Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘scotland’

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

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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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Football’s becoming home

Supporters of Runcorn Linnets watch their team at local rivals Runcorn Town. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

Runcorn Linnets at local rivals Runcorn Town. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2013 all rights reserved.

In the week that saw the top tier of English soccer sell the remaining scrap of its soul in a £5bn television deal, my favourite magazine has launched a collection of contemporary and archive football photography which shows a different side of the game.

Showcasing the photography of its four regular contributors, the When Saturday Comes (WSC) ‘Images of Football Culture’ collection allows the viewer to browse images made over the last two decades, including my own work for the magazine.

The unique view of Dundee's stadiums. © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

The unique view of Dundee’s stadiums. Photo © Colin McPherson, 2011 all rights reserved.

My association with WSC started back in the 1980s when I would write the occasional article on Scottish football. The newly-formed magazine was one of the many publications which sprang into life during the fanzine boom of that period and was a response to the increasing commercialisation of the sport and a feeling of alienation amongst supporters across all nations and divisions. Back then, these often home-produced efforts would be glued together, photocopied and sold by supporters on matchdays at their teams’ grounds. Some survived, some rode the wave and disappeared. Others grew and flourished and continue to this day, the ethos and beliefs still there for all to see and read.

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

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

My association with fanzines and WSC waned until 10 years ago when I was asked to cover the first-ever fixture of newly-formed fans’ team FC United of Manchester for a national newspaper. WSC picked up on the set of photographs and asked to run some in the magazine. Only after publication, did they join the pixels and discover that I was the same person they had commissioned all those years ago. It re-started a love affair with the magazine and for the last decade I have been proud and delighted to have contributed photos and features for WSC on a regular basis.

Outside Goodison Park before a game. © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Outside Goodison Park before a game. © Colin McPherson, 2015 all rights reserved.

Now, it’s one of the highlights of the month for me going to a match with my camera for WSC. Whether it’s an international match or a fixture at a non-League club, the approach is always the same: to get under the skin of the sport and to reflect the fans’ experience as seen through the lens.

Behind the scenes at Tow Law Town. Photo © Colin McPherson 2014, all rights reserved.

Behind the scenes at Tow Law Town. Photo © Colin McPherson 2014, all rights reserved.

This growing collection of photography by Simon Gill, Tony Davis, Paul Thompson and myself has been put together by WSC art editor Doug Cheeseman and is available now for licensing images – or just pure nostalgic enjoyment by people who love the sport.

 

 

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Scotland decides

Watching the sheep competition, Dalmally Show, Argyll. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

Watching the sheep competition, Dalmally Show, Argyll. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014.

As the day moves ever closer to when the people of Scotland decide whether they wish to live in a nation independent of the rest of the United Kingdom, I am travelling across the country, taking the political temperature and looking for clues as to what the result of the historic referendum on 18th September might be.

Volunteers and public at a Yes stall in Edinburgh. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

Volunteers and public at a Yes stall in Edinburgh. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014.

I will be in Scotland right up until the vote on the 18th and also aim to capture the national mood in the 24 hours after the voting finishes and the result is announced. My photography tires to show the diversity of Scotland: from its towns and cities to rural areas, from north to south and across the breadth of the land. I will be following politicians and people alike, watching, listening and documenting as I go.

A man putting a stone on the Auld Acquaintance Cairn, Gretna. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

A man putting a stone on the Auld Acquaintance Cairn, Gretna. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014.

If you have any information about events, people or places relevant to the referendum, please get in touch and let me know what you think might be interesting for me to photograph. My hope is to build as complete a picture as possible of the events of September 2014.

A large Yes sign attached to a selling in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014 all rights reserved.

A large Yes sign attached to a flat in the Royal Mile, Edinburgh. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2014.

To see the images I am making at this time, please have a look at my Archive, which I will be adding to on a daily basis over the next three weeks.

 

 

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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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Stormy start

UK - Argyll - Storms

Happy New Year – it’s off to a stormy start here on Easdale Island. Let’s hope that’s not an indication of rough weather ahead.

