colin’s work is published internationally and held in archives and collections such as the Scottish national photographic archive and the University of St. Andrew’s Library’s special photography collection. His photography has been featured in more than 30 solo and group exhibitions, many of which are the result of his projects, residencies and commissions.
'A Sweet Forgetting', Stephen McLaren’s project, revolves around the involvement of Scots in the sugar economy of Jamaica in the 18th and 19th centuries, which was built on the back of slave labour from Africa. McLaren spent a month in Jamaica looking for the sites of plantations owned by seven Scotsmen of that era, before coming back to Scotland to trace how these men spent their wealth, and what is left of this legacy today. McLaren’s photographs largely concentrate on the mansions and estates purchased with funds from the slave trade. One of the plantation owners McLaren studied was the politician and poet Robert Cunninghame Graham (1735-1797), who owned several estates in Scotland as well as a Jamaican plantation at Roaring River and made his fortune from slave plantations.
'A Sweet Forgetting' suggests that Scotland has perhaps largely forgotten how much of its economy was dependent on slave labour in Jamaica. McLaren’s subtle, but provocative work considers Scotland’s past and how it shapes the present, as well as how we choose to remember the past.
Stephen has been a freelance photographer, writer, and curator since 2005. Before then he was a television producer and director working on documentaries for several UK channels. He is Scottish but now lives in San Francisco.
He work published in several newspapers and magazines including The Guardian, New York Times, San Francisco Magazine, London Evening Standard, New Statesman, New Yorker, Der Spiegel and Internazionale. He has also taught photography for The Guardian newspaper and other photography institutions and written about photography for several publications including the British Journal of Photography, BBC, and IMA Japan.
With Sophie Howarth, Stephen is the co-author of the best-selling photography title: Street Photography Now: Thames and Hudson, 2010. His new photography title, Photographers Sketchbooks, for Thames and Hudson with co-writer, Bryan Formhals, was published in September 2014. He has a new book about contemporary family photography coming out with Thames and Hudson in Spring 2016.