The Special Collections Division of the University of St Andrews Library is a proud sponsor of Document Scotland a photographic collective formed in 2012 by Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren. Street Level Photoworks in Glasgow hosted an exhibition opening last night of their latest work as a lead up to the Scottish referendum.

As the Photographic Archivist at St Andrews, I was in attendance for the opening to show support for their ongoing efforts to capture perspectives on Scottish identity. Document Scotland’s work was juxtaposed to that of a similar Welsh photography collective A Fine Beginning which brought home the justification for the title of the exhibition, Common Ground.

The turnout was fantastic and a brief talk about the work was given by the staff of Street Level as well as by Stephen McLaren. The tenor of conversations throughout the evening naturally gravitated towards the Scottish referendum, and, quite rightly, their work inspired considerable dialogue! The exhibition, and more broadly their work, is poignant and timely.

This exhibition is part of the collective’s very busy summer schedule and follows on the coat tails of a successful exhibition by D.S. at Impressions Gallery in Bradford, several salon events across Scotland, with two more such salon evenings coming up in Edinburgh and St Andrews on the 12th and 13th of November respectively.


Spending most of the day cataloguing an auction acquisition and found this lovely gem. An album from the Sir David Gill family, a well know Scottish astronomer. This one is ‘portable’ observatory, called Mars Bay, Gill was using on Acension Island (mid-Atlantic). Gill’s expedition to the island took place in 1877 when he was calculating the distance of Mars at its perihelion using a heliometer, seen in this image (2012-2). -RN

Dead rabbit…and family.
Today our Guest Conservator Pawel Pronobis discovered in our Photographic Collection a curious group portrait of Margaret Lindsay, Countess of Crawford and Balcarres and her children [?] circa 1855. Salted paper print from glass plate negative by the first commercial photographer in St Andrews, Thomas Rodger.

Looking at photographs in a whole new light! For the past three days I have been at an intensive master class discussing the preservation issues and guidelines for 20th Century photographic materials. As always, it seems the more modern the print the more vulnerable the image, which doesn’t bode well for most modern collections. We have been looking at current best practice for storage methods and handling guidelines, while also seeing examples of poorly treated photographs. As much as I personally find great beauty in the ‘art of deterioration’, it certainly isn’t something any of us want to find in our own collections. - RN

A beautiful double exposure photograph was discovered today by Ines Fonseca, one of the passionate volunteers working in our Manuscript Collections. Alongside it were many other fabulous images including this tiny bucolic Scottish scene as well as an early to mid-twentieth century photograph of St Andrews harbour.

Ines is conducting a painstaking inventory of all the photographs hidden amongst the papers, letters and archives of our Manuscript Collections and has to date identified 25,000 photographs, and is only ⅔ of the way through the collection. This will prove fertile ground for much research and dialogue!

Phil Bergerson, a Canadian photographer, lecturer, and author of recent book entitled ‘American Artifacts’(with introduction by Margaret Atwood and article by famed photographer and curator Nathan Lyons), visited the Photographic Collection in the Special Collections Division on Monday, and proceeded to give a knock-out presentation on Tuesday evening to students and faculty of Edinburgh Napier University’s photography programme to discuss his latest work.

Phil recounted his journey from student in the 1960s, to artist and professor, and underlined highlights of his career, including organising a pioneering photographic lecture series in Toronto in the 1970s with such photographic luminaries as W. Eugene Smith, Robert Frank and Andre Kertesz all taking part in the first year alone. His enthusiasm for photography is contagious and his depth of knowledge and experience inspiring!