Colin McPherson

Photographer and Visual Artist

Posts tagged ‘visual artist’

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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Choice. Change. Contradiction

Travel, they say, broadens the mind. It also focuses it.

My current leg on foreign assignment is taking me through nine countries. Each, naturally, is diverse and unique. So far from what is familiar to me, I look for what I recognise. Traces and places of something I know. The common strand through this section of what was once termed the New World, is that of migration. Of journeying, whether by choice, coercion or necessity. Of finding pastures new, or a refuge, or a place to build a future. Everywhere, people on the move, historically, contemporary, singularly or as part of a mass movement which redefines the host and the guest.

Individuals who represent great cultures swept through here. Columbus is everywhere. Gesturing, pointing, settling and unsettling. As quickly as one representative of a distant Spanish monarch appears, a whole community of Mayans disappears, their oral evidence diluted and forgotten.

I take my identity with me on this journey, but bit-by-bit, I shed it. The colonisation of countries, which has led to the ethnic mash up on small Caribbean islands. Vast swathes of Canada redefined by white European settlers, many of them who were driven from their land in Scotland. First Nation becoming one nation, but only slowly as the yoke of history is loosened and an understanding gained of the past. I find it hard to identify with where I am beyond a commonality with people, bonds of new friendships. But in these small steps, I also lose my old skin.

In the church in Bermuda. On the wall of a bar in Jamaica. In the street name in Vancouver. In the business in Belize. Familiar and yet foreign, a tiny drip of memory, like liquid, squeezed from the past, drying and dying, yet nurturing new life. Facing forward. Yet mindful of the past.

Traders, exploiters, immigrants, slaves, soldiers, tourists. They have all been here. Now it’s my turn. When my footprints have faded and the photographs forgotten, the timeless energy of humanity will continue. Change. Contradiction. Challenge. It’s always faced us and always will.

A final splash in warm water. A chance to forget the past. For the communities around me it’s a constant process of new dawn, fresh beginnings. For me, I’ll just go on my way.

Hamilton, Bermuda. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Hamilton, Bermuda. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Victoria BC, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Victoria BC, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Vancouver, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Vancouver, Canada. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Approaching Belize. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Belize. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

Menonites, Belize. Photograph © Colin McPherson, 2017 all rights reserved.

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Africa Drive-By

Take a look through this small visual monograph of photographs made during an assignment in southern Africa.

Limited to an initial print run of 150 copies, Africa Drive-By is a 28-page ‘zine-type publication available exclusively through this website. It is a collection of pictures taken from police motorcades as I travelled on assignment through eight countries in April and May 2017. Set against the varied urban and rural landscapes encountered, the images challenge the idea of who the observer is in the moment that pictures are made.

Measuring 148mm x 148mm, and priced just £3.50 plus postage and packaging, the publication will be available from 15th June 2017 and limited to one per person. It sits with other publications I have produced over the last couple of years.

Africa Drive By


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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: https://vimeo.com/196027845

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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Football Landscapes of England

With the football season in full flow and gathering pace, I am delighted to announce the launch of a new creative venture in partnership with one of north west England’s finest and most historic non-League clubs.

Greetings from Marine

With the help and cooperation of Marine FC, I have created a special souvenir postcard, depicting the club and its supporters during a match this season against Ilkeston at the Marine Travel Arena in Crosby. The first in a series called Football Landscapes of England, the postcard reflects what I love most about non-League football: intimacy and informality mixed with passion and commitment.

Chairman of the Marine Supporters Association, Dickie Felton, was instrumental in supporting the venture and getting it off the ground. He told me: “We are thrilled to work with such an acclaimed photographer as Colin on this project which captures the unique atmosphere of our club. The images on the postcard are wonderful and they will be a big hit with not just our fans but anyone who loves the beautiful game.”

From my base in the North West, I have covered matches at home and abroad for the monthly magazine When Saturday Comes for the last decade. And although there’s little that beats the thrill and excitement of internationals or Premier League football, non-League football is the game’s beating heart and the environment I am happiest photographing.

A first edition limited run of just 250 postcards costing £2 each will go on sale at Marine’s FA Trophy match against Kidsgrove Athletic this coming Saturday, 14th November, kick-off 3pm. It will be available exclusively at the club shop and social club and the aim of this partnership is to promote Marine FC and my own football photography.

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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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The recession will not be televised…

Porto. Portugal. August 2013. The city slumbers. A long, somnolent sleep during which they celebrate the saints and take a holiday. Beneath the still veneer is hidden a crisis. One that cannot be seen and cannot be heard. The crunching credit fuels a prolonged epoch of austerity across the Old Continent. In Portugal it is called the “invisible recession” or the “indoor recession”. You cannot see it, or hear it, but you can feel it. You know it is there but it does not show itself against Porto’s historic frontages and sloping magnificence. The Douro runs timeless. People carry on. Politicians come and go like the morning mist funnelling up the river and swirling around the bridges. There are ideas and then there is phlegmatic pragmatism. If the revolution starts here, it may start silently.

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