Apr 292016

Peter_Anson__courtesy and copyright Andrew Paterson Scottish Highlander Photo ArchiveBy Duncan Harley

Born in Southsea and from a naval family, Peter Anson (1889 – 1975) took a keen interest in ships and seafaring from an early age.

Initially he sketched from photographs but at age nine, during a family holiday at Robin Hood’s Bay, Peter began drawing the Fifies’ and Zulu drifters beloved by his mother, a Scots born water-colourist. Peter attributed his status as a ‘Domiciled Scotsman’ to her strong maternal influence. She died when he was fourteen and from this point on, his naval officer father began to have more input.

On one memorable occasion Peter found himself, age 15 alongside his dad, on-board the cruiser HMS Argyll – sister ship to the ill fated Hampshire which went down off the Orkney’s in 1916 with Lord Kitchener, of ‘YOUR COUNTRY NEEDS YOU’ fame, on board.

This was his first experience at sea in a warship and he writes that he did not enjoy “the terrific noise of guns firing” during a naval exercise in the Bay of Biscay. Despite this, he was by now smitten by seafaring and felt himself a hardened sailor following this experience.

Private tutoring followed and in his late teens Peter enrolled at the Architectural Association School in London’s Westminster. Even here however he found that he couldn’t resist maritime subjects. He obtained a sketching permit which allowed him to wander at will, sketchbook in hand, around London Docks. Wapping, Blackwall and the Isle of Dogs became favourite haunts and Thames river traffic became his subjects.

By 1906 Peter was in touch with the Anglican Benedictine community on Caldey Island near Tenby and despite family pressure to follow an architectural career found himself drawn to the monastic life.

In 1910, he tested his vocation as a monk. Following an initial two weeks on Caldey Island he decided, at age 20, to join the Community. Many years later he writes:

“I might be giving up the world, but this would not involve abandoning the sea … I don’t think that I could have faced the latter sacrifice! It would have been too much to ask!”

For the next decade, Caldey Island became his home.

Six miles in circumference and less than a mile long, the island had been home to monks from early Celtic times. In 1906 it was purchased by a Yorkshire based community of Anglican Benedictine’s.

It is a place of jagged coastal rocks, Atlantic storms and red sandstone cliffs and it was here that Peter became firm friends with Aelred Caryle, his monastic Superior, who helped him realise the Apostolate of the Sea – a mission to attend to the moral and spiritual needs of those who go to sea in ships.

An article on the subject penned by Peter appeared in The Catholic newspaper ‘Universe’ and soon letters began to arrive from all parts of the world endorsing his view that the spiritual welfare of seafarers in general went largely uncared for. One correspondent commented that:

“the mercantile marine have no chaplains and the priests in seaport towns are too overburdened with work already to give ships much individual attention”.

Macduff_1958_image_courtesy_Moray Museums Service

The Catholic Times soon took up the issue and in 1920 the Vatican newspaper Osservatore Romano published a condensed Italian translation of Peter’s article. Peter had by then, as always, moved on to fresh projects. In what he later realised was an attempt to escape from monastic life and a return to the maritime world, Peter asked permission from the Abbot of Caldey to make a survey tour of the seaports of the UK.

He made many sea journeys during this period and travelled from the Shetlands to the Scillies.

He sailed in dirty colliers and smoke stained steam trawlers and at one point spent so long in an Italian cargo vessel that he almost forgot how to speak English. In Buckie he found a fleet of over a hundred brightly painted steam drifters and wondered why no artist had ever painted the confused mass of funnels, rigging and masts.

In Aberdeen he observed:

“big dirty, untidy vessels which were a stark contrast to the tidy vessels of the Moray Firth.”

Everywhere he travelled he met clergy who had largely given up on ministering to ships and abandoned seafarers whose spiritual needs were left largely neglected.

The question of what could be done for Catholic seafarers had been the catalyst for the setting up of the Apostleship however when Peter moved to Portsoy and then to Macduff in the 1930’s it was soon apparent to him that the crews of the herring drifters were made up of men from various persuasions.

