Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘Document Scotland’

A Contested Land launched

My collective, Document Scotland, has launched our new exhibition entitled A Contested Land at the prestigious Martin Parr Foundation in Bristol. The show, curated by Martin Parr, will be on until 16th March, before going on to Perth Art Gallery and Museum, the Burgh Halls in Dunoon and FLOW Photofest in Inverness in the autumn. My contribution to the show is Treasured Island, a very personal, insider’s look at Easdale island in Argyll, a place which I have visited, worked at and even lived over the last 30 years.

Here are some photos from the launch on 15th January, and some behind-the-scenes moments at the Martin Parr Foundation, a wonderful, fascinating and stimulating venue for contemporary photography. It was gratifying to see so many luminaries from the world of photography in attendance as well as friends, some of whom had travelled a great distance to be there. A big thank you to my Document Scotland colleagues for all their help and support and also to all the staff at the Foundation for bringing the exhibition from an idea into reality. And to Martin Parr for his generosity in hosting such an enjoyable event.

If you want to see and hear more about the exhibition, we are holding one of our salon events at Stills Gallery in Edinburgh on Thursday 7th February, 2019, where we will be showing some of the work and discussing the themes and ideas behind A Contested Land.

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National Photography Symposium, 2018

On Friday, November 2, I had the pleasure of contributing to one of the events at this year’s National Photography Symposium at MediaCity in Salford, which looked at the future of working in the photography industry. The NPS is a biennial event run by the Redeye photography network. Below is a transcript of my talk:

Can I start by issuing a spoiler alert?

I’m sure you are not alone in thinking you don’t want to hear from another white, middle-aged man on the subject of photography. Well, the good news, is nor do I.

Therefore, I thought I’d do an impersonation.

More accurately, I thought I’d wind the clock back thirty years to 1988, to where it all began for me, and speak to you as if I was that 24-year-old, fresh from securing his first-ever assignment on a local newspaper in Edinburgh, and express my hopes, fears and dreams about my future as – hopefully – a professional photographer.

You see, so much has changed in those three decades since I innocently and carefully loaded a spool of black-and-white film into my non-motorised, non-autofocus, non-electronic Nikon FM2. But, in many ways, so much has stayed the same and so much still needs to change.

I look back at my 24-year-old self and wonder: how and where did he acquire the skills necessary to become a walking, mechanised, computer-literate, one-person media centre, capable of disseminating visual, audio and written content across the globe from the comfort and safety of an iPhone? Who would teach this novice snapper what it would take to be at the frontline of photojournalism, witnessing many great and significant political and social events?

Where would the money come from to finance the constant upgrading, upscaling and uploading?

The answer was: on the job. Looking, listening, learning. A true autodidact, but with influences stretching back to the invention of photography itself.

Mr Deguerre, I salute you and I will buy you a drink when we are together in the big darkroom in the sky. You gifted the world the prize of alchemy, turning one’s imagination into a solid state, with a bit of glass, a sheet of paper and some chemicals.

So it’s 1998. What are those hopes, fears and dreams? What does the future look like and what is my plan to get myself seen and heard. What can I expect of the world of photography? And how can I make sense of it enough to pursue the idea of a career – surviving – making a living.

For starters, I want a fair crack of the whip. While I don’t expect doors to be held open for me, I would like to think if I knocked hard enough, there would be a response. I’m looking for the people who wield the power, who call the shots and make the decisions. Who are they, what do they look like and where can I find them?

The options are limited. This is 1988, after all. There are so few photography courses in this country and the ones that exist are difficult to get into, over-subscribed and therefore able to cream off the best students to fill the places. And there are so few photographers, certainly not many like me, with a passion and a hunger to make it as a professional. To get out on the streets every day, to play with the light, find interesting people and places, tell stories using my camera. Anyone you meet with a camera is either a bird watcher or a train spotter. Or my dad with that funny little camera which only comes out when we go on holiday. To Filey.

Meeting other photographers is really difficult too: I could join a camera club and hang out with all those old men who are hung up on technicals and techniques. Bit I’m a punk rocker and they probably wouldn’t even let me in that posh-looking building where they have their meetings and show pictures of old boats. And sunsets. And children in the playground. Dodgy, most of them, I reckon.

The local art gallery sometimes puts on photography shows, but these are so infrequent that they are almost invisible. And none of the work is relevant to me. To my life. To where I live and what I see every day. I could keep sending my photos to newspapers in the hope that they would like them. I did that a couple of times. I got this really cool picture of a bunch of nuns running for the bus. I developed the film the following day and then made a really nice print in my darkroom (well, it’s actually the spare downstairs toilet. Which is ok to use as long as my brother doesn’t need a pee and open the door and ruin another precious sheet of photo paper.)

