Scotland heads to the polls today for a historic vote to decide whether or not Scotland will become an independent nation. Against this backdrop of feverish campaigning and energetic debate, a photo collective called Document Scotland brings us the unique perspectives of four Scottish photographers on their country at this momentous time. By looking at various elements of Scottish culture and identity, they aim to defy stereotypes and present a portrait of a diverse yet unified place.
The photographers Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard, Stephen McLaren and Colin McPherson make up the 2-year old team. An exhibit called Beyond the Border showcases their work, which is at times humorous, and often elegant.
Gerrard’s quietly stunning series Drawn to the Land follows the lives of women farmers in Scotland. “It’s a great symbol of our national identity,” Gerrard wrote in a statement. “I wanted to go beyond the romantic picture postcard view and learn about the land through the eyes of those who are responsible for it.”
McPherson’s A Fine Line studies the physical border that separates England from Scotland, travelling from the western end to the edge of the North Sea over the course of one year. “I wanted to feel my reaction to it as I walked, drove and cycled up and down ... I like to think of photography as exploration, both in a physical and visual sense,” he wrote.
He shares the idea of the frontier with Sutton-Hibbert, whose series, Edge of an Empire, explores the Antonine Wall, the northernmost frontier of the Roman Empire. Much like the Civil War reenactors in the United States, the Antonine Guard consists of men who try to create a deeper awareness of Roman history in Scotland. “I tried to imagine what it must have been like for the soldiers of the Roman Empire as they patrolled the Wall in the rain and snow ... and through my wanderings I explored what has become of the Wall consumed by modern developments, shopping centres,” Sutton-Hibbert said.
McLaren's series is a little bit different than the rest. He takes a tongue-in-cheek at the Highland Games ... of California. “The Scottish virus which includes pipe bans, sword-dancing, tossing the caber and sheep dog trials is alive and well,” he wrote in a statement. In American Always, Scottish Forever, McLaren has photographed participants and visitors to these games, a world which reveals a strong attachment to the "old country" by Americans of Scottish ancestry.
Beyond the Border: New Contemporary Photography from Scotland, curated by Anne McNeill, is on show until September 27, 2014 at Impressions Gallery, Bradford, United Kingdom.
Document Scotland has also produced a self-published book called Common Ground featuring work from Beyond the Border, as well as new work.