Methodists, Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians; Brethren, Salvation Army and Catholics were all happy to discus both the state of the tide with him and debate the finer points of infant baptism or the mysticism surrounding the crucifixion.

The painting and the sketching carried on throughout this period, as it did indeed throughout his long life. The Apostleship of the Sea had become an international affair complete with annual congresses attracting delegates from up to 14 countries. By 1936 however, Peter had withdrawn from the official life of the organisation.

Gardenstown_Image_courtesy_Moray Museums ServiceIndeed he took great pleasure in the fact that on the occasion of the Congress’s meeting to honour his colleague Arthur Gannon’s 17 years of devoted work with the award of the ‘pro Pontifice et Ecclesia’ he was pointedly busy making a drawing of a Dutch motor cruiser in Banff harbour whilst chatting amiably with its crew.

Peter had in fact resigned his position as the Apostleship’s Organising Secretary in about 1924 due both to health concerns and the feeling that he had visualised the society much as he would visualize a drawing or a piece of writing.

Once the piece was completed, he simply wanted to get on with the next project.

Further sea journeys followed. Brittany, Vancouver and a much needed pilgrimage to Assisi were just some. In 1938 he published The Caravan Pilgrimage, an account of his year long ‘Pilgrim Artist’ journey by horse drawn caravan from Datchet by the Thames around Scotland’s North East coastline and back.

For many years Peter had been contributing a weekly series of drawings to the Catholic newspaper, The Universe featuring Roman Catholic churches around Britain. This work involved constant travelling by train; he hated road travel, which he found exhausting. One day he simply decided to divest himself of his copies of both Bradshaw and the ABC Railway Guide and purchased a horse drawn caravan.

Since he knew little about horses his next move was to advertise for a travelling companion who did. Out of almost 200 applications he chose a young Yorkshire-man by the name of Anthony Rowe who, alongside a lifetimes experience amongst horses, was a qualified farrier.

Along with horses, Jack and Bill, the pair set off on a year long journey around Britain, sketching churches and meeting folk along the way. Both Anthony and Peter recorded the journey and both published journals of the trip. Around 60 of Anson’s illustrations of the pilgrimage appear in the book of the tour including sketches of St Peter’s in Buckie, St Mary’s in Portsoy and St Thomas’s in Keith.

Along the way, Jack and Bill enjoyed the privilege of overnight grazing in, amongst many unusual locations, the grounds of Huntly Castle and Buckie FC’s football park.

Harbour Head Macduff:
In 1936 Peter moved back to Scotland. He had lately been living in Norfolk but had become weary of what he called:

“the Church of England in it’s most traditional and un-exciting manifestations.”

He had an intimate knowledge of Scottish ports having previously visited most of the forty or so parishes, including the Orkney’s and Shetlands which then made up the diocese of Aberdeen and knew many of the 50 or so secular priests who served up what he termed:

“an undemonstrative type of Catholicism.”

Ferryden 1966 image courtesy Moray Museums Service

The Aberdeenshire and Moray coastline became his home for the next two decades. Ecclesiastical affairs drifted into the background and fishing communities became his focus and his life.

The likes of Neil and Daisy Gunn, Compton McKenzie and Eric Linklater became firm friends.

Indeed both Neil and Sir Compton were to contribute forewords to his books. Compton had reviewed Peter’s writing for the Daily Mail commenting that:

“Mr Ansons books are prized possessions on my bookshelves.”

It has even been suggested that Neil’s Silver Darlings might not have reached publication if Peter had not encouraged the man to publish and be damned.

Peter wrote at the time that:

“In Scotland … so far as I could discover I was the only Papist earning a living by literary and artistic work in the vast diocese of Aberdeen.”

Soon after moving into Macduff ‘s Harbour Head the local parish priest designated Peter’s house as an Apostleship of the Sea ‘Service Centre’.  As a consequence a constant stream of mariners of all faiths and nationalities found their way to his door and in wartime, service folk on leave from the armed forces frequented his open house.