So I made this lovely print and found a hard-backed envelope and sent it to our evening newspaper. But they didn’t print it. Maybe I should have used a first-class stamp? More expensive than second class, but worth it. At least it would have got there a day earlier.

But even doing that seems daunting: just finding out whose in charge at the newspaper is nearly impossible. Phone calls go unanswered and I never get a response to the letters I write to them.

So I get a bit frustrated. And I think to myself: Bollocko, I’ll do it myself. I’ll show them. So I put on this little exhibition, in a church hall near where I live and got my mate Barry to design a poster which we photocopied and stuck up all over the town. And guess what? A few people actually came. And they liked it. They even wrote some nice things in the visitor’s book.

Well, not all of them did. Barry’s brother said it was shit and that I should have had more pictures with girls without their tops on, like in the Sun, because that’s what real photography is.

And everyone I come across is, well, so old. And they are all men. And posh. And busy. And important. There don’t seem to be many women in photography. And I certainly haven’t met anyone who isn’t white. But I guess that’s not my problem. All I want is a lucky break, something to go my way, get my career off the ground.

If it is up to me, photography will be different in the future. Imagine what it will be like way in the future, 30 years from now. Because in 2018, I reckon everything will be different.

There will be equal numbers of men and woman photographers. There will be a project called 325 Voices, where 325 women photographers will each make a portrait of each of the 325 women MPs at Westminster.

There will be people from all sorts of ethnic backgrounds, and they will be visible and prominent in the institutions and organisations which represent photography and who represent them. And people of all of abilities in charge.

In 2018, people whose passion is photography but who don’t want to study, or can’t because they cannot afford it, or they are caring for a relative, can have their voices heard, their work seen and their experiences validated.

In 2018 it will not matter whether you have a degree in photography but whether your voice and work are authentic, honest and valuable.

Studying photography will be brilliant though, because there will be literally dozens of courses, all over the country, and you’ll be able to learn about so many different types of photographic practice.

And there will be hundreds of jobs to choose from when you graduate, and you’ll have an equal chance to get employment no matter what your social or ethnic background.

And big companies and powerful media corporations will all respect your rights, your intellectual rights, your copyright because this year, the prime minister Mrs Thatcher actually did the only good thing she ever did and brought in the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, which enshrines our rights and protects us from voracious and greedy people trying to make money out of our skill and hard work.

In 2018, our world view will be seen from different angles and perspectives, and not just narrated through the press and media by people from narrow backgrounds, with vested interests who retain the power and the processes by which photography is funded and viewed.

Male, pale and stale people will have an equal voice alongside everyone else.

In 2018, we will live in politically enlightened times:

There’s no way the most celebrated and influential photography magazine in the world could illustrate the issue of who owns land with an image of an heroic, white cowboy.

There’s no way one of the world’s most influential newspapers could publish a picture of a starving black child on its front page to elicit sympathy and the notion of the white saviour.

There’s no way the four main prize winners in a national portrait competition will be white people presenting images of black people.

There’s no way an image of a stone-throwing protestor will be elevated to Art and discussed in terms which would embarrass great Dutch and Italian masters of the past.

And there’s no way a long-lens image of bikini-clad women reclining on a beach, won’t be seen as objectification, an example of unconscious everyday sexism, whether or not it’s taken by a middle aged man as art.

Because in 2018 none of those things will happen and if they did it would just show that we still have a long, long way to go to break down the barriers, storm the citadel and make photography truly democratic, representative, honest, enlightened and collaborative.

I believe that in 2018 photography will still exist in its vacuum: somewhere between entertainment, art and journalism. Whatever your practice, whatever your outcomes, it will still be a profession or pursuit where you will rely on your own ability, determination and skill as well as the support, cooperation and encouragement of others for your success.

That will mean that photographers and photography will have to continue to act as chroniclers, witnesses and creators, to make their work. But they will also have to continue to be agitators, campaigners, agents of change in order to create and sustain new, transparent and trustworthy power structures which are open and accessible to all.

So my advice to all 24-year-olds in 2018, starting out on your journey in the wondrous world of photography is to question and challenge everything. Be disruptors. Respect yes. But do not stay silent or kowtow. Don’t accept that things cannot change. Recognise and praise progress. Call out wrongdoing and bad practice when you see it.

Photography was, is and always will be about rebellion, insurrection and revolution, after all.

And as the song goes: the revolution will not be televised.

But it sure as hell will be photographed.

Photograph © Craig Easton, 2018.

