Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Choice. Change. Contradiction

Travel, they say, broadens the mind. It also focuses it.

My current leg on foreign assignment is taking me through nine countries. Each, naturally, is diverse and unique. So far from what is familiar to me, I look for what I recognise. Traces and places of something I know. The common strand through this section of what was once termed the New World, is that of migration. Of journeying, whether by choice, coercion or necessity. Of finding pastures new, or a refuge, or a place to build a future. Everywhere, people on the move, historically, contemporary, singularly or as part of a mass movement which redefines the host and the guest.

Individuals who represent great cultures swept through here. Columbus is everywhere. Gesturing, pointing, settling and unsettling. As quickly as one representative of a distant Spanish monarch appears, a whole community of Mayans disappears, their oral evidence diluted and forgotten.

I take my identity with me on this journey, but bit-by-bit, I shed it. The colonisation of countries, which has led to the ethnic mash up on small Caribbean islands. Vast swathes of Canada redefined by white European settlers, many of them who were driven from their land in Scotland. First Nation becoming one nation, but only slowly as the yoke of history is loosened and an understanding gained of the past. I find it hard to identify with where I am beyond a commonality with people, bonds of new friendships. But in these small steps, I also lose my old skin.

In the church in Bermuda. On the wall of a bar in Jamaica. In the street name in Vancouver. In the business in Belize. Familiar and yet foreign, a tiny drip of memory, like liquid, squeezed from the past, drying and dying, yet nurturing new life. Facing forward. Yet mindful of the past.

Traders, exploiters, immigrants, slaves, soldiers, tourists. They have all been here. Now it’s my turn. When my footprints have faded and the photographs forgotten, the timeless energy of humanity will continue. Change. Contradiction. Challenge. It’s always faced us and always will.

A final splash in warm water. A chance to forget the past. For the communities around me it’s a constant process of new dawn, fresh beginnings. For me, I’ll just go on my way.

Hamilton, Bermuda. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Hamilton, Bermuda. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Victoria BC, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Victoria BC, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Vancouver, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Vancouver, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Approaching Belize. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Belize. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Menonites, Belize. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

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For a few dollars less

I have seen my fair share of shack strewn shady side streets on this assignment. Some places you expect it: reputations precede most destinations. Other locations it takes you by surprise. But then again, maybe it shouldn’t. Lie back and close your eyes and picture the Bahamas. The endless blue ocean intersecting with gleaming, pristine sands. Palm trees rustle in the breeze. Tourists meander indolently. Danger only lurks in the form of a stray, ripe coconut being pulled by gravity towards your unguarded head. Then open your eyes and find yourself Over the Hill. In Nassau’s back alleys. Amongst the shadow of the wealth which permeates society, but which never reaches the far shore. Drink in the Tip Top bar, where a man darts in, jerks his head back and in an instant a one dollar shot cascades down his throat. Then he’s gone. A small injection of fuel, mainlined to help him through the next part of the day. In the barber’s there a hum of conversation. Local creole patter. The air: Hot. Still. Sweaty. A cloud of talc and a spray of something sweet send me on my way. Past the cycling Rastafarian, handlebars laden with bags of unseen detritus. Cars crashed. Rows of wooden houses. Some windowless, others are churches. Pray for them, my friends. Because they have been forgotten by the God of money. But they have spirit. In the mouths which flash toothless smiles, I see their pride. In the woman who recognises my companion and thanks him for his help and guidance. They are here. Over the Hill. But not beyond it.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Nassau, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