He had begun the Apostleship many years before with the vision of creating a worldwide organisation. At Harbour Head, Peter soon adopted the view that perhaps men rather than administrative machinery were required; Apostles were more needed than an Apostolate.

During this period he wrote and sketched at a furious pace adopting the practice of making at least one drawing before breakfast. He had spent six months in an earth floored fisherman’s cottage in Portsoy prior to moving to Harbour Head during which time he completed The Catholic Church in Modern Scotland. During his years in Macduff his writing included classics such as A Roving Recluse, Life on Low Shore and the best-selling classic British Sea Fishermen.

At the behest of the Scottish Nationalist Party and with a foreword by writer Neil Gunn he penned a vitriolic political pamphlet ‘The Sea Fisheries of Scotland are they Doomed’ which examined in some detail the causes for the decline in the fortunes of the inshore fishing industry in the 1930’s.

Books as diverse in nature as How to Draw Ships and the 1956 Official Guide to Banff followed and are part of his legacy alongside possibly his final work Building Up the Waste Places in which he explores the life and work of Aelred Caryle and Fr. Hopkins, each of whom played key roles in the restoration of Benedictine Monastic life in the post Reformation church.

Perer_Anson_Memorial_Sculpture courtesy Duncan HarleyA founder member of the Royal Society of Marine Artists Anson published over 40 books, and contributed to many more. His artistic output numbers literally thousands of drawings and watercolours and many of his books are prolifically illustrated with harbour scenes and pier head paintings.

In 1958 Peter left Macduff and moved to a cottage near Ramsgate Abbey. A further brief stay in Portsoy followed in 1960 and in 1961 he moved to Montrose.

Made a Knight of the Order of St Gregory by Pope Paul VI in 1966 in recognition of his scholarly work he became, in 1967, the first Curator of the Scottish Fisheries Museum at Anstruther.

His later years were spent back at Caldey Island and finally at Sancta Maria Abbey in East Lothian.

He died in St. Raphael’s Hospital in Edinburgh in July 1975 and is buried in the private cemetery at Nunraw Abbey.

Aspects of Peter’s life remain unclear and some personal diaries and correspondence remain unavailable to historians until 2040. He was seemingly barred from attending a friend’s funeral at Doune Kirkyard in Macduff, shuddered at the loss, but in time recovered and moved on.

Moray Council Museum Service hold a substantial collection of Peter Anson’s work some of which is on public display at the Falconer Museum in Forres. They also hold an archive of his letters and diaries plus his personal library. Buckie Fishing Heritage Centre and Buckie Library also hold Anson paintings.

Courtesy of Stanley Bruce, Macduff sports a sculpture in memory of Peter but perhaps the most fitting tribute to his life are in the words of an anonymous Buckie fisherman quoted on the flyleaf of the 1930 edition of the best selling classic: ‘Fishing Boats and Fisher Folk on the East Coast of Scotland’.

“Peter’s the maist winnerfu’ mannie ah ever met, well kent in scores o’ ports, a man wi’ the sea in’s bleed, a skeely drawer o’ boats an’ haibers an’ fisher fowk, a vreeter o’ buiks, a capital sailor, an’ a chiel … He’s a byordinar mannie.”

© Duncan Harley

With thanks to the Moray Museum Service, the Andrew Paterson Scottish Highland Photo Archive and Aberdeenshire Library Service. First published in the November 2015 edition of Leopard Magazine

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Jul 302015

Edinburgh based artist, Julia Douglas reveals blood shed behind creating ‘clothes peg dress’ on show at Drum Castle. With thanks to Esther Green, Tricker PR.


Highly Sprung by Julia Douglas is very much at home in the new exhibition space at Drum Castle. Pic: Newsline Media Ltd.

Castles have throughout history been places of bloody carnage and battles. Now an artist whose work is on show at a Scottish castle has revealed her own blood shed over creating the installation.

