Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘black-and-white’

Silver jubilee time

Cardiac surgery on a newborn baby, London, 2013. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

On the 14th August 1993, I emerged blinking (and slightly worse for wear) into a brave new world. Little did I imagine that 25 years later I’d be celebrating a quarter of a century of being an independent, freelance photographer.

But that day will always be etched in my memory as the start of an incredible journey. I had taken the decision to leave the security of a staff photographer’s job at the Edinburgh Evening News and now it was up to me to make a go of it. With the help of innumerable people (fellow photographers, journalists, picture editors, friends, family and the thousands of people whom I have encountered along the way), I have managed to survive, somehow, in an industry which has changed beyond recognition in the two-and-a-half decades since I loaded a roll of monochrome film into my Nikon FM2 and began my first freelance assignment – to photograph the beginning of the construction of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Alloa, Scotland.

If someone back then had said to me the words social media, smartphone, digital camera, low-cost airline, Holyrood, AppleMac, autofocus, Brexit, Dolly the sheep or English Premier League, I wouldn’t have had a clue what they were talking about. So much has changed, not just in the world around us, but in the way photographers work. But so much has stayed the same, too. The stories, characters and issues which populate our everyday lives are largely cyclical. The way we choose to illustrate them is still very familiar (many would say too much so) to the way it was back then. Men in suits still rule the world and the old enmities and adversaries have been replaced by new ones. That is not to say there haven’t been amazing strides forward and progress too. I have been lucky enough to see changes in science, technology and medicine through the lens. I have witnessed the ebb-and-flow of politics and the achievements of many sporting heroes and cultural icons too. And shared in the pain and pleasure of everyday life.

When I began my freelance career I was solely a newspaper photographer: that kept me busy all the days of the week I needed to make a good living. The intervening years has seen that industry wither and decline. But with that situation, new possibilities have opened up. Photography is a creative practice, but I didn’t realise how many times I would have to adapt my ways of working to survive and thrive. From moving location to working collectively, it has never been a straight road. All the time, however, I have tried to derive as much fun and enjoyment from making a living from what I love doing. There have been ups-and-downs, good years and bad and countless mistakes and missed opportunities. Some of the assignments I have covered I wished had never happened: bad news sells, unfortunately. But over all, it has been a pleasure and a privilege. To work on all five continents of the world, to travel to some of the planet’s most sparsely-populated and beautiful places and to meet people of all different races, religions and backgrounds – and to photograph them. It’s a dream come true. That’s what has kept me going over the last 25 years, and will hopefully do the same over the next!

In no particular oder of preference or relevance, below here are just a tiny – and random – selection of images culled from the hundreds of thousands of clicks of my shutter. Thank you for taking the time to read this and for everyone’s help, encouragement and love down the years. Finally, if you want to purchase a compendium of my work, I still  have a few of commemorative books left, marking my 20 years working for the Independent newspaper.

Salmon netsman, Scotland, 1998. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

The Queen’s Baton Relay, Lesotho, 2017. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Politician Jacob Rees-Mogg, Scotland, 1997. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Dolly the Sheep, Scotland, 1997. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Paul ‘Gazza’ Gascoigne in rehabilitation, England, 2016. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

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

Sculptor Andy Scott, Scotland, 2014. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Morning exercise, Beijing, 2012. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Writer Douglas Coupland, Scotland, 2009. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Comedian Ken Dodd, England, 2008. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Foot-and-mouth crisis, England, 2001. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

The remnants of East Germany, 1992. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

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An Independent Eye

IE_Blog

To commemorate the final publication of the Independent, I have brought out a small compendium of images taken on assignment or published by the newspaper from over 20 years of working for the title and its Sunday sister. Order your copy here.

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Where the Berlin Wall once stood

'Warschauer Strasse, 2015.' Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

‘Warschauer Strasse, 2015.’ Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Last week saw the 26th anniversary of the historic events of November 1989 when a popular uprising by citizens of the German Democratic Republic led to the opening of the Berlin Wall, which had stood and divided friends, families, a city, Germany and Europe since it was constructed in 1961.