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Sun, sea and salt

I have just finished three exhilarating and fascinating days working in the Turks and Caicos islands. Behind the pristine beaches and holiday hotels peppering the shoreline, there is another world, as is so often the case in tourist destinations. TCI, as the locals call their home, is a disperate and friendly collection of islands, some in the flux of development, others clinging to survival, none more so than Salt Cay, a windswept, ragged landscape of desolate and redundant salt ponds which gave the island past prosperity. Around 70 people still live on Salt Cay, in tumbledown, bleached, ramshackle properties. The sun relentlessly scorches the salinated earth. Trees and bushes are twisted and gnarled. Long rows of dry stone walls indicate the previous presence of British colonialists. But the welcome is warm and the island has an enchantment which made me want to stay beyond my short adventure. TCI people are proud of their country, and indeed for small parchments of land peppered across the Caribbean Sea, it has much to offer. I hope to be back again one day…

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

South Caicos, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Grand Turk, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Salt Cay, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Grand Turk, 2017. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

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Looking inside out in Africa

A photograph is an object which depicts a scene. Whether it is a landscape, a piece of documentary evidence or indeed a portrait, the act of the photographer pointing the camera creates the space into which the visual architecture is designed. The result can be simplified to an equation which equates to the viewer looking at objects created by the practitioner/artist. One-way traffic. So far, so simple.

In his totemic piece of work entitled RFK Funeral Train, American photographer Paul Fusco turned the equation back-to-front. The images depict people standing transfixed at the sight of the train carrying the coffin of recently-murdered politician Robert F. Kennedy as it snaked its way up the American east coast from New York City to the Arlington Cemetery in Washington D.C. in the summer of 1968. It captures a nation gripped by grief and disbelief, that we know. The often blurred images freeze forever a sense of shock and bewilderment. Taken from on board the moving train, Fusco’s vantage point allows him to be in the ascendancy, often looking down to individuals and groups of people as they form a human daisy chain to pay their respects and mourn the sudden loss of hope in a country in the grip of racial and economic tension.

What has always fascinated me about this body of work is this: many of the images are blurred and imprecise, vignettes of reactions, stares and expressions caught on the move. This gives the sense of movement, but it also does something to alter the perception of who is in control of the process. For me, it becomes clearer with each viewing of the images that there is an ambiguity which I cannot resolve. Fusco has the camera, and constructs the scene. But somewhere in there another dynamic takes over. It is almost as if, by freeze-framing these people, the subject of the photograph is re-imagined: it is now Fusco and his deceased travelling companion which are the primary focus, not the people lining the route.

I have always held these images to be ‘other’. A set which created uncertainty in my mind, asking for a deeper exploration of the relationship between the sitter and the artist, the subject and that which objectifies it. I have always had the intention of trying to experiment with this concept and recently on an assignment I found myself in a place and position which allowed me to reignite this interest. For nearly six weeks, I spent many hours travelling as part of police motorcades, often at high-speed, through eight different countries in southern Africa, with time on my hands and space to contemplate the vast and varied rural landscape and the chaotic and diverse urban environment. What became apparent to me, as the sirens wailed and traffic swerved, were the expressions of people, caught unawares, unsuspecting, slightly bewildered by the sudden encroachment into their lives as a convoy of important-looking cars headed by police outriders and other vehicles whizzed by.

As we sped through Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho and finally South Africa, scores, if not hundreds, of people were captured, frozen in time, their expressions betraying personal emotions, unaware of the content or context of what they were witnessing. Photographed without particular fastidiousness, the images presented in Africa Drive-By represent the moment when, like a reflection in a mirror, we see our own consternation, surprise, joy, shock, ambivalence or insouciance captured and turned back on us. They are us. And we are them.

Africa Drive-By is presented as a small-scale, 28-page ‘zine publication, with a limited edition first print run of just 150 copies, available exclusively through this website.