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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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Summer 2018 photography courses on Easdale island

“I‘m so happy I attended the weekend photography course on Easdale island. In addition to their wealth of technical experience both Colin and Adam are patient and supportive instructors. They made sure everyone felt comfortable regardless of their experience level.”  AE, Edinburgh

We are delighted to announce the dates for four photography courses to be run on Easdale island in June and July, 2018.

Hosted and led by photographers Colin McPherson and Adam Lee, the courses will follow the same, successful format which proved so popular with participants last time round.

These short courses are aimed at people who love photography and want to take their practice to a new level. The island is our inspiration. Your teachers will help you explore what makes a great photograph and how to take one. Enjoy a restful and relaxing visit to one of Scotland’s hidden treasures – Easdale island.

We look forward to welcoming you to Easdale island, a stunning and unique location on Scotland’s west coast which will inspire you. Our aim is to share our knowledge and experience with you, to spark your creativity and to give you the confidence to explore new ways of seeing and making photographic images.

The course is run over two full days (three nights), and allows you time and space to explore and photograph. You will be given one-on-one support and the opportunity to share and discuss their work with others in the group.


Easdale is a lively place, with plenty to see and do, both on the island and in the immediate area. Once the centre of the Scottish slate mining industry, the abandoned quarries and tiny white-washed cottages give the place an historic atmosphere. Access to the island is via a three-minute passenger ferry which serves as a lifeline for the 65 permanent inhabitants. There are no cars on this inner-Hebridean island, but it does have a pub, tearoom/restaurant, museum and plenty of people coming and going. Set against dramatic coastal and mountain scenery, it is the perfect place to get inspired and take stunning photographs. It can be reached by train on the dramatic and beautiful railline from to Oban, or is a pleasant two-and-a-half hour drive from Glasgow.

The course is hosted and run by professional photographers Colin McPherson and Adam Lee, both of whom have distinguished careers and a wealth of experience in teaching and running practical photography workshops. Participant numbers will be between five and six per course and you will be accommodated in one of two beautiful cottages (Chattan and An Rubha) which look out over the Firth of Lorne to the neighbouring island of Mull. Each participant will have his/her own separate bedroom.

We welcome anyone on to the course who has an interest in taking photographs, even if your chosen camera is a Smartphone. Although there will not enough time to teach individuals about the basics of cameras, we can offer to guide you in many of the basic rules of image making which will help you  create stunning pictures.

Your arrival will be timed for late-afternoon on the eve of the course. We will use this time to introduce ourselves and each other, eat, relax, chat about photography and fimilarise ourselves with our surroundings. We’ll even have some fun doing light painting, using long exposures and flashlights to create beautiful images at twilight. The following morning, we begin our journey.

“I just wanted to say again how much I enjoyed the course, a truly inspiring experience… I’ve been doing lots of reflecting about what we covered and trying to put it into practice!”
SM, Argyll

On Day 1 we will look at simple, practical techniques to improve your photography skills… including best ways of composing photographs (the rues and how to break them!), understanding the light and photographing people. The day will be a mixture of easy-to-follow teaching and practical exercises which can benefit your existing skills. You will have time and space to explore the island and take as many photographs as you want. The day will be broken into three, with refreshments and advice available throughout.

On Day 2 we will put what you have learned into practice… we would like you to set yourself a little project for the day: whether it be a human-interest story, a set of themed landscapes (or seascapes?) or indeed anything which has sparked your interest. We can advise you on how to tell stories through multiple images, portraiture and how to create your own distinctive, personal style of photography.

Each participant will have plenty of time each day to put what they have learned into practice and you will be encouraged to make and share their work with the other participants at the end of each day. Adam and Colin always on hand to offer advice, guidance and cups of tea. There will also be plenty of down time – an opportunity to socialise and share stories and experiences – and to ask lots of questions. We’ll talk about what inspires us to take photographs, how we can turn ideas into stories and how to undertake and complete projects. You will have the chance to have your portfolio reviewed by both Adam and Colin, so please bring some examples of your work with you if you wish.
Meet the tutors…
Colin McPherson –
Born in Edinburgh, Colin McPherson has been photographing at home 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 Getty agency. He was a major contributor to the The Independent for over two decades, covering news, features, sport and entertainment for the paper. In 2012, he was a founder member of the Document Scotland photography collective. His work is published internationally and held in archives and collections such as the Scottish national photographic archive. His photography has been featured in more than 30 solo and group exhibitions and his project entitled When Saturday Comes was shown as part of Document Scotland’s The Ties That Bind exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from September 2015 until April 2016. He is currently on a year-long assignment that is taking him to all five continents of the world, including working in more than 35 countries, which will be completed in April, 2018.

