All photographers have lists – lists of places they wish to travel and photograph, festivals or events they’d like to witness and photograph, places in their home town they want to record or document, or if you shoot portraits, a list of people you’d like to photograph.
For some time now Sir Paul Smith, of of Britain’s most well known and well respected fashion designers has been on my ‘Portrait wish list’. And yesterday I managed to shoot a few portraits of him, not in ideal circumstances, and not quite as I’d have liked, but sometimes you take your opportunity, and some opportunities are better than no opportunity.
Sir Paul was in Glasgow, Scotland, to open his new exhibition ‘Hello, My Name Is Paul Smith’ at The Lighthouse design centre. There was to be a press viewing and photo opportunity, and I availed myself of that opportunity. Alas it was a busy occasion, and the possibility of a one-to-one portrait session, with time, was not available.
But I do what I do. I’d adept at making the most of these situations. I work fast, I work around the obstacles, step past hurdles and still deliver, still bring back an image of use. Just like on many assignments, life throws hurdles at you, rugs are pulled from under your feet, but I keep calm, keep shooting, work around things and ultimately deliver. That, sometimes, is what clients are paying you for.
Common Ground. One Welsh collective. One Scottish collective. New Documentary Photography from Scotland and Wales.
Inspired by notions of ‘home’ and ‘community’, Common Ground brings together new work from two photographic collectives taking an outward-facing view of their respective home countries of Scotland and Wales. Working with diverse themes and ideas associated with distinctive national and cultural visual inspiration, this collective exhibition welds them together into a cohesive narrative, at times overlapping and continuously referencing and complementing each other.
This important and timely exhibition showcases ground-breaking new work from some of Wales and Scotland’s most celebrated contemporary photographers.
Formed in 2013, the Welsh collective A Fine Beginning is made up of photographers James O Jenkins, Jack Latham, Abbie Trayler- Smith and Gawain Barnard and showcases contemporary photography being made in and about Wales.
Document Scotland, formed in 2012 by Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren, are responding to the global audience looking at Scotland at this, one of the most important times in the country’s history.
Klondykers, Shetland 1994
Release Date 18.11.15
14cm x 20cm
Edition of 150
“There’s blue on red, red on red, green on black, and that one over there is just rust on rust”, chortled the Coast Guard helicopter pilot as we flew over the waters of the Shetland isles and looked down on the fleet of East European ‘Klondyker’ fish factory ships all moored, all awaiting the arrival of the silver fish.
It was the early 1990’s, Communism had collapsed and new economies were struggling in Eastern Europe. Ships had been sent to Scottish waters to buy up the mackerel and herring catches, and take them back frozen or tinned to feed Bulgaria, Romania and the countries of the former Soviet bloc.
But the arrival of the Klondykers as they were known was gaining unwanted attention, ships were running aground all too frequently on the rocks of Shetland, and on visits into port others were detained, deemed as being unseaworthy. With ships impounded, and without work, crews went unpaid, and the men speaking no English drifted to the garbage dumps to look for items which could be salvaged, recycled, and taken back to Eastern Europe.
I went to the Shetland twice, around 1994, to photograph, both times on assignment, badgering fish merchant agents to take me out to the ships on their speedboats when they visited to cut deals with Bulgarian skippers. Or another time I agreed with the Coast Guard to be used as ‘live practice’, to be lowered by harness and winch onto a moving ship in exchange for getting up in their helicopter to shoot aerial shots of the Klondyker fleet. I readily agreed, for the excitement, for the adventure, and for the access knowing that Colin Jacobson, then picture editor at the Independent Saturday Magazine, would never hire me a helicopter.
Cyrillic signs hung in Lerwick town centre, telling the men of the Klondykers where they could find the Fisherman’s Mission, where they could find God, cups of tea and some help, and you could spot the men as they walked the town, in their Eastern European fashions of leather jackets and jeans. Up at the garbage dump I photographed as islanders drove up to offer the Klondyker men old televisions and electronics, or just to stop by and bring them cigarettes and gifts.
Out on the ships I got lucky and found myself on a ship crewed by Romanians, and I managed to use the little Romanian language skills I’d learned while working on another project outside of Bucharest. I chatted with the ship’s doctor, and he played his accordion for me, we toured the ship, and I photographed as men and women worked, cleaning the mackerel which had just arrived, or played table tennis as they awaited more fish.
The ships have gone now, but the word Klondyker still holds resonance in the Shetland, and of course upon the rocks are the ships which never left.
I’m very pleased to let you know that the black and white images I took of Nelson Mandela, in Glasgow in 1993, when he came to here to receive the Freedom of the City (and which I’ve written about previously), have been published as a little book by the industrious Craig Atkinson at Café Royal Books.
On November 21st at Street Level Photoworks, Glasgow, from 2-4pm, I’ll be doing a Q&A about my recent publications with Café Royal, as well as my Unsullied And Untarnished book. Fellow photographers Sophie Gerrard and Simon Crofts will also be there talking of their recent publications.
Nelson Mandela Glasgow 1993
14cm x 20cm
Edition of 150
How do you fancy being an artist, a creator, who has sold more than 7 million copies of books of your black and white drawings? Nice huh? Average photobook is printed in runs of 1,000. But black and white drawings for adults to colour? Seven Million. Count them.
Scottish artist Johanna Basford has done just that. Since leaving her art studies she’s has gone on to become a hugely successful artist and creator of books such as ‘Lost Ocean’ and ‘Secret Garden’.
I recently paid a visit to her studio, north of Aberdeen, Scotland, for a portrait shoot for The Times (who have run the resulting image today). The photography brief for the shoot was to get a nice portrait, lit, from in Johanna Basford’s studio, something which could work on a cover and inside. And also to get an alternate shot.
The studio was clean, bright, nice, a bit of a god-send really. Trouble was the ceiling was angled and very low, made putting up a softbox on a stand a little tricky, but not the end of the world. I shot a few portraits, a few variations, making sure to get the studio feel and some of Johanna’s drawings.
Johanna Basford in her artist studio, in today’s The Times.
Then we nipped outside, into the glorious landscape which inspires a lot of the details in Johanna’s work and books. This shot was pretty much the last I shot, as we walked back towards her farmhouse studio, something more candid, something a little more loose to give the picture editor options of feel and style.