To flick through a copy of Africa Drive-By, click here…

Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Photograph © Colin McPherson 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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News and reviews

Newly graduated students, St. Andrews. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

It’s been a breathless year, with many changes and new challenges. I’ve made a gallery of some of my favourite images from 2016 and while we’re at it, here’s a quick round-up of what’s happening right here, right now:

Catching the light in the darkroom…

The University of St. Andrews is the home to one of the world’s most important photography archives. I was delighted when the august institution approached me about acquiring a set of images from Catching the Tide, my long-term project documenting Scotland’s last salmon net fishermen. This allowed me to go back into my darkroom after many years and hand print the photographs, which I have called the St. Andrew’s Day Edition, as they were made on 30th November, 2016. I can now offer additional prints of the iconic image Hailstones, Kinnaber, 2000 for sale. Please get in touch if you are interested in buying one of the prints, which I explain about in more detail in this short film I have just released: https://vimeo.com/196027845

The taste of Nutmeg…

December 2016 blog

Exhibiting photographs in public can be nerve-wracking, not knowing what the audience reaction is likely to be. After many years staging solo and group shows, I have become used to taking criticism and praise when it comes. The new edition of the Scottish football periodical Nutmeg takes my output in a new direction with the publication of my first-ever short story. This work of fiction centres around the nefarious goings-on at an amateur football club in central Scotland. Grab a copy before it sells out!

Football on the BBC…

Clyde versus Edinburgh City. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

Clyde versus Edinburgh City. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

I am continuing to document Edinburgh City FC’s inaugural season as members of the Scottish League, with the BBC Sport website showcasing a gallery of images from selected matches throughout the season. Whilst City started life as a League 2 club with a string of defeats, a first win at Montrose in November heralded a run which has propelled them towards safely avoiding relegation, although there is a long, long way to go. The most recent match I covered was my first-ever trip to Broadwood to see ‘the Citizens’ secure another point in a 0-0 draw against Clyde.

The fifth Beatle…

Document Scotland are delighted to be able to announce Glasgow-based photographer Sarah Amy Fishlock is to join our collective with immediate effect. We have long been admirers of Sarah’s work and have already collaborated with her on a couple of projects. My colleague Sophie Gerrard interviewed Sarah about her work and we look forward to Sarah being an integral part of the Document Scotland team.

Document Scotland are currently working on exciting new initiatives and plans for 2017 and beyond and you can keep in touch with us – or purchase our work – through the website.

Licence to roam…

Anti-AfD demonstrators, Berlin. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved

Anti-AfD demonstrators, Berlin. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved

Finally, after a long and sometimes painful hiatus, I have resolved all the contract issues with Getty Images regarding their buy-out of Corbis, who represented me for the best part of two decades. I am delighted to say that my collection of over 11,000 photographs is now available to licence worldwide through Getty Images and I look forward to adding to the archive in the coming years.

Beyond the Border…

In the run up to the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Document Scotland staged an exhibition entitled Beyond the Border at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, our first high-profile national show. Curated by the gallery’s director Anne McNeill, the exhibition was an overwhelming success with record audience numbers. Now it travels a bit further north and will be staged by Berwick Visual Arts from 11th February until 14th May, 2017.

Final score…

City of Liverpool FC. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

City of Liverpool FC. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

As always, my photography appears in print and online regularly in the monthly football magazine When Saturday Comes. Even if you are not a football fan, I hope you can still enjoy the cultural commentary which I try to communicate through these images, taken at grounds and stadiums across Scotland and beyond.

All that remains…

Finally, thank you to everyone who continues to support me and my work. I love taking photographs for my own and other peoples’ enjoyment. Keep in touch, have a great festive season and all the best to everyone for 2017.

 

 

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Invitation to Italy

Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

A vinyard growing young grapes, Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

Exploring Piedmont Through Photography 13-20 October 2016

We invite photographers of any ability to join us on an inclusive five-day course which will help you to develop your photography skills in the beautiful province of Piedmont in northern Italy.

You will be led and taught by acclaimed Scottish documentary photographer Colin McPherson, who will pass on his knowledge of shooting stories and features for most of the world’s top newspapers and magazines. You will learn how to visually narrate stories about the people, places and pastimes of the Langhe region and Monferrato hills. Local expert Andy Groom will be on hand each day to guide us through this corner of Piedmont, and our programme of events will introduce you to many of the aspects of life which make this one of the most fascinating parts of Italy to photograph.