Kinnaber, 2000. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Mull, 2009. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Eigg, 2004. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Holm Show, 2013. © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

Adam is a freelance photographer and photography facilitator based in Liverpool. His work has been published in a number of national newspapers including the Observer, the Independent on Sunday as well as commissions for other magazines such as Aeon and Earthlines and clients such as Granta. Aside from commissioned work, Adam also undertakes personal projects, which have been exhibited across the North West of England. As a facilitator Adam works with a wide range of groups including adult and young people. His clients include Blackpool Museum, Liverpool City Council, Preston City Council, The Library of Birmingham, Redeye the Photography Network, Halton Borough Council and Halton CGG amongst others. Much of this work involve teaching photography skills to groups so that they can tell their own stories and advocate for the issues that affect them. Adam has received Art Council England funding for a number of these projects. Recently, Adam has started undertaking long distance walks, which included walking 600 miles along the Pamir Highway in Central Asia. He is currently working to train a donkey to walk the length of Britain in 2018. Adam has written extensively about his adventures.

You will stay on the island for three nights and departure will be on the morning after day two of the course.
What is included:
  • All teaching, guidance and encouragement to take great photographs. We have a large communal lounge with big screen for looking at and reviewing work. Theory and practice will take place both inside and outside, so come prepared to be on the move.
  • Your accommodation. We have six bedrooms for participants, in two separate cottages, Chattan and An Rubha. (Adam and Colin will stay in separate accommodation on the island). Each cottage has its own well-equipped kitchen, generously-sized bathroom and communal area for socialising. Both cottages have gardens, with Chattan also having a patio to the rear.
  • Meals. The following will be offered as part of the course fee: continental breakfasts on the three mornings of your stay, including day of departure. A light lunch, consisting of soup, sandwiches and salad on each of two full days of the course. Two simple evening meals, which will be eaten communally. Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be provided.  On the third evening, we recommend the short trip to the island’s award-winning Puffer restaurant to sample some of the finest local seafood and other produce from Argyll. We encourage all the participants to join us for the meal (this is not included in the course fee).
  • We can arrange free travel to-and-from Oban, the nearest major town to Easdale island (15 miles by road). Oban has railway and bus stations and is a two-and-a-half hours drive from Glasgow airport.
What is not included:
  • Travel to and from Easdale island. You will be asked to make your own way to either Oban or down to the island and to time your arrival for the late afternoon before the day the course commences.
  • Cameras and other equipment for your use. We recommend you bring your own camera, with a small selection of lenses if appropriate, a tripod or stabiliser, flashlight and suitable clothing for all weathers, including robust footwear. Either a laptop or external hard-drive to store images is essential.
  • Your personal insurance. Easdale Experiences, who are facilitating the courses, have all the necessary insurance policies in place for your protection, however, we recommend you have your own travel and personal insurance in the event that you are unable to attend the course after booking, are delayed in your arrival/departure or that your equipment becomes faulty or damaged.
We are offering courses on the following two dates:
Saturday 23rd until Tuesday 26th June, 2018
Wednesday 27th until Saturday 30th June, 2018
Saturday 30th June until Tuesday 3rd July, 2018
Wednesday 4th until Saturday 7th July, 2018 – all are three night stays on the island.
We are delighted to offer places on either course for a fee of £375.
Payment can be made by bank transfer, credit/debit card or PayPal and once accepted on to one of the courses, participants would be asked to pay 50% immediately to secure your place, with the balance due by two months before the course. Cancellations and refunds will be possible, however, deductions would apply.
We look forward to hearing from you. If you have any questions, wish to know more about the island, the course or the teachers, please get in touch using the form below.
“Thank you for organising such an enjoyable and stimulating trip, and for all the patient teaching and encouragement that you and Adam offered.”  MD, Manchester
“This was a fantastically engaging course which I couldn’t recommend enough for a person of any level of experience to do. Colin and Adam were excellent hosts and teachers.”  EC, East Lothian

Join the converstation on our Easdale Island Photography Courses Facebook page.

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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:

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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The Year in Pictures

A look back at 2016, some of the faces and places I’ve encountered in a momentous year of choice, change and contradiction, through the lens of my camera.

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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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It’s arrived…



Copies of my new book with images from various assignments at home and abroad for the Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers, have arrived! This limited edition compendium is available exclusively through my website for just £7.50 plus p&p and is being brought out to coincide with the papers ceasing publication. Get your here copy whilst stocks last….

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Tin foil town in the rain

Port Talbot

The rain seeps down the train window in flecked torrents. There are only five disparate passengers in the carriage, but the combined body heat forms a steamy fog on the glass, obscuring the view as we cut through the lush south Wales countryside between Cardiff and Port Talbot.

