Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘Document Scotland’

Germany divided again?

AfD supporters listening to speeches in Berlin. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

AfD supporters listening to speeches in Berlin. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

One of the immediate consequences of the gathering refugee crisis engulfing Europe is the effect it is having on the reunified Berlin.

Echos of 1989 permeate the city. For those, like myself, with an intimate knowledge of the modern topography of the city, the slowly-healing scars of division are still visible. After the fall of Berlin Wall, the city came together. But that sense of reunification didn’t immediately translate to a mass movement of the population from East to West, or vice versa. Indeed, as they say here, there are many people who still haven’t visited the other side since those fateful days of November 1989.

Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

AfD supporters on the march. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Into this comes the question of the refugees. Arriving in their hundreds every day, they are dispersed to around 90 locations city-wide which accommodate them in varying degrees of comfort and security. The whole question of how Germany integrates some one million additional people is starting to be raised. There are answers, but not enough to satisfy some.

And into this mix comes politics. And on Saturday, November 7, a march by 5000 supporters of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) took place through the Berlin streets. Whilst not massive in number, it was another symbol of the concerns some have about the process, and a chance to wrestle German patriotism from the political centre. Opposing this odd assortment of activists was a coalition of anti-fascist campaigners determined to expose the rhetoric of the right as dangerous and xenophobic.

An AfD supporter gestures to protesters. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

An AfD supporter gestures to protesters. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

A protester gestures towards AfD supporters. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

A protester gestures towards AfD supporters. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Trading on the notion that Germany is being re-divided for the first time since the Wall came down, these flag waving nationalists had one target in their sights: Chancellor Angela Merkel. Speeches and chants all laid the blame on Germany’s response to the current situation at her door. And whilst they talked of one, united Germany, like so many – both left and right – the rhetoric was of chaos and division.

An AfD supporter listening to speeches. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

An AfD supporter listening to speeches. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Twenty-four hours later a stroll through central Berlin reveals no trace of the marchers and their slogans. On a bright and cheerful winter’s afternoon, Berliners of all races, creeds and faiths go about the city with no outward signs of division. Some even may have made it across the line of the former Berlin Wall!

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At Home with the Hibees

Hibs-05

With almost comic timing, just as a mini-retrospective of my Scottish football photography is about to open, When Saturday Comes magazine commissioned me to cover a match back where it all began for me.

In less than a fortnight, my contribution to Document Scotland’s The Ties That Bind exhibition will launch at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery. My project is entitled When Saturday Comes after the publication which has allowed me to cover matches from internationals to non-League over the past decade.

Making their way across the Crawford Bridge. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Making their way across the Crawford Bridge. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

With all the photographs selected, printed, framed and ready to go on to the wall at the prestigious Edinburgh venue, last Saturday was back to business: a Scottish Championship match between Hibernian and visitors Alloa Athletic at the city’s Easter Road Stadium. I have been there many times before: as a photographer, as an away fan (I jumped ship for neighbouring Meadowbank Thistle in 1979) and, as a young lad, an ardent supporter of the Hibees.

Pre-match outside Middleton's. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Pre-match outside Middleton’s. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Set against the backdrop of the forthcoming exhibition, walking down Easter Road seemed poignant and timely. I tried to recall as much as I could about what it was like back in November 1974, when, at my dad’s side, we made our way to see my favourites take on Morton in a top tier Scottish League match. So much has changed, but so much remains the same. The boyish enthusiasm of other young lads is the same as it ever was. Swaddled in green scarves, hurrying over the Crawford Bridge, the raw pre-match excitement is tangible. A whole week’s waiting is over. Seven days’ anticipation since that last game nearly at an end. Conversations snatched, the quickening pace towards the ground, then the shuddering halt and the seemingly endless queueing to get in.

Easter Road, the main artery which brings columns of fans to the game is eerily familiar. The difference is the colour and light spilling on to the pavement from assorted shops and stores. Back then, everything save the pubs would have closed down Saturday lunchtime. The smell of ale from Middleton’s reminds me that football was much more a man’s game in the 1970s. Denim flares, swearing and a hard-but-silent aggression permeated the air. Trouble lurked, not in fixtures against Morton, Clyde or Arbroath, but games against Hearts, Rangers and Celtic which would be off-limits to me for the time being.

