⁞ Identities defined by stereotipied ideas of nationality ⁞

Street Level Photoworks‘ upcoming exhibition is called Common Ground: New Documentary Photography from Scotland & Wales and is promoted as a show that brings together “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“.

Following is my selection of images from some of the photographers showcased in this exhibition as well as other authors both documenting Scotland as it approaches the independence referendum and reflecting on the idea of british identity.

00189328© Kieran Dodds, from the series Land of Scots.

Scotland - Gretna - Seeing Ourselves© Colin McPherson, Welcome to Scotland, 2013, from the project A Fine Line – Exploring Scotland’s border with England.

Scotland - Gretna - Seeing Ourselves© Colin McPherson, Farmland, Hustle Bank, 2013, from the project A Fine Line – Exploring Scotland’s border with England.

IMG_81012-666x1000© James O Jenkins, from the series Thatcher (portraits taken at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. 17th April 2013, London.

IMG_81251-670x1000© James O Jenkins, from the series Thatcher (portraits taken at Margaret Thatcher’s funeral. 17th April 2013, London.

Untitled-1 copy© Stephen McLaren, from the ongoing project Scotia Nova.

Untitled-2 copy© Stephen McLaren, from the ongoing project Scotia Nova.

1© Craig Easton, from The Scottish Referendum Project.

2© Craig Easton, from The Scottish Referendum Project.

The English Defence League© Ed Thompson, from the series England Till I Die.

The English Defence League© Ed Thompson, from the series England Till I Die.

┐ Craig Ritchie └

© Craig Ritchie, from the project Malaficia

© Craig Ritchie, from the project Malaficia

© Craig Ritchie, from the project Malaficia

“In the Malaficia project, London based photographer Craig Ritchie delves into a Scottish area that was once a central location for witch trials and executions. This gruesome piece of history is not what first meets the eye when browsing through Ritchie’s images of East Neuk: the elegant houses, the forests, elderly people and other moments of daily lives. However, as Ritchie indicates in his website, “It took very little to be considered a witch; a ruined crop field, a petty argument over money, a spurned lover, or maybe the fisherman’s catch was poor.”

This indication may remind the viewer the unforeseeable storms that lie beneath the mundane surface. After all, “What better way to gain the upper hand over another person or family than to accuse them of witchcraft?” Ritchie, so it seems, uncovers how the Malaficia, the hammer of the witches, can be found in every corner of a geographical grid – whether imagined or painfully concrete. The first phase of the project is a photobook that can be viewed and purchased through Ritchie’s website. Currently, the work is also on view in a number of galleries. And here’s a little more about the motivation, future and aims of the project:

How did you find yourself haunted by witches?

The work emanated from an arts residency I undertook in The East Neuk of Fife, Scotland. The remit of the residency was to produce work that was connected to the East Neuk, an area of fishing villages situated between Edinburgh and St Andrews on the East Coast. Prior research of the area revealed that the place was at one point a hotspot of European witch trials and murders which seemed like an interesting subject matter to tackle, not least because the events occurred hundreds of years ago which presents obvious challenges.

What did you find when you arrived to East Neuk? How was the project received

The East Neuk is a bit of a hotbead for artists and in fact the Pittenweem Arts Festival, which this year celebrated its 30th edition, is one of the most popular in Scotland. The locals are therefore used to visitors from afar and in that regard my presence there raised few eyebrows. Intriguingly though, there appear to be a kind of collective anxiety about their witch past, with people almost reluctant to engage too deeply in discussions around the local witch history.

It’s more than just my imagination as well – there are no monuments to the damned (surprising in terms of the amount of murders we’re actually talking about); it’s difficult to locally find much in the way of literature, and unlike in most places with such a past there is no real tourism centered on the witches. I did find one local who offered witch tours a few times a year, but when I phoned him it transpired he lived in Crouch End in London!

In terms of the locals in the project, I simply asked people who I thought looked interesting, who either fitted my loose narratives or who I thought were interesting enough in their appearance to consider building narratives around. This emerged out of my day-to-day encounters with the place – I didn’t actively seek out locals as such.”