Julia Douglas’ Highly Sprung, a dress made out of 12,500 clothes pegs, is part of an exhibition of contemporary art in a newly created art gallery in Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Creating the installation was a real labour of love for Julia, who spent long days over two months working on the project, the theme of which has become her signature style.

After breaking the pegs to separate the wood from the metal springs, she then linked the springs together to create the shape of the dress. It was an intricate but successful process and remarkably no glue, support or fastenings were needed to keep the dress structure in place.

Julia says:

“It was a very repetitive process, akin to knitting, but also just like housework, a job that you do over and over again. The process made my fingers bleed.”

But the blood shed was worth it as 15 years after its creation and Highly Sprung remains one of Julia’s personal favourites.

“All of my work revolves around the home and relationships we have with objects around the home; how they tell a story about the owners and their life,” she explains.

 “Highly Sprung is very much part of that theme, in fact this was the first one I did and I have continued with that theme ever since.”

Julia feels the homely setting of a country castle provides the ideal backdrop for the ‘Human Presence’ themed exhibition.

Around 20 key works from the permanent collection of Aberdeen Art Gallery have been loaned to the castle while the gallery undergoes a major refurbishment. Other works include Gallowgate Lard by Ken Currie, Restraining Coat 2 by Julie Roberts.

Julia says:

“I am absolutely delighted that Highly Sprung has been hung in this selected exhibition.

“I feel proud to have my work sit alongside prestigious artists like Alison Watt, Ken Currie, Gavin Turk and Julie Roberts, whose works I particularly admire.

“I feel that the domestic interior at Drum Castle, with its fireplaces, wooden panels and skirting boards, is an ideal location for an exhibition exploring human presence and hope that this different setting for the work will attract new viewers as well as inspire regular gallery goers.”

The Edinburgh-based textile and mixed media visual artist plans to take time out from her busy schedule to visit the exhibition at Drum soon.

Julia’s commitments include organising the Society of Scottish Artists’ Annual Exhibition of which she is co-ordinator. She also has plans to move to South West France and set up an artists’ retreat called Studio Faire and as a professional member of Visual Arts Scotland she will be creating new work for their upcoming annual exhibition.

Drum Castle is hosting the specially curated collection of modern art on loan from Aberdeen Art Gallery until March 2017. It is open Thursday-Monday from 11am-4 pm last entry and from October on Saturdays and Sundays from 11am-4pm last entry. Situated on the A93, Drum Castle is 10 miles west of Aberdeen.

Mar 142014

SURF the Don photographers had their work published without permission by Station House Media Unit (SHMU) in a booklet about Tillydrone. This unauthorised use of their images seems to have been because of a combination of Aberdeen City Council’s Sinclair Laing offering the images without consent and apparently suggesting they could be used by SHMU.  SHMU seems to have never sought permission from the photographers at the time, and didn’t clear the images in advance of publication.

More than two weeks on, and the photographers are no closer to compensation for the unauthorised use of images by SHMU in its ‘Tillydrone – the Guide’ Publication.  Furthermore, SHMU is now asking the artists to sign waivers granting SHMU permission to further use their images in an online version of the book.  Suzanne Kelly reports.

Frosty_Bridge Credit Vicky Mitchell

Frosty Bridge – Credit: Vicky Mitchell. Reproduced with kind permission of copyright owner.

Aberdeen City Council’s Sinclair Laing was involved with the SURF the Don Photography project. This was an excellent project giving local photographers an opportunity to see their work celebrating the wildlife and diversity of the Don area promoted and exhibited.
However, Sinclair Laing seems to have decided to offer the photographs to SHMU for potential publication; the artists had no idea this was being done.

SHMU then published some of this work, again without anyone thinking to ‘clear’ (get permission, check copyright, and offer payment to the photographers involved) the work.

Some photographers are understandably unhappy, and despite receiving in the region of £200,000 per year from the taxpayer via Aberdeen City Council*, SHMU is not offering compensation.

Aberdeen Voice ran the story on February 7th (https://aberdeenvoice.com/2014/02/public-image-photographs-published-shmu-without-permission/) .