We will document a variety of subjects, all set against the stunning landscapes and historic towns which make this region famous for such things as truffles, wine and hazelnuts. Harvests and festivals play a central role in the culture and economy of the Langhe region and Monferrato hills and we will discover such things as how truffles are hunted and sold, how grapes are grown and wine is made, how artisan cheese is made is produced and how the hazelnuts are harvested.

Many of the age-old practices have remained unchanged for generations and as well as photographing life and work, there will be plenty of opportunities to stop and sample the best of local produce as we go along. The famous Slow Food movement was started in Piedmont three decades ago and the region still benefits from a gentle pace of life with an emphasis of good quality in a beautiful environment. Piedmont is home to many famous types of wine, such as Barolo and is the province which gives the world the famous Ferrero Roche chocolates.

Getting to- and from Piedmont is straightforward with good transport links via four international airports within two hours travel. Accommodation on the course will be provided in a superbly-appointed, traditional 200-year-old hill-top cascina, or farmhouse, surrounded by vineyards and with views to the Alps to the west and the Langhe and Monferrato hills.

Over the duration of the course, we will endeavour to develop and enhance your ability to comprehend what turns a set of images into a story. We will look at how to select subjects to photograph, how to choose locations and use ambient light and landscape to complement your pictures and how to edit a series of photographs to create a stunning and personalised narrative of a subject. The emphasis will be on creative ways of enhancing your existing knowledge of photography and looking at practical ways which can bring your images to a new level.

Colin McPherson has been a photojournalist and documentary photographer for over a quarter of a century, and has travelled much of the globe covering major news, features and sports stories for the world’s most influential publications. He is widely exhibited and his work is held in important archives and collections. He is a founder member of the Document Scotland collective and works on long-term project in colour and monochrome and in analogue and digital mediums.

The course is designed to accommodate people of all levels and skills of photography. As long as you are confident handling your camera and happy to participate in a group activity, we would love to work with you. Andy Groom’s connection with the Langhe region and Monferrato hills goes back over a decade and he is well connected with local life having lived and worked in the region since 2005. He will be our eyes and ears and has designed an itinerary which is both visually stimulating and chosen to show off the best of this corner of northern Italy. The accommodation comprises of double bedrooms or single occupancy twin bedrooms, either with en suite or with shared bathroom facilities. There are generous public spaces and plenty of room inside and outside the cascina to relax in the warm autumn sunshine.

Our programme involves daily trips to activities and local landmarks, where we will learn about the Langhe and Monferrato hills and put together photo stories. The course is not strenuous, but requires dedication and patience to get the best from what the area has to offer. The weather in autumn is pleasant, dry and warm and we will ensure you have adequate time to enjoy your surroundings whilst making your images.

All tuition, accommodation, transport within Piedmont and meals are provided. Breakfast will be continental style, lunch will be a picnic as we’ll be out-and-about most days, whilst the evening meal will be at one of the numerous local trattoria, all serving delicious and wholesome Italian food. These items will be provided as part of the course fee, but all other spending, such as on alcohol and any personal items, will be at your own discretion.

To book on the course, please get in touch. Places are limited to four participants to ensure everyone is catered for on an individual basis. All you have to do is get yourself and your camera to Italy and we’ll do the rest.

We look forward to welcoming you!

Sample programme for seven-day course starting on 13 October:

Day 1 Arrive at an airport of your choosing in either Milan or Turin.

Transfer to Moasca, introductions and briefing and evening meal.

Day two AM Introduction to visual storytelling and narrative: how can we make our camera express the things we want to say? A practical guide to enhancing your photography skills with practical tips and looking at some of the best examples of storytelling using images. We will look at how you research and plan in advance and what to expect when you arrive on location to photograph.