Awaiting us is a sodden spectacle. An early Saturday morning wash out. Shoppers are so scarce on the semi-covered pedestrian thoroughfare that one could be forgiven for thinking that some nuclear apocalypse had taken the steel town down. The bright lights of the up-and-at-‘em-early charity shops illuminate the watery pavements. Somewhere behind me, steam evaporating into the Tupperware sky, the vast Port Talbot steelworks belches and hums. An ever-present feature of the landscape, now threatened with the same fate which has befallen other steel plants across the United Kingdom.

Protesting against steel job losses, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Protestors, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Under a sturdy canvas canopy, sandwiched between a giant Tesco and the town’s shopping centre a group of people gather to shows solidarity, gather signatures and mutter darkly under the funereal sky about the fate of the plant. Interspersed between talk of saving the steelworks are more common complaints: “bloody weather. I can’t wait for summer,” intones one woman. “But summer’s just like this,” comes the retort from a man who looks as if he’s spent the morning in the shower, fully clothed. Competing with this throng is a man with a bicycle laden with onions for sale: ‘Last day’ reads a mournful sign attached to the bike.

I decide to grasp the soaking nettle and walk out towards the Tata-owned steelworks, by way of an arterial road which leaves the town behind me like a broody, surly neighbour. There’s not much to see, except the sights and sounds of industry: a faint wheezing noise and steaming plumes swirling towards the watery heavens indicate production continuing. But for how long, in the wake of 700 redundancies, it’s hard to know.

A Port Talbot Town FC supporter. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

A Port Talbot Town FC supporter. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

My next stop is the town’s homely little football club. South Wales football competes bravely against its more illustrious cousin rugby union. Nevertheless, the passion amongst the small, colourfully-hatted supporters of Port Talbot Town FC is tangible as they cheer their team on to a cup win on a pitch which has been lined using baking flour at the referee’s insistence in order that the match may proceed.

I learn that the club was formed by a Scottish family who came south to work in the steel industry. it’s a poignant discovery for me as it forms a link with my photographs from the project The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig which I opened at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre two days previously. The parallels between Motherwell and Port Talbot are striking. Let’s just hope that their fates are not the same and that Port Talbot can survive the loss of part of its major industry with less damage and despair that engulfed Motherwell when Europe’s largest hot strip mill was closed in 1992.

Disused cinema, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Disused cinema, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

I’m wished well and sent on my way by smiling football fans. Their team has won three-nil. A small slit in the sky reveals a short pause in the rain, however, it proves to be just a hiatus between downpours. By the time I board the train back to Cardiff, Port Talbot is fast disappearing into a gloomy gloam. Here’s hoping the sun is shining in more ways than one tomorrow.

Under the M4 motorway, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Under the M4 motorway, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Advertising food, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Advertising food, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Window display, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Window display, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Woman with umbrella, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Woman with umbrella, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

View across Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

View across Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Hen party, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Hen party, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Back lane, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

Back lane, Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

The steelworks at Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

The steelworks at Port Talbot. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2016, all rights reserved.

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The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig

During 2014, I spent time revisiting Ravenscraig, the location of the iconic steelworks in Lanarkshire, which was controversially shut down by the then Conservative government in 1992.

Four years after its closure I returned on commission for the Independent newspaper and photographed the destruction of the cooling towers and gas holders (above) in a series of controlled explosions one summer Sunday afternoon.

By the time I returned almost two decades later, grand redevelopment plans had come and gone, including an idea to build an entire new town on the site. In fact, in the wake of the financial crash of 2008, building projects had been small-scale and sporadic. By 2014 there was a new college, a shiny sports centre and a few houses peppering the largely derelict site which occupied the equivalent to 700 football pitches, or twice the size of Monaco.

In between was a burgeoning nature reserve, officially off-limits to humans, but what had become in fact a vast and informal recreational area. Plans continue to be made, but the charming topography of the place still reveals secrets of where Scotland’s industrial heart once beat.

I met and photographed people who had worked in the steelworks all those years ago, and those who are working, living and playing on the site now. History brought them together in one project.

The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig, 2014

The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig, 2014

The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig, 2014

The project, entitled The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig, was part of the artistic collaboration between Document Scotland and our Welsh photography colleagues A Fine Beginning. It was first exhibited at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow in the autumn of 2014 as part of the Common Ground show, before moving on to Cardiff in February 2016, where it would be shown at the Millennium Centre.

The work was made possible due to the generous support of Creative Scotland and the University of St. Andrews Library’s special collections department.

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