Contact had been made with the Aberdeen City Council which claims, somewhat incorrectly in this instance, that:

“We respect the copyright of artists and their intellectual property rights”.

This doesn’t seem to be the first time imagery has been appropriated/shared/used by the City without asking for the copyright holder’s permission in advance. A photographer has been in touch to make such a charge with regard to the City’s ‘Seventeen’ website on which work was used without permission.

Artists maintain control of their work and they should be paid when their work is used, be it painting, design, photography, music or film. The fact that it costs artists money to create their work is the simplest explanation for this legal right to compensation. Many artists want their work to be used only in ways they approve, and not for instance to be used by political parties, as has happened to several songwriters in the recent past, without clearance.

Artists might also not want their older/less sophisticated images used, as happened to one of the photographers in the case of the ‘Tillydrone’ booklet, and they might not want their composition cropped or changed.

At least one person whose work was used by SHMU is not in full-time employment; and photography is an expensive art form. The cost of a good camera, darkroom supplies, time – they all mount up, and these artists have a legal right to be paid.

SHMU seemed initially apologetic. They also seemed displeased the story was going to run in Aberdeen Voice. In fact, they insisted that apologies to the artists concerned were imminent, and Aberdeen Voice duly mentioned this fact in the first article.

The apology letter, when it did arrive, was not exactly what was expected. In the letter the Voice saw, no offer of payment was made, nor was there a suitable explanation as to how a charity, running courses on how to be media professionals, didn’t seek clearance on the photos before printing booklets.

Rather than offering any money, SHMU decided this was the right opportunity to ask for more free rights from the image makers involved – and sent the photographers a waiver letter to sign, granting SHMU the right to run the booklet and the photos online.

Here is text of a letter a photographer received from SHMU:-

“I am contacting you as the Chief Executive of Station House Media Unit (shmu) which worked in partnership with other organisations to deliver the booklet, Tillydrone – The Guide.

“In the collation and design of the booklet, we used your image having been given access to the photographs which were part of the SURF project. However, we have recently been made aware that you were not consulted and your permission was not obtained for use in the booklet and we would like to apologise unreservedly for any upset that this may have caused.

“We were not the lead partner on this project, but ultimately the oversight of the design and distribution of the booklet was our responsibility. We passed a final draft copy of the booklet to our contact linked with the SURF project in order to check the images were credited properly. We received a comprehensive reply from our contact detailing a number of suggested changes, but with no mention of permission issues and therefore we believed permission had been granted.

“Having reviewed all the evidence from communications around approval for use of the images in the booklet we now realise that we should have made a more direct approach to each photographer personally and should not have assumed that third parties had obtained the necessary approvals from you.

“This was a community project with numerous partners with input from a broad range of organisations and individuals, which led to a more complex system of approvals for copy and images than would normally be the case. Shmu is an organisation that works on a broad range of partnership projects throughout the year and with this in mind, we will be reviewing our processes to make sure this does not happen again.

“I hope you are able to look on the project and your work within it in the spirit in which it was intended, as an exciting and positive document that is a useful community resource celebrating the rich heritage, history and environment of Tillydrone while also profiling the talent and diversity we have within our community.

“We do not intend to publish more hard copies of the booklet, but – with your permission – we would like to publish an on-line version of the booklet on our website www.shmu.org.uk. If you are happy for your image to be reproduced in that on-line version, I would be grateful if you could sign, date and return the enclosed permission letter by Friday 28th February. I have included a pre-paid envelope for ease. If I do not receive the permission letter back from you by the above date we will remove your image from the on-line version.

“Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any further queries about this project or the use of your image in the booklet. I would also be happy to meet you in person if you prefer.

“With best wishes

“Murray Dawson, Chief Executive, Station House Media Unit”

 Here is the enclosed permission letter

 “Dear Sirs 

“Tillydrone- The Guide” (the “Booklet”)

“Permission for use of images

“I refer to such of my images(s) as were used by you in the collation and design of the Booklet, a printed copy of which I confirm I have received (the “Image(s)”). I note that you now wish to publish the Booklet on your website www.shmu.org.uk/ (“Your Website”).