PM Visit to Santa Stefano Belbo vinyard. This visit will allow us to meet the people who make wine at a typical local winery and get ideas and take some pictures. We’ll also get to sample some of the wonderful wine produced by Marco and his team.

Day three All day Return to Santa Stefano Belbo vineyard and spend the day exploring and photographing. We’ll see all the different aspects of wine making and production during this pivotal harvesting time. There will be landscapes, people and produce to focus on – and a story to tell.

Day four AM Feedback, evaluation and editing. We’ll look at the images from the previous day at Santa Stefano Belbo and talk through some practical editing and selection ideas to bring your images together into a beautiful set of photographs which tell your story.

PM Visit to a typical local festival. We’ll spend the afternoon amongst the crowds where we will soak up the sights and sounds and photograph a different side of the Langhe region: people at play.

Day five AM Truffle hunting. We’ll go for a gentle guided walk around the gentle Monferrato hills looking for one of the iconic delicacies of the Langhe region. This will allow us to enjoy the beautiful rural aspect locally, whilst adding an interesting component to the story of the region.

PM We’ll look at our work from the festival and truffle hunting and fit it in with the previous work we have made on the trip so far. We’ll also plan out final excursion, a trip to the stunning medieval town of Monrovia, where we’ll set ourselves the challenge of producing images which could be put together a small travel feature.

Day six All day A visit to Mondovi. Founded on a hilltop in 1198 by survivors of the destroyed village of Bredolo, Mondovi is located on the Monte Regale hill and is divided into several rioni (ancient quarters). The Funicolare di Mondovì, a recently reopened funicular railway in the town, links Breo with Piazza. We will return to Moasca late in the afternoon for a final look at our images and round-up of what we have learned over the five days.

The cost for this experience is £1600 per person. Please get in touch if you would like to book on or have any other questions. Thank you!

Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

Evening in the vinyards, Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

A man at work, Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

A man at work, Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

The Alps, as viewed from Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

The Alps, as viewed from Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

Mondovi, Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

Mondovi, Piedmont. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved

The farmhouse at Moasca, Piedmont. Photograph © Andy Groom, 2016 all rights reserved

The farmhouse at Moasca, Piedmont. Photograph © Andy Groom, 2016 all rights reserved

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Running for Musa

Musa outside his family home in Swaziland

Musa outside his family home in Swaziland

As you may be aware, eight years ago I was privileged to meet Musa, an intelligent, humble and hardworking family man from the impoverished African nation of Swaziland.

During an assignment to the country, I took off one Saturday morning into the mountains near the capital city Mbabane, and encountered Musa gathering wood for the fire at the homestead he shared with four generations of his family. We struck up a conversation and formed an instant bond. I was fortunate enough to meet Musa’s family and hear how he was almost solely responsible for its financial wellbeing. This heavy burden he bore with grace and strength and it is no exaggeration to say Musa is one of the most impressive human beings I have met.

At the time, he was determined to improve his economic situation by embarking on a college education, one which he would have to fit in with his work as a clerk and his responsibilities caring for his elderly and sick relatives.

I made a commitment that day to Musa to help him, and with the generous assistance of many friends, relatives and strangers, we have raised over £3000 during the last eight years, which has helped not only paying for Musa’s tuition fees in Swaziland, but also assisted in buying materials to maintain the family dwelling huts, and also bringing electricity to Musa’s family (they were the last in the valley to be connected).

Almost all the money raised has been from my annual running of the Hoylake 10k race each September and auctioning of my photography. Unfortunately, due to injury, I have not been able to participate in the last two races, but I am delighted to say I am now running again and will be taking part in the 2016 event, on Sunday, 25th September.

So here’s how you can help me raise the minimum £750 I need to pay for Musa’s latest academic fees for his accountancy courses in 2016-17. Just predict my finishing time. As simple as that. Entries cost £5 each – you can guess as many times as you wish. And here’s your reward: the guess closest to my finishing time will win a signed and mounted digital print of any one of my photographs. That’s right – you can select any image from my entire collection and it will be printed 20″ x 16″ (or equivalent) and shipped off to you.

