Photography in Scotland: Then, Now and Beyond Our Time

The Scottish Society for the History of Photography

National Galleries, Edinburgh 28th March 2009

SSHoP Conference

The conference celebrated the 25th anniversary of The Scottish Society for the History of Photography. The first meeting in 1983 was held in order to raise awareness of photography’s potential as an art form. This fuelled the original members’ decision to start a BA Honors course dedicated to Fine Art Photography at The Glasgow School of Art. From then on, the Scottish impact on photography became worldwide and a vibrant photographic culture was finally realised.Various themes ran through the day’s discussion such as photography’s ability to lie, or perhaps more accurately the photographer’s desire to lie. Also discussed were the effects of the progression of technology in photography and the uncertain future of this medium.Certain questions arose both from audience members and speakers such as ‘What sort of photography will there be in the next 25 years?’ Considering the relatively short lifespan of the medium and its dramatic technological progression in the last 30 years, only hazardous guesses were made. Nothing is certain with the future of photography but I find this prospect rather exciting.

SSHop talk 1

It was made clear from the artist talks by Calum Colvin and more specifically the New Generation photographers that not all has been lost to digital photography. In fact 3 of the four artists referred to the delights of the flourishing second-hand market of film cameras. I remain positive that whilst technologies in photography will continue to develop at lightning speed, both young and older photographers will strive to keep mechanical photography alive. A perfect example of this is New Generation photographer, Lucy Levene, who when asked about the future of photography mentioned that she has recently set up her own commercial darkroom.One topic arose that interested me was in the future of photography as a career. With the number of graduating photographers in the UK each year being significantly larger than the number of jobs in the photographic industry in the whole of Europe, one lady asked if this can possibly be sustained. What will happen to all these photographers?

SSHop talk 2

Dr Sara Stevenson, a leading member of the SSHoP since 1983, spoke of the common pursuit of collecting photographs simply due to an aesthetic appreciation. This human adoration of photographs is what I believe has caused a dramatic increase in those studying photography but will engender the development of subcultures and new ‘isms’ within photographic art…also provide us with the next generation of photography.  The question was asked with uncertainty and worry rather than excitement for the future of the great medium and its followers. Three snapshots into the lives and portfolios of three New Generation photographers was more than enough to convince me that the future is not necessarily bleak.Each artist delivered a short presentation on their most recent work and personal practice. All three varied in subject matter and style though themes that were conveyed through their photographs overlapped considerably, such as disability, faith, immigration, and globalisation. There seemed to me to be an ultimate focus on contemporary culture and observations of Scottish society.

SSHop talk 3

I found the three artist talks tremendously inspiring and reassuring. I believe that if there are fine art photographers, they will continue to produce work whether they are getting paid to do so or not. It is a genuine love of photographs and the communication through them that inspires each of us to continue making art this way. The conference was held on 28 March 2009 at the Hawthornden Lecture Theatre, National Galleries of Scotland, Edinburgh. Speakers were David Bruce, Dr. Sara Stevenson, Dr. Alison Morrison-Low, and David Brittain.Artist Talks from Calum Colvin, Andy Wiener, Claire Wheeldon, Michael Mersinis and Lucy Levene.

Victoria Baker

Victoria Baker is a photographer based in Glasgow. She was included in the ‘Futureproof’ exhibition at Street Level in late 2008, an exhibition showcasing some recent talent from photography courses at Scottish art schools.

Photographs courtesy of Roger Farnham.

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