“I confirm that I am the holder of the copyright and all other rights in the nature of copyright which subsist or will subsist, now or in the future, in any part of the world in the image(s).

“I hereby grant permission to you to reproduce the Image(s), along with a copyright attribution notice, on your website.

“Yours Faithfully, Name, Date”

With an annual operating budget of approximately £500,000 – much of which comes from the taxpayer, it is hoped SHMU will now offer compensation.

[Stop Press:  It has been brought to Aberdeen Voice’s attention that SHMU is an administrator of a website, 57 Degrees North. This carries a helpful article on copyright, and the importance of artists seeking compensation and credit, which can be found here:  http://57north.org/news/copyright-infringement-practical-guide-musicians  by By Jayne Carmichael Norrie of the Forte Music School]

It is believed that a complaint will be made to the City Council’s Chief Executive, Valerie Watts. It should be noted some photographers are considering legal remedies. One person received a £250 settlement from the City using their images without permission in the recent past.

A further update will be forthcoming.

*From Aberdeen City Council, money paid to SHMU:-
2010: £237385
2011: £261598
2012: £287106
2013: £169661
2014 (to date): £213231

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Mar 062014

David Innes updates us on all things Dickens.


Professor Malcolm Andrews, introduced by Fellowship chairman Paul Schlicke as one of his oldest friends in the UK, visited and gave a fascinating talk on his two artistic passions, Dickens and Turner, the renowned landscape and marine artist.

Our guest has been Professor of Victorian and Visual Studies at the University of Kent and edits The Dickensian, the journal of the Dickens Fellowship.

Like Dickens, Turner was familiar with Kent and its coastline and had a fascination for the sea. Professor Andrews demonstrated how, although they differed in temperament and outlook, both men’s prodigious imaginations were fired by the Channel and Medway sea-going traffic, the urban developments and burgeoning tourist industry and the powerful force exerted by nature and brine combined.

Professor Andrews illustrated his talk with Turner’s marine paintings, immense and powerful in their colour, movement and energy, evoking the irresistible violent power of the waves and storms crashing overhead. Comparing this with Dickens’s stirring paragraphs describing the shipwreck at Yarmouth from David Copperfield, our guest showed both artists’ abilities to capture the violence of nature and the terrifying destructive force of the sea.

In so doing, he pointed out that Turner continually surmounted the age-old difficulty of capturing the single chance fleeting attention of the viewer without the poet’s tools of embellishment and amplification.

Although they did spend a short time in each other’s company, they were not friends. They were too dissimilar, it seems, and Turner does not seem to have had many friends at all. Dickens, garrulous, gregarious and with finely-honed dramatic and humorous sensibilities was in many ways the opposite of the more insular, introspective and intolerant Turner, who seemed to reserve respect for men of the sea. Their timelines did overlap, but the painter was 37 years the author’s senior.

Professor Andrews’ ability to bestride two often-disparate artistic genres and distil the similarities into a riveting hour’s talk was a triumph and we are owe him our thanks for contextualising and analysing the not-dissimilar effects of two masters of their craft.

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Feb 072014

By Suzanne Kelly.

Frosty_Bridge Credit Vicky MitchellArtists own the rights to the work they create; be it photos, paintings sculpture, music and more. Anyone who wants to reproduce such artwork is, in almost all cases, required to obtain prior permission for use.
Guidelines for paying for reproducing artwork exist, and it is expected that media professionals adhere to these rules.

But we are in Aberdeen, would-be city of culture.

An Aberdeen City Council officer offered local charity SHMU an assortment of photographs without the image maker’s permission, and SHMU then published some of these photos without contacting the photographers to get their consent to have the images published.

This is a clear breach of laws concerning copyright and the use of artwork, and both the City and SHMU, a charity involved in media production and media training, would have been well versed in proper procedure and law when the work was printed in the booklet ‘Tillydrone – the guide’.