Please support me if you can. I know times are tight, but education offers Musa a route to an easier existence. He is so grateful for everything we have done for him and I am asking on his behalf to give a little to gain a lot.

To enter, simply go to my Paypal account: amazon@colinmcpherson.co.uk and enter your guesses along with your details. If you wish to pay by cheque, please email me: colinmcpherson@mac.com.

I am predicting a time of around 50 minutes, so please make your guesses in minutes and seconds (i.e. 49:52).

Thank you so much!

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Tears for cheers

UK - Stenhousemuir - East Stirlingshire Versus Edinburgh City Football Match

One of the unexpected spin-offs of my recent exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh has been the opportunity to look more closely at the subject of emotional responses not only to the photography on show, but to those associated with the game of football itself.

During my recent ‘In Conversation With…’ event at the gallery, myself and writer Kevin Williamson contemplated the different emotions that football engenders, both from the perspective of the fan and, in this case, the gallery visitor. I described the intense feeling of melancholy which comes over me around 4.30pm on a Saturday, irrespective of whether I am watching a game, covering a match with my camera, or merely listening to the scores and commentary on the radio (or more likely following it all on social media these days). That intense, but temporary, low comes not as a consequence of how a particular match is going (is my team winning, losing or drawing?) but rather from the realisation that a weekly ritual is almost at an end. Building towards a Saturday afternoon involves a series of internal triggers and mechanisms, few of which I recognise nor understand. Until recently, I had been blind – or better to describe it as unaware – that this melancholy was a part of a routine, an internal clock which winds round and tightens in expectation. As stated, the release comes not from the result of a game, but from a realisation that the growing anticipation begins, in fact, shortly after the final whistle one Saturday and reaches its next crescendo around 3pm seven days later.

Saturday afternoon at Whitehill Welfare. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

Saturday afternoon at Whitehill Welfare. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

So much for all that. I have always been very sceptical about people who show their emotions as a result of the score in a particular match. Not for me grown men crying at some minor infraction such as a relegation or a cup final defeat. These are mere synthetic reactions, controllable, indeed preventable. When faced with the obvious truism that football is not a matter of life or death (and we’ll excuse Bill Shankly his assertion that it is more important than that), how do we arrange and prioritise our emotions in relation to what we would term ‘real’ tragedies which have engulfed football? Thinking specifically of the reactions to the Hillsborough disaster verdicts recently, these emotions are completely genuine and understandable. We can comprehend where they come from and empathise with the grief and heartache of the victims’ families, denied justice and truth for so long. It took me a long time living on Merseyside to ‘get’ the depth and scale of Hillsborough. The sense of grievance and loss was often camouflaged by other emotions around that particular football club and its supporters. The question now becomes what is a ‘good’ emotion, and conversely what is a ‘bad’ emotion when laid bare by football? Maybe it is less a question of categorising our emotions, but rather understanding that each-and-every-one of us has a trigger and that at some point we will show our feelings, whether it is anger, joy, relief or celebration? Our history, investment (in the emotional rather than the financial sense) and the footballing community in which we involve ourselves with are the building blocks of our emotions.

Hillsborough memorial service, Anfield. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

Hillsborough memorial service, Anfield. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

And so it came to pass last Saturday. Having spent over 40 years watching and photographing football, being involved intensely as a supporter but more so as a detached observer of other peoples’ emotions, I was overwhelmed by what was happening as my team, Edinburgh City, won a match and achieved promotion. Big deal, you might say. But part of the premise behind the When Saturday Comes exhibition was that followers of smaller and lesser clubs invest just as much emotion into their teams as the fans of soccer’s giants. If a club has 10,000 more fans than mine, it doesn’t mean that their experiences and emotions are some many thousand times more important than mine. The size of the club doesn’t matter. The scale of the emotion is equally weighted. On Saturday, for the first time, I momentarily crossed an emotional Rubicon between being a working photographer and a fan. Would I have done the same at Hillsborough in 1989? Would I have put my camera down as a response to what was happening in the surrounding chaos? I can’t answer that, and I don’t wish to trivialise it by speculation.