Excerpt of an interview by Rotem Rozental. Continue reading here

More of Craig’s work here

┐ Robbie Nolan └

© Robbie Nolan, Untitled, from Trees

© Robbie Nolan, Untitled, from Trees

“The poet Keats spoke of how the ‘cold philosophy’ of science would, by explaining the mechanics of the physical world “unweave a rainbow”. In a sense the aim of this series of photographs was to display the falsity of this claim when related to colour. Colour is often thought of as something solid, immutable and objective. Certainly objective colour exists as measured in wavelengths of light, but this does not mean humans are able to view it objectively. The physiology of human sight is one easily susceptible to outside influence, and all manner of environmental factors can affect our perception of colour. In fact recent discoveries made by molecular biologists have found that miniscule differences in the amino acids of eye can occur between individuals, and as a consequence there is the potential for us all to perceive colour slightly differently. Colour as we perceive it has no physical reality of it’s own, instead it exists solely within the neural pathways of our brains.

It is this idea of colour as a liminal space on the threshold of existence which interested me. Inspired by early spirit photographers, with their use of slow shutter speeds and double exposures to create apparitions of the deceased, in these images I have created ‘ghostly’ shapes using coloured fabric and a prism filter to break the light into it’s constuent spectral colours, with no post-production editing. In doing so I have tried to use the camera to pin down the idea of colour as bridge between tangible and intangible, subjective and objective. Despite Keat’s claims against science the very nature of colour means it will always remain an essentially unknowable world – something I have tried to reflect in the work.”

Robbie’s statement

More of Robbie’s work here

┐ Louise Blamire └

© Louise Blamire, Duck, from the series declaration of dominance

© Louise Blamire, Tern, from the series declaration of dominance

© Louise Blamire, Mole, from the series declaration of dominance

Louise’s home is here

And a site about contemporary photography in Scotland worth having a look

┐ Catriona Grant └

© Catriona Grant, Untitled #16 , from the series The Examination Room, 2001

© Catriona Grant, Untitled #17 , from the series The Examination Room, 2001

«’The Examination Room’, a series of large-scale, colour photographs, was made following a period of research on the themes of observation and the role of the individual within the institution.»

More of Catriona’s work here

║ Valentina Bonizzi ║

© Valentina Bonizzi, Untitled, from the series Work and Intimacy, 2009

© Valentina Bonizzi, Untitled, from the series Work and Intimacy, 2009

“This project is about Italian women who emmigrated to Scotland. The photography research presents the way they view their job as the bridge which connects them to Scottish society. It explores the intimacy within their own houses. A space where objects and colours travelled with them, giving a foundation to their identity.”

║ Nicky Bird ║

© Nicky Bird in collaboration with Mary Kennedy, Lethanhill, Dunaskin, Lethanhill old school 1940-1?, from the series Beneath the surface / Hidden place, 2008

© Nicky Bird in collaboration with Mary Kennedy, Craigmillar, Edinburgh Back Green, Back of Niddrie mains drive summer 1968, from the series Beneath the surface / Hidden place, 2007

“The history under our feet to the time when our own may be under foot in future: this was the central theme of this project. It set out to see how photography and archaeology could be incorporated in both literal and metaphorical ways to speak of ‘history’ – particularly history that is within living memory connected to a changed, erased or hidden place. The project worked in six locations across Scotland, in close collaboration with a range of individuals. The family snap played a central part in the process – see examples below of photographs of places that have undergone major change and in which personal history has been ambiguously caught.”

artist statement

to see more of Nicky’s work click here

║ David Williams ║

© David Williams, Untitled #1, from the series Stillness and Occurence, 1995-2000

© David Williams, Untitled #1, from the series Stillness and Occurence, 1995-2000

‘Form is emptiness, emptiness is form.’ (The Heart Sutra)
These large scale colour seascapes were made over a five year period and taken from the beach at Portobello, Edinburgh.

“Mobilising an essentially redemptive aesthetic, Williams creates a mesmeric space fostering a capacity for contemplation on the part of the viewer. “(Dr Sara Stevenson)

More of David’s work can be seen here

║ Katherine Oggier Chanda ║

© Katherine Oggier Chanda, Totem,photograph of a performance, Scotland 2009

© Katherine Oggier Chanda, Bench Hike, photograph of the performance,  Scotland 2009

“My work revoles around the subject of repetitive actions in terms 0f physical, space as well as movement.
(…)
I would say art in this way allows me to take a position that enables me to look at the codes of our societies in a different cpntext in a world in which our propositions of our realities may not necessarily be the real but at times become the unreal. And this is possible when viewed trtough the window 0f deliberate absurdity.”

Katherine

More on Katherine here

║ Michael Visocchi ║

Untitled-1 copy

© Michael Visocchi, Untilted, 2005

assembled sculpture photographed in North East Scotland

Untitled-1 cop2y

© Michael Visocchi, Gnomon, 2004

constructed drawing placed in the landscape in North East Scotland

To see more of Michael’s work click here