I started photographing the Wall in 1985 during a visit to the city and have returned at regular intervals over those 30 years to look at the changing natural and built environment along the course of the Wall. No-one could have dreamed 30 years ago that the Berlin Wall would fall in such dramatic and sudden circumstances. But rather than looking at those momentous events, my photographs show how the Wall occupied the physical space between two halves of the city and now, years after it fell, where the traces and scars can still be seen on the landscape.

Berlin Now and Then is an ongoing project and has been exhibited and published down the years. I am currently in Berlin and once again have set out to capture the the continuing changes which make much of the Berlin Wall nothing more than a distant and barely visible memory.

 

 

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Abbey road

A small but perfectly-formed compendium of archive photography from one of my favourite stories, has just been published.

Shot in 1996, Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw is a look into the daily routine and rituals of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, a small religious community based on the slopes of the Lammermuir hills, East Lothian on Scotland’s east coast.

The images were taken on an assignment for the Independent newspaper and involved spending a few days at the monastery, observing a way-of-life quite alien to my own. The resulting photographs were published in the paper on Easter weekend and were subsequently featured in a number of other publications. I re-visited Nunraw on a couple of occasions shortly afterwards, but my contact with the monastery, which still survives to this day, has long-since stopped.

When I struck up a conversation with Craig Atkinson of Cafe Royal Books earlier this year, he was interested in the idea of putting together something to coincide with my forthcoming exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery as part of Document Scotland’s The Ties That Bind show. This has resulted in Cafe Royal Books publishing four separate projects, all of which are to be presented in a limited-edition box set, available in September. The set will feature my work from Nunraw, alongside colleagues Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert (North Sea Fishing), Sophie Gerrard (Tunnock’s) and Stephen McLaren (Dookits).

Sancta Maria Abbey, Nunraw is now available for sale from Cafe Royal Books as part of Craig’s ongoing mission to publish some of the best unseen work made by many of the country’s leading photography practitioners. It is strictly a limited edition of 150, and costs only £7. As they say: hurry, while stocks last!

Monks at dawn prayers in the chapel. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

Monks at dawn prayers in the chapel. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

A monk working in the laundry. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

A monk working in the laundry. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

A monk working on the farm. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

A monk working on the farm. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

A monk cleaning the floor in a corridor. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

A monk cleaning the floor in a corridor. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

Graves of recently interred monks. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

Graves of recently interred monks. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1996 all rights reserved.

 

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Front row seat

Nelson Mandela attending the CHOGM conference, in Edinburgh. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1997 all rights reserved.

Nelson Mandela attending the CHOGM conference, in Edinburgh.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 1997 all rights reserved.

The absolute best thing about being a photographer? A front row seat.

Whether it’s the Rolling Stones or Oasis in concert, being in touching distance when Scotland’s centre-forward scores the winning goal, or being able to see the whites of the eyes of politicians or celebrities as they hold court, there’s no better feeling than knowing you are closer to the action than anyone else in the world at that particular moment.

Even since the announcement of the death of Nelson Mandela yesterday evening in South Africa, there’s been acres of writing and pictured printed about the life and legacy of one of the 20th century’s most notable and influential political activists and leaders. There have been poignant tributes and fond recollections from people who knew him well or were fortunate enough to meet him. As a photographer, our relationship with someone in such elevated public gaze is somewhat removed: we share the intimacy of the space, but rarely get to interact with them. Yet our pictures must convey the sense, the mood and the gravitas (or humour!) of what is being said.

My sole encounter with Mr Mandela came at a media conference he gave during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Edinburgh in 1997. I was detailed to be in the meeting, so didn’t photograph the arrival or departure that day as he sped from meeting to event to function. And there was a condition to photographing him in that somewhat dingy conference centre: because of the damage sustained to his eyesight during his years of incarceration, we were forbidden to use flash guns to illuminate the great man. The result on that pre-digital day, was a series of grainy, rather static images. Nevertheless, there was no doubting his power as a speaker and his presence in that room filled more than just the front row where I was sitting.

It was a privilege just to be there.

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On the Road

“The great difference between voyages rests not with the ships, but with the people you meet on them.” – Amelia E. Barr.

These images represent a collection of my favourite places, people and memories from over 25 years on the road with my camera.

Each photograph documents a time and a place, and holds a particular significance for me. Some were taken on assignment, others whilst travelling or on holiday. Continue reading…

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