Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘scotland’

An Independent Eye in Glasgow

My exhibition of photographs commemorating two decades of working for the Independent and Independent on Sunday newspapers will go on show in Glasgow on Thursday, March 1, 2018.

The show will be staged at Hillhead Library and is a collaboration between Street Level Photoworks and Oriel Colwyn, the photography gallery based in north Wales which originally curated and premiered the work last year.

The exhibition was inspired by my book entitled An Independent Eye, which was published in March 2016, the month when the newspaper ceased its print publication and became an online-only media outlet.

The show will run until Saturday, April 14 and admission is free. Thank you to Malcolm Dickson (SLP) and Paul Sampson (Oriel) for making this happen.

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June 2018 for 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

Following a break this year, 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. Using the island as our inspiration, our teachers will help you explore what makes a great photograph and how to take one.

We look forward to welcoming you to Easdale island, a stunning and unique location on Scotland’s west coast which we hope will inspire you to learn about the practice and theory of taking great photographs. Our aim is to share our knowledge and experience with you, to help you re-set creatively and to give you the opportunity to explore new ways of seeing and making photographic images.

Our short courses are designed for people who already have a knowledge of how to use a camera but wish to build on their know-how and experience to learn more. The course is run over two full days, with a mixture of theoretical and practical teaching, one-on-one tuition and time for each participant to explore Easdale island to put into practice what has been learned.


The island 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.

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 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.

To participate on the course, you will be asked to submit a small portfolio of your images, so that we can ascertain what level you have reached in your practice. Both amateur and professional photographer will be welcome, although we reserve the right to select the most appropriate photographers for the course based on their ability and experience. We will not have time to teach absolute beginners on this course, so practical knowledge and experience in ‘handling’ a camera is essential.

If you are accepted on to the course, you will be set a simple and easy ‘assignment’ to bring with you, which we will ask you to share with your fellow participants on the evening of your arrival.

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 and look at the work you have brought with you. 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

Day 1 – Technical Photography

  • Composition – how to make your images look balanced, whether you are photographing landscapes, people or situations.
  • Understanding the light – where it comes from and how do we use it? How to work with and not against elements such as weather and time of day.
  • Creative use of exposure – including how to create the perfect silhouette, and how to photograph in low light situations.
Day 2 – Story Telling
  • Decisive moments: how capture a story in one picture.
  • How to tell stories in multiple images: beginning, middle, end, characters, events and interactions between people.
  • The photographic voice: examples of projects by photographers that demonstrate their distinctive style – and understanding how to find and improve yours.
At the end of the second day, we’ll have some fun doing light painting, using long exposures and flashlights to create beautiful images at twilight.
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.
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.
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. There will be a supplement charged for this, but it’s well worth it and we encourage all the participants to join us for the meal.
  • 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, 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 – with an early-bird discount of £25 if booked before February 15th.
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
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.

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.


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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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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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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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An Independent Eye


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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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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At Home with the Hibees


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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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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