A Contested Land, which opens at the Martin Parr Foundation on January 16, examines the complex relationship between Scotland’s people, history and landscape through the work of four photographers. The contrasting series of work are by the Document Scotland collective.
Founded in 2012 by four photographers – Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren – who were tired of the tropes and clichés often used to represent the nation, Document Scotland’s aim is to provide an accurate view of Scotland today. The work, which the collective aims to disseminate beyond the borders of the country, is contemporary yet acknowledges the past and its relationship to the present.
Vast tracts of wilderness in Scotland have been scarred by centuries of mismanagement; marine resources are controlled by five all-powerful fishing families; the wealth of the richest is 250 times that of the poorest. The population of Scotland’s major cities continues to expand, while population growth in many other areas is flat lining, or falling at an unsustainable level. With the impending Brexit, climate change and unforeseeable global events, it’s not possible to predict where Scotland will be in a generation’s time. It is against this backdrop that Document Scotland has created A Contested Land.
Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s work captures the raw and powerful political theater of Scotland’s parades and marches.
The undulating landscapes of Scotland’s fragile peat bogs are the subject of Sophie Gerrard’s work. Stephen McLaren’s series examines the hidden link between Edinburgh’s wealth and the slave trade with Jamaica. History is also the starting point for Colin McPherson’s visual exploration of life on Easdale, the smallest permanently-inhabited Inner Hebridean Island. Once the epicenter of Scotland’s slate quarrying industry before an epic storm decimated the island in the 1880s, Easdale has become an adage for repopulation and reinvention.