It can be said that Beyond the Border captures the essence of Scotland and displaying the use of Scottish documentary photography in all its glory. Viewing the works of the four Scottish photographers: Sophie Gerrard, Stephen McLaren, Colin McPherson and Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, is quite captivating as they provide a different perspective towards Scotland, they share their image of what the country means to them as an individual. The exhibition features a variation of photographs from each photographer, each one being unique and meaningful in representing Scotland. From a personal viewpoint, I feel that these photographs provide a distinctive outlook towards life in Scotland, capturing people at their most natural state and also being able to capture the beauty of the countryside. The use of documentary photography in the exhibition also helps to highlight the image and message of Scotland being independent, not being assimilated within United Kingdom and in retaining their own identity.
Photographs by Anca Tutuianu New Focus Photographer
In further understanding the roots and significance of Scottish documentary photography, I had the opportunity to attend the Impressions Gallery’s event of Feed Your Mind which took place on 17th July. The event was lead by Brian Liddy, the Associate Curator from the National Media Museum who discussed the history of Scottish documentary photography and also in shared some images of Scottish photography from the National Media Museum collection. It was a great privilege to be able to attend an event such as this one as it was a first time for me and I have to say, my mind was definitely fed and full by the end of the discussion. Before attending this event, I had very little knowledge of how deeply rooted photography is within Scotland, but I soon learnt how it was due to Scottish photographers experimenting with this form of media that they developed the form of documentary photography and how photography remains to be highly significant within Scotland.
Brian Liddy began the discussion by speaking of how photography is taken for granted now in the 21st century and yet it is a powerful tool in capturing such wondrous moments. He explained how he felt that the rarity of a photograph itself has been taken away, the process of taking a photo has been made simple and accessible to all. Anyone nowadays can just take out their phone and take a photo of the landscape or of a flower for example, there is no complicated procedure of controlling the light with the chemicals and attempting to make them stable in order for the image to last. But what really got me thinking was when Brian made the point of how photography is embedded in everyday life and with everyone, whether we know it or not. He made examples of having photo albums, magazines images etc how society revolves around photography to some extent.
The discussion then proceeded to Brian discussing the history of Scottish documentary photography and the works of influential Scottish photographers, going into depth about each photographer and how their work transformed documentary photography for Scotland. Documentary photography itself was becoming known as the dawn of photojournalism as it was focused purely on photographing the life of people. The photographer John Thomson, for example, was best known for being one of the first Scottish documentary photographers as he took photos of people on the streets in Scotland and also the first to travel to China in capturing their way of life. He mainly used documentary photography in the way of a photojournalist, to display the lives of people outside of Scotland. Along with the discussion, Brian showed us some photos taken from the collection of the National Media Museum and most of the photos consisted of Scottish civilians, life on the streets of Scotland. What was interesting in seeing these photos was how one of the members from the audience noticed how a fisherman in a photograph with two other fishermen was wearing a tophat, which was quite unexpected. Brian explained how this showed a sense of individuality amongst the Scottish civilians and how that originality can be seen in the exhibition and also in the individuals living in Scotland today.
At the end of the discussion, I felt that I had gain a better understanding of Scottish documentary and also an invaluable insight towards the history of Scottish photography. I definitely wanted to find out more information about the photographers mentioned, such as Thomas Annan and John Thomson and I feel that is what this event is all about. It is meant to be mind provoking, to feed your mind and make you curious about different forms of photography.