SHMU wrote assurances earlier this week that apologies would be made.  However, at the time of writing, none of the photographers in contact with Aberdeen Voice (some of whom are rightfully angry at this use of their work without permission), have had an apology, explanation, or offer of compensation.

The booklet was funded by the SURF project, and has the logos of The Interreg IVB North Sea Regional Programme, European Regional Development Fund, Sustainable Urban Fringes SURF, Aberdeen City Council, Fairer Scotland Fund,  – but there is apparently no copyright mark plainly visible in the book.  Could this be a simple lack of care, or is it an unspoken acknowledgement that the material is not theirs?

Vicky Mitchell was a SURF photographer, and she gives her position on her work being used:-

“I was angry and upset that my image was used without my permission, and that it was given to SHMU without my knowledge. The image in question is at least 18 months old and in no way reflects the current standard of my work.”

The following information from Vicky Mitchell describes the photographers involved:

  • Vicky Mitchell – Winter frost on the Brig’o Balgownie
  • John Rutherford – Cogs at the River Don and a cropped picture of the Sir Duncan Rice Library at night.
  • Andy Coventry – Cropped picture of a Grey Heron on the Don.
  • Nadine Ralston – Angel from the Elphinstone Tomb, Old Aberdeen.
  • Mark Thomson – WallaceTower (Mark works for Tenants First, Now Sanctuary)
  • Darren Wright – Landscape of the Don looking towards PersleyBridge.
  • Glenn Cooper – Reflections of Tilly tower blocks on the Don.
  • Various other historical pictures and a couple of uncredited pictures were also used.

Who Wrote What

Local photographers, who had been involved in the successful Surfing the Don: a River Don Photography Exhibition, had several successful shows.  They have spent months creating their artwork, under the guidance of a professional photographer. 

Any photograph created, whether a simple snapshot or a carefully planned, executed and composed photograph such as the River Don group’s work is the property of its creator, and cannot be reproduced without prior consent. 

The photographers should have been contacted before their work was shown to any third parties for possible publication.  They then had the right to ask for payment or they could have waived that right as each individual personally saw fit.

Some photographers are happy with the book; but their opinions on copyright law do not apply in any form to the others.  In some cases the work has been cropped by SHMU – changing the image from what the artist intended into something else.

A long thread discussing this matter appeared on FaceBook; a transcript can be found here:  oldsusannahsjournal.yolasite.com

Some photographers don’t mind that their work was used without permission; others were shocked and angry when they discovered their work published in the booklet which they knew nothing about in advance.

The Aberdeen officer in question, Sinclair Laing, who had been the city’s contact in the Surfing the Don project, had not told them he had a bank of their images and was offering them to SHMU or any other third parties.Laing was contacted by Aberdeen Voice, and referred AV to the city’s media department.

An Aberdeen City Council spokeswoman responded:

“We respect the copyright of artists and their intellectual property rights”

On the Facebook discussion, Laing wrote:

“Hey. It’s a great wee guide. It should be making its way through all doors in the area very soon. We provided access to the bank of SURF images – on the basis that it was a non-commercial venture to help promote a positive image of the area and community :)”


“This publication was produced by Station House Media Unit (shmu), not Aberdeen City Council.
“Shmu were very clearly told in advance, and in writing, of the requirements to use any images. These requirements included getting written permission from the copyright holders of the images they proposed to use.

“Therefore, if anyone has a complaint they wish to submit, i.e. about the use of images without permissions, please direct them towards Shmu as the responsible organisation.”

It should be noted that Sinclair Laing draws a salary for his work in the city, promoting ‘a positive image of the area and the community’ – unlike those whose work has been appropriated.

It should also be remembered that during the referendum on whether to turn Union Terrace Gardens into a car park with a concrete cover, an unnamed photographer was paid £150 for creating a photograph to demonstrate the gardens are difficult to access, a claim demonstrably false, witnessed by Dame Anne Begg’s frequent appearances in the gardens in her wheelchair.