Me crossing the line with Edinburgh City magaer Gary Jardine. Photograph © Michael Schofield, 2016 all rights reserved.

Me with City manager Gary Jardine. Photograph © Michael Schofield, 2016 all rights reserved.

What I do know is that in one, glorious, spontaneous moment on Saturday 14th May at around 4.50pm, I lost control of my emotions and celebrated as wildly and freely as any fan or any club anywhere in the world. And once I had wiped away my tears, I continued shooting.

A small gallery of emotions…

Nottingham Forest fans celebrating at Derby County. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2015, all rights reserved.

Nottingham Forest fans. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2015, all rights reserved.

'The Cowshed, Greenock Morton, 2015'. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

‘The Cowshed, Greenock Morton, 2015’. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Edinburgh City's Ian McFarland in tears after promotion. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

Edinburgh City’s Ian McFarland in tears. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

Swansea fans winning at Wembley. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

Swansea fans winning at Wembley. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

Hillsborough memorial service, Anfield. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014.

Hillsborough memorial service, Anfield. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

Tranmere Rovers goal celebrations. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

Tranmere Rovers goal celebrations. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

Northern Ireland fans, Dublin. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

Northern Ireland fans, Dublin. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

Edinburgh City players celebrating promotion. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

Edinburgh City celebrating promotion. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

 

 

 

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Looking for inspiration…?

Sunset over Mull, from Easdale Island, 2013

Sunset over Mull, from Easdale Island, 2013

What inspires us to take photographs? And what stops us?

These are just two of the questions I’ll be seeking to answer if you join me on one of my two-day photography courses which I am launching in September 2016 on the magical and unique island of Easdale on Scotland’s fabled west coast.

The course will encourage you to explore fully how you can make the most of our existing knowledge and how we can build on what we know to take our photography to new levels. If you feel stuck we will look at creative resetting to allow you to develop an enhanced understanding of seeing what is around you and capturing it with your camera.

Easdale is the perfect location for photography: a stunning coastal environment on a car-free island, far from distractions yet with plenty to see and do. With 65 permanent residents inhabiting a square mile, daily life flows and people come and go on the three-minute ferry crossing from the neighbouring island of Seil. Formerly the centre of Scotland’s slate mining industry, the island has been reborn in recent years and is now a popular destination for holidaymakers and day-trippers. Away from the houses, the island is a tranquil haven, with abundant wildlife and a stunning, rocky shoreline.

The course will be delivered by two experienced and engaged practitioners both of whom bring interest in, and enthusiasm for, their own and other people’s work. You will arrive the day before the course, which will give everyone a chance to settle in and get to know myself and Adam Lee, my fellow tutor – and meet your fellow participants. The following two days will be divided between looking at some of the theory of taking good pictures and – more importantly – getting out there and testing your knowledge and abilities. Adam and myself will be on hand at all times to lead, guide and evaluate and there will be plenty of time to look at what we have achieved and how we can improve.

We will also have a chance to talk photography, what influences us, what inspires us – and maybe even what intimidates us! We’ll try to break down the barriers to making photographs and send you on your way invigorated and enthused.

The maximum number of participants on each course will be six. We cater for all levels, all we ask is you bring with you enough knowledge to operate a camera beyond point-and-shoot mode! Each participant will have their own bedroom in one of two spacious and comfortable cottages and will be free to make their own provisions for food, although we will offer home-cooked meals on two of the three nights. On the final evening you are encouraged to join us for a meal at the island’s award-winning restaurant at the Puffer Bar.

