Media release: Document Scotland – A Contested Land


Document Scotland – A Contested Land

16 January – 16 March 2019

Colin McPherson | Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert | Sophie Gerrard | Stephen McLaren `

A CONTESTED Land examines the complex relationship between Scotland’s people, history and landscape through the work of four photographers.

The contrasting series of works, by the collective known as Document Scotland, will be exhibited at the Martin Parr Foundation for the first time before it is shown at venues in Perth, Dunoon and Inverness during 2019. The exhibition in Bristol has been curated by Martin Parr and each of the projects feature new and previously unpublished work by the collective.

Document Scotland was founded in 2012 by four photographers: Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren.

Tired of the tropes and clichés which are often used to represent Scotland, their aim is to provide an accurate view of their nation today and disseminate their work beyond the borders. Although their work is contemporary, it acknowledges the past and its resonance with the present.

They work in a Scotland where vast tracts of wilderness have been scarred by centuries of mismanagement, the wealth of the richest is 250 times that of the poorest, and the population of its major cities continues to expand, whilst population growth in many other areas is flat-lining, or even falling at an unsustainable level.

With impending Brexit, climate change and unforeseeable global events, it is not possible to predict where Scotland will be in a generation’s time. It is against this backdrop that Document Scotland have created A Contested Land.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s work captures the raw and powerful political theatre of Scotland’s parades and marches. Played out in public spaces from Glasgow to Faslane, depicting Pro-Scottish Independence marches to demonstrations against Trident missiles – the photographs collectively show vibrant and lively displays of stand-bearing, placards, slogans and passion. Strip away the banners and confiscate the flags, the adversaries cannot be told apart – they are all Scots.

Sutton-Hibbert’s photographs offers a beguiling view of the possibility of an undivided future aside from political discourse and disagreements.

The gentle and undulating landscapes of Scotland’s peat bogs are the subject of Sophie Gerrard’s work.

Eschewing sentimentality, the photographs look at how this precious environmental resource has been desecrated and denuded over generations and how these almost magical places are being revived and reinvigorated through careful and considered conservation.

Once seen as ‘fair game’ for industrial-scale exploitation, this series questions the viewer’s relationship with local and national areas of outstanding beauty, and how such places fit into Scotland’s topography and consciousness, linking people to the land and the land to the people.

Stephen McLaren’s series examines the hidden link between Edinburgh’s wealth and the slave trade with Jamaica.

Depicting everyday sites across the city once connected to the slave trade, McLaren’s work ignites a conversation about acknowledging an historical wrong, and re-evaluating the relationships with people and communities within and beyond its own borders.

History is also the starting point for Colin McPherson’s visual exploration of life on Easdale, the smallest permanently-inhabited Hebridean Island.

Once the epicentre of Scotland’s slate quarrying industry, the island has become a by-word for repopulation and reinvention as its current community continues to battle traditional adversaries: economics and environment.

At its height in the 19th century, Easdale housed four hundred people – the slates they produced roofed the world. When an epic storm decimated the island in the 1880s, it went into decline, only for a new band of pioneers to resettle and revive Easdale nearly a century later.

McPherson’s personal connections with the island date back 30 years, and through this series he offers a contemporary commentary on the parallels with the past and how many of the 65 current residents live.

Said Martin Parr: “At the Martin Parr Foundation, we are collecting and showing work from all over the UK and Ireland. I have been aware of the Document Scotland group for many years now and have followed their work and admire their aims and achievements. We are very pleased to have the opportunity to show their new group exhibition A Contested Land for the first time in the UK.”

Notes for editors:

Exhibition tour:

A Contested Land will tour to Perth Museum, Dunoon Burgh Hall and Inverness FLOW Photo Festival.

Photographers’ biographies

Born in Edinburgh, Colin McPherson has been photographing in Scotland and abroad for more than 25 years and is represented by Getty Images. McPherson’s work is published internationally and held in archives and collections such as the Scottish National Photographic Archive and the University of St. Andrews University Special Collections. His photography has been featured in more than 30 solo and group exhibitions. His major Document Scotland projects include ‘A Fine Line’, ‘The Fall and Rise of Ravenscraig’ and ‘When Saturday Comes’, which was exhibited at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in The Ties That Bind.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert grew up in Scotland and is a freelance photographer for editorial, corporate and NGO clients. His work has appeared in magazines such as Time, National Geographic, Italian Geo, Le Figaro, The Guardian and The Sunday Times amongst others. For over a decade, Sutton-Hibbert has been one of the principal photographers for Greenpeace International, and his assignment work for editorial and corporate clients has taken him to over 100 countries. His personal and commissioned work, for which he has been the recipient of photojournalism awards, has been widely published and exhibited in Europe, Asia and USA.

Sophie Gerrard began her career in environmental sciences before studying photography at Edinburgh College of Art, and an MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography at The London College of Communication.  Working regularly for clients such as The Guardian Weekend Magazine, FT Magazine, The Independent and The Telegraph Magazine and on long-term self-initiated projects, she pursues contemporary stories with environmental and social themes. A recipient of a Jerwood Photography Award and Fuji Bursary amongst other awards, Gerrard’s work has been exhibited and published internationally and is held in numerous national and private collections. She is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery in London.

Stephen McLaren was a television director and journalist making documentaries for the BBC before returning to photography in 2005. His work has been shown in several exhibitions including: Onto the Streets at Photofusion in London; Eastend Street: Then and Now at the Rich Mix Centre in London; FORMAT in Derby, and Look11 in Liverpool. His work has been published in The Guardian, The New Yorker and The Observer amongst others. He has curated street photography exhibitions which have travelled round Europe with the British Council and he is the co-editor of Street Photography Now (Thames & Hudson, 2010).

Address and opening hours:

The Martin Parr Foundation is based at 316 Paintworks, Arnos Vale, Bristol, BS4 3AR. The Foundation is open to the  public from Wednesday – Saturday from 11.00 – 18.00.

Admission is free.

The Martin Parr Foundation was established in 2014 and opened to the public in an architect-designed space in the  Paintworks complex, Bristol, in 2017, comprising of a studio, gallery, library and archive centre. The aim of the Foundation is to support and promote photography from the British Isles. It does so by preserving the archive and legacy of Martin Parr, and by holding a growing collection of works by selected

British and Irish photographers as well as images taken in the British Isles by international photographers. The Foundation also houses an expanding library of British and Irish photographic books.

For further information, please visit

Twitter and Instagram: @DocuScotland

Press contact: Colin McPherson

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Document Scotland contact details…

Contact: Colin McPherson