With lots of plans, ideas and projects to be worked on throughout 2014, it will take more than a few windy days to blow me off course.

I hope you all have a great year whatever you are doing and wherever you are.

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Front row seat

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a privilege just to be there.

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All roads lead to Leeds

I will be participating in a Pecha Kucha-style event run by Miniclick and hosted by the White Cloth Gallery in Leeds, tomorrow night, Wednesday 2nd October. I’ll be talking about my Document Scotland project entitled ‘A Fine Line’ and updating on the progress of the work as it moves on from Gretna and explores the central Borders.

The event coincides with the launch of Tom Stoddart’s exhibition, and Tom will be there to take part in a Q & A session. Full details of the evening’s entertainment available here.

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Hearts surgery

Photograph

The storm clouds have been gathering over Heart of Midlothian FC all summer.

The venerable old lady of Scottish football is frail and in ailing health. Having befriended a rich Lithuanian, she finds all her savings gone and day-to-day life is a struggle. Can she carry on on her own? Might she be forced to move out of her home of more than 100 years? Can her family and friends come to her rescue?

Hearts supporters arriving at the Gorgie Suite for pre-match corporate hospitality prior to the match with Hibs. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Hearts supporters arriving for pre-match corporate hospitality prior to the match with Hibs.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

My phone rings. It’s one of the old lady’s friends. Can I help her? She is in desperate need of a make-over to attract new suitors and I am the only photographer in his contact book. I tell him I’ve never been particularly fond of this old lady, often found her to be be grumpy and bad-tempered, but my motto is never kick a man when he’s down, so I suppose I could extend this courtesy to an old woman.

Former Hearts player Jimmy Snaderson is interviewed at a corporate function at Tyncastle Park before the match with Hibs.. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Former Hearts player Jimmy Sanderson is interviewed at Tyncastle Park before the match with Hibs..
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

After a few more conversations, I discover that most of the people who help the old lady on a day-to-day basis have been made redundant. Her care is in the hands of a small band of people retained to make sure that the life-support machine stays switched on and have been given the task to see if some medicine can be provided which will allow her to start making a recovery.

Two Hearts supporters watching the first-half action against Hibs. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Two Hearts supporters watching the first-half action against Hibs.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

The brief for me was simple. Come down to her house on Sunday and take some photographs of her home and visitors. On this particular day she had a visit scheduled from a rather noisy neighbour from Leith and it was expected that the get-together would offer the chance to see the old lady and her friends partying long into the afternoon.

Hearts and Hibs players square up to each other during the match at Tynecastle. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Hearts and Hibs players square up to each other during the match at Tynecastle.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

And so at the appointed hour I knocked on the rather dilapidated front door of the old lady’s house in Gorgie Road. I could see that she had had some renovations done since my last visit many years ago, indeed three-quarters of her house looks pristine and lovely, flags fluttering, seats upturned and everything ready for a great occasion, the first meeting of the season of these old old neighbours.

Hearts players celebrating the only goal of the game against Hibs. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Hearts players celebrating the only goal of the game against Hibs.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

And so it was. The old lady extended a welcome of sorts to her neighbour, but then the two of them started their bickering and quarreling about who was top dog in Edinburgh. Back and forward it went with little purpose. I thought of some of the great arguments these two had had down the years, the passion was still there, but the debating skills had deserted them.

Sitting under photographs of former players, Hearts fans watch the closing stages nervously. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Sitting under photographs of former players, Hearts fans watch the closing stages nervously.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

In the end it was one skillful riposte from the old lady which settled the argument. Her friends and family jumped and leapt for joy. It was just the tonic the old lady needed. She felt much better. There are challenges ahead, but long-term, with the help of all her friends and family – and a passing photographer – she may make a full recovery and be a fit, strong and healthy member of Scotland’s footballing community for years to come. Good health!

Hearts fans react with delight at the final whistle as they defeat Hibs 1-0. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

Hearts fans react with delight at the final whistle as they defeat Hibs 1-0.
Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2013, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

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