Turnbull's Tornadoes. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Turnbull’s Tornadoes. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

I am reminded of how Edinburgh and Scotland continues to change. Mobile phones, kebabs, penthouse flats. If we could even imagine what these were in 1974, it was because they inhabited the realms of science fiction, Tomorrow’s World or the sort of exotic holidays few people ever ventured on. There’s a mix of peoples too. The Polish deli is busy, black and Asian faces punctuate the crowds, as supporters mix with locals at the corner of Edina Place. The past unfurls in front of me in a whiff of tobacco smoke, another habit changing with the times.

The stadium gleams, bathed in autumnal light, a temple of modernity and functional design. Gone is the corrugated, dark green main stand, a menacing hulk stalking the touchline. And swept away too is the vast open terracing, so large it once helped accommodate 65,000 people at a 1950s derby match. Today the crowd is a much more modest 7,774, including 79 boisterous away fans from Clackmannanshire, housed in splendid isolation at the old ‘Dunbar’ end. This is second tier football, a recognition that this club which eternally promises much and should deliver more, has but a couple of League Cup successes to its name since those heady days of my youth and Turnbull’s Tornadoes.

The Green Army gathers Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

The Green Army gathers Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

As with some many clubs I visit, the past is repackaged in a constant reminder of sweeter times. There’s a Famous Five stand, populated by unregulated and unruly kids, who spend most of the match running up and down and imploring the Hibs substitutes to sign autographs. Nostalgia is in plentiful supply, but fans of Hibernian FC still demand that things are done in a certain way: winning is not enough, it never was. Hibbies demand victory with panache and style.

Today they get the former spiced with a little of the latter. At times it’s like a training match as Hibs cocoon their opponents in their own half, and but for some profligacy, the winning three-goal margin would have matched the five-star performance of Pat Stanton and co. that day in ’74.

Hibbies heading home. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Hibbies heading home. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Proceedings complete, we shuffle along Albion Road into blinding sunlight. Happy Hibbies heading home. I reach the corner of Easter Road and remember the sweet shop which once stood opposite. Much to my bemusement as a 10-year-old, it sold its wares by the ounce, not in packets. It was charming, old fashioned and slightly eccentric. Not that different from the football team it shares Easter Road with, really.

The match will feature in the November issue of When Saturday Comes magazine, which will hit the newsstands around 10th October 2015.

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The Ties That Bind

'Dressing Room, Edinburgh City, 2015'. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

You’ve listened to the song. You’ve read the magazine. Now, see the exhibition.

When Saturday Comes, a collection of my photographs from around the grounds of Scottish football, opens later this month at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh.

The selection to be shown was chosen by the gallery’s Curator of International Photography Anne Lyden and helps form an exhibition entitled The Ties That Bind which presents the work of the four members of Document Scotland, the collective I helped form in 2012.

'Supporters, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, 2008'. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

‘Supporters, Kirkintilloch Rob Roy, 2008’. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

The title of my collection comes from the name of the football magazine which commissioned me to take the photographs. Over the last decade, I have been fortunate to work as one of the main contributing photographers for When Saturday Comes. My involvement with the monthly publication actually started in the 1980s, long before I took up a camera in anger, when I wrote occasional features for them. As co-editor of a notorious football fanzine, my views on Scottish football found a wider audience with the magazine’s UK-wide circulation. Ten years ago, I covered fans’ team FC United of Manchester’s first-ever match for the Observer and the photos came to the attention of When Saturday Comes. Since then, I have been to matches on their behalf at home and abroad, covering everything from Champions’ League and internationals to the lowest rungs of organised competitive football. My heart is always in the lower and non-League game, and this is reflected in the content of When Saturday Comes, the exhibition.

One of the most interesting aspects of the curatorial process of putting together the When Saturday Comes series, was that Anne Lyden is not a football fan, therefore she approached the subject from a different perspective to me. Her choices were fascinating to see but very much reflected my main interest in the sport: the smaller clubs in Scotland, often sustained by a hardcore of dedicated administrators, volunteers and supporters, whose commitment to their teams is something I am familiar through involvement with my own club, Edinburgh City.