I look forward to welcoming you to Easdale. The two dates for the courses are:

Saturday 10th until Tuesday 13th September (three nights) and

Wednesday 14th until Saturday 17th September (three nights).

Your accommodation, two evening meals, light lunches and breakfast – and all the tutoring are included in the fee. All you have to do is get to Easdale (or nearby Oban, where we can pick you up from). The all-inclusive cost is £350 (excluding evening meal at the Puffer) and there are just a few places left. Please get in touch via the form below with any questions or is you wish to reserve your place on either course. There’s also more information on our Easdale Experiences website.

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Any old Iron?

UK - London - West Ham United Versus Crystal Palace Football Match

With just a handful games left to play at their historic old Boleyn Ground, West Ham United fans gather for a London derby against Crystal Palace. Fine spring sunshine brings the crowds on to the streets early and the pubs and cafes are doing a brisk trade a good couple of hours before kick-off.

I catch the mood as I arrive at Upton Park station. There’s optimism in the air. The Iron, as they style themselves, are on the up, chasing a European place next season and contemplating the much-talked about move to their new stadium at nearby Stratford. Whilst it may be a wrench to leave their present surroundings, the demands on football clubs to become global brands is driving the project and most supporters seem content with the prospect, especially as season ticket prices on offer are low and the present scramble for tickets will be ended by the increased capacity at the new ground.

West Ham fans in Ken's Cafe. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

West Ham fans in Ken’s Cafe. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

Sweeping down towards the stadium, past the famous Ken’s Cafe, stuffed with memorabilia and full English breakfasts as well as full English people, I arrive at the Boleyn Ground: its ersatz towers either side of the main entrance lending an air of a kitsch amusement park. The stadium is ringed by burger vans, indeed the quantity of mechanically-recovered meat being greedily consumed really puts the iron in irony: the modern-day football fan is the antithesis of an Olympian athlete, yet West Ham will soon reside in the Olympic Stadium. I surmise the only green shoots I’ll see on Green Street today will be the pitch. I’m not wrong.

Momentum builds inexorably towards kick-off time, with fans jostling around the clogged up narrow streets which act like arteries funnelling fans in the direction of the Bobby Moore stand, the Chicken Run and the less-traditional sounding Betway Stand. I look for sharp-suited East End geezers, skinheads with braces or maybe smartly-attired casuals, but all I encounter are people of all ages, sizes and genders in replica kits, the scourge of modern football. There’s a business-like air with fans going about their fortnightly routine behind smiling, contented faces. They pour out of the Boleyn Tavern, arriving in their seats just in time for the trademark cascade of bubbles and the singing of the accompanying theme tune as the players walk solemnly onto the pitch.

Fans squeezing through the turnstiles. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

Fans squeezing through the turnstiles. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

The game is feisty, short of real quality and with the odd surprise. Palace take the lead, the delayed reaction amongst the away fans suggesting this hadn’t been expected of a team yet to register a league win in 2016. Still, the Hammers find their poise and are winning by half-time. I don’t see either goal, preferring to study the stands for signs of life. I find plenty.

Half-time brings a parade of supporters from West Ham United overseas fan clubs, marching to rapturous applause and song. Americans, Israelis, Iraqis all in step together. Remarkable.

Action at the Boleyn Ground. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

Action at the Boleyn Ground. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016 all rights reserved.

The second half is disjointed and increasingly bitter. West Ham are reduced to 10 men and then to hanging on as Palace sniff an unlikely win. They fall just short and it ends 2-2. No-one goes home happy. “It’s just like back to the old days,” complains one fan as he exists the stadium for what could, conceivably, be his last visit as sunshine gives way to a miserable drizzle. After 112 years at the Boleyn Ground, there are plenty of old days to remember. And much to look forward to. But it won’t be the same, even if at present the grass does appear greener on the other side.

To view a fuller selection of images from the day, please visit the WSC Photos website.

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