I had the opportunity of visiting the St Andrew’s Photography Festival at the end of September. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to attend any of the workshops, as I would have liked to go to either (or both) of the collodion workshops or the one on tintypes. I did, however, manage to walk around the outdoor displays and also visit some of the exhibitions. The exhibition was overlooked by a ‘small’ scale copy of the sculptures of the Falkirk kelpies, only small relative to the original kelpies, even these towered over me.
There were several displays of large posters of photographs shown on the railings both along the sea-front (The Scores) and also in front of one of the churches in town. These were interesting displays, partly for the images themselves, but also because of the reactions of the people in St. Andrews on the day I was there. I assume they were mostly tourists, there to look at the castle, cathedral ruins or play golf. Many were travelling in large groups with leaders discussing the sites. Very few were looking at the images displayed, rather leaning over them to look at the scenery. If I had thought more about this at the time it would have been interesting to have asked them if anyone was aware of the posters and what they thought of them (hindsight is a wonderful thing).
The poster exhibition that caught my eye was ‘In This Place’ by Margaret Mitchell, which has now been widely exhibited and won several awards including for the RPS and Lensculture. The work looks at images of her family set against the background of housing estate life in parts of Stirling that are waiting for regeneration.
These images of urban family life in a desolate area that might have been anywhere in Europe contrasted strongly with both some of the other, more traditionally beautiful images on show and the stunning coastal backdrop.
A further series of posters were of the various exhibitions that have been put on by Stills Gallery in Edinburgh over the last 40 Years. It is their 40th Anniversary this year. This showed the wide range of types of exhibitions that have been around in Scotland, but also possibly the general Scottish lack of reverence for the more cultural aspects of life, along with the need for fast food.
There were also many indoor exhibitions, not all of which I managed to see. Two that stood out for me were Heidi Blanksma and Hannah Laycock. Heidi won the photography competition with the image ‘Feel the Rain’, described as having a ‘Julia Margaret Cameron sort of feel‘ (Standrewsphotograpghyfestival.com, 2017).
Hannah Laycock produced a fascinating piece of work ‘Awakenings’ in which she describes photographically her feelings about her own struggle with MS. I found this especially interesting as it links into my own project on showing the feelings of people with autism in images. This also reminds me of some of the images in ‘The Final Project‘ by Jo Spence, although her images were overlaid using actual transparencies rather that what I presume is Photoshop here. I assume the reference is deliberate – although the idea of disappearing and melding into nature is clearly evocative of losing yourself physically.
Overall the festival (what I managed to see of it) was interesting with a wide range of photographic styles on show, and several potentially valuable workshops , which I will try to attend next year if available. I am not sure about the use of the outdoor presentations – I assume the idea is to bring photography and the festival to the attention of the multiplicity of people who visit St Andrews in the summer – but I wonder how successful that was, although if it only engaged the minds of a few who had never thought of photography as an art form, rather than a quick family snapshot or something for social media, it will have been a useful exercise.
Hannah Laycock. (2017). Awakenings – Hannah Laycock. [online] Available at: https://hannahlaycock.com/awakenings/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Margaret Mitchell Photography. (2017). In This Place – Margaret Mitchell Photography. [online] Available at: http://margaretmitchell.co.uk/projects/in-this-place/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Photographer in Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Blankcanvas Photography. (2017). Photographer in Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Blankcanvas Photography. [online] Available at: https://www.blankcanvasphotography.co.uk/about-contact [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].
Spence, J. and Lee, L. (2013). Jo Spence: The Final Project. London: Ridinghouse.
Standrewsphotographyfestival.com. (2017). St Andrews Photography Festival. [online] Available at: http://standrewsphotographyfestival.com/ [Accessed 27 Oct. 2017].