'Berwick Rangers, 2014'. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

‘Berwick Rangers, 2014’. Photograph © Colin McPherson, all rights reserved.

I hope you can find time to visit the exhibition: the contributions of my Document Scotland colleagues Jeremy Sutton Hibbert (Unsullied and Untarnished), Sophie Gerrard (Drawn to the Land) and Stephen McLaren (A Sweet Forgetting) form part of a unique and diverse view of life in Scotland today, and look at our nation and its identity through the common riding festivals in the Borders, the life and work of women farmers and the links between Scotland, Jamaica and slavery.

The show opens on Saturday 26th September, 2015 and there are artists’ talks that day by all four Document Scotland photographers. The show runs right through until 24th April next year and takes place in the Robert Mapplethorpe Gallery at the SNPG. Admission is free.

You can read more about my involvement with When Saturday Comes magazine here and here.

Document Scotland: The Ties That Bind is part of the IPS (Institute for Photography in Scotland) 2015 Season of Photography, a series of exhibitions and events taking place across Scotland from April to September 2015.

Colin McPherson and Document Scotland would like to acknowledge and thank Creative Scotland and the University of St. Andrews Library’s Special Collection for supporting the making of the work for The Ties That Bind.

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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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On display

2014 looks like being remembered as being the summer which I truly made an exhibition of myself!

I am fortunate to be showing four separate bodies of work at four different venues across four cities.

Sarah Bush, pictured at her office in Liverpool where she works for HMRC. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014, all rights reserved.

Sarah Bush, pictured at her office in Liverpool where she works for HMRC.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014, all rights reserved.

Already on show is my contribution to DaDaFest who commissioned me to make portraits on the theme of disability at work. The resulting Working Lives: Here and There exhibition is on show as part of Liverpool’s International Festival for Business and can be seen on the sixth floor of 43 Castle Street in Liverpool until 26 July. There are restricted opening times: Wednesday-Friday (12.30-5pm) and Saturday (12.30-3pm).

'Border fence, Cheviot hills, 2014' from 'A Fine Line - Exploring Scotland's Border with England'. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014, all rights reserved.

‘Border fence, Cheviot hills, 2014’ from ‘A Fine Line – Exploring Scotland’s Border with England’.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014, all rights reserved.

On 1 July, Beyond the Border opens at Impressions Gallery in Bradford, where I will be   showing my project entitled A Fine Line, part of the Document Scotland group show.

Designed and staged by the gallery’s director, Anne McNeill, this major event is a milestone in my career: the first time my work has been fully curated. It also marks the first exhibition in England exclusively showing Document Scotland’s work. Working with Anne and the staff at Impressions on the exhibition has been both educational and enlightening and myself and my colleagues are looking forward to a terrific launch night in Bradford on Thursday 3 July. The exhibition continues until 27 September 2014. We will be staging a professional development day and artists’ talks at the gallery on Saturday 26 July.

"Is gender inequality an impediment to poverty elimination?". Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014, all rights reserved.

“Is gender inequality an impediment to poverty elimination?”.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014, all rights reserved.

Next up, the A41 Project reaches the southern end of the eponymous trunk road and will be exhibited at Free Space Gallery in Kentish Town. The show will open on 23 July and continue until 12 September (Monday to Friday 9am-6.30pm). This will be the final outing for this particular project, having previously been shown in West Bromwich, Milton Keynes and Birkenhead.

The demolition of Ravenscraig, 1996. © Colin McPherson, 2014.

The demolition of Ravenscraig, 1996. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014.

Finally, there’s the results of another collaboration to look forward to at the end of August when Document Scotland’s Common Ground exhibition opens at Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow. The exhibition is a partnership with Welsh collective A Fine Beginning and I will be showing a new body of work made and completed over the summer of 2014 entitled Phoenix: the fall and rise of Ravenscraig, which looks at the legacy of the giant steel mill in Lanarkshire, controversially closed down in 1992, which I photographed being demolished four years later. The exhibition runs for a couple of months and we will be staging two-days of artists’ talks, portfolio reviews and other activities on 29 and 30 August at the gallery.

I hope to see you at some of these exciting events over the next three months.

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