It should be noted that this anonymous photographer’s fee was apparently invoiced to the city, commissioned by ACSEF, and billed to the city by the Chamber of Commerce; other commissioned photography took place during the referendum as well supporting development of UTG, and paid for by taxpayers.

Laing also wrote:-

“I’d like to add something here. I have been encouraging local organisations and projects to try to make use of the wonderful array of images produced throughout the SURF project. Not because Aberdeen City Council have been cunning enough to amass a bank of free images.

“I have done this because that is what the majority of photographers I have spoken to have been keen to see – local images from local people being used to raise the profile and promote the value of the local area, for non-commercial purposes. This has the potential to benefit both individuals involved and the wider community.

“At every turn, organisations and projects have also been told very clearly and in writing of their obligations before utilising any images, e.g. to get written permission in advance from the copyright holders.”

Despite Aberdeen City Council previously falling foul of copyright law concerning photography (witness the £250 fine ACC had to pay to Blazej described below), the city has amassed ‘an array of images produced through the SURF project’ and has been offering these to ‘local organisations and projects’ with no remit from the photographers to do so in the first place.

Whether or not it is ‘a great wee book’ or an international best seller, the law still applies.

It is not clear if Laing is using the royal ‘we’, when he advised ‘we provided access to the bank of SURF images…’  or if he is speaking for the city.

This is not the first time the city has been involved in using photos without permission.  Blazej Marczak was part of the Surfing the Don project (more on his ongoing story will appear in a future issue).  Although his works were not used in the SHMU booklet, he has previous experience of the city’s treatment of photographers.  On the Facebook thread he wrote:

“Aberdeen City Council does not value the work of the other people- I was paid £250 by ACC for a breach of copyrights as my pictures were used illegally on The Seventeen website and in e-brochures. The pictures were acquired by ACC from Aberdeen 2017 competition. Is using people in the community and their good will for free labour are the way of creating a “banks of free images” ? They paid me a compensation so it means that you guys are entitled for compensation too if you pictures were used there or anywhere else.”

Simon Crofts comments on the Facebook discussion on the legal and moral issue:

“That’s shocking if images are being distributed behind people’s backs. Publishing them without permission not only gives a right to damages, it’s also likely to be a criminal offence, at least if done by a business. But in any case, distributing images without permission shows a woeful contempt for photographers.”

 SHMU’s Dawson Up a Creek?

Aberdeen Voice contacted SHMU, a charity with income and expenditure both in the region of £500,000 which is also a private company limited by guarantee.  When contacted on this photography copyright matter, Murray Dawson, SHMU Chief Executive wrote:-

“I hope that despite the issues that you’re focussing on around the photographs, that you are able to recognise that fact the the[sic] booklet was developed through an identified community need, put together with the support of a number of local volunteers and local group and is a fantastic community resource (having been delivered free though every door in Tillydrone).

“As you may be aware, shmu has a similar ethos to Aberdeen Voice, with our focus of supporting some of the most disadvantaged citizens in the city to take ownership of media platforms and to use these platforms for expression (radio, TV, magazines and on-line).”

It was suggested to SHMU that the photographs should not have been offered without the artists’ consent in the first place for possible publication.

Presumably the photographers who should have been offered payment in this case are at least as important as the people SHMU seeks to liberate from poverty by entering media work.

Murray Dawson commented:

“I disagree with your analysis that this was Sinclair fault, and if you are running a story about this on your website, then I would personally like to take full responsibility for any misunderstanding that has taken place.

“As someone who had a responsibility to support a number of community groups and local people to create the Tillydrone Guide, I was under the impression that we could use the SURF images for the project, as long as the project was not-for-profit and that we credited the photographers correctly in the book. 

“I had assumed that we had received a blanket agreement that these images could be used, but it turns out that we should also have asked each photographer personally.

“As a community media organisation, we are certainly not in the business of exploiting people; our ethos is the exact opposite – we exist to support some of the most vulnerable in the city to have a voice.  We are in the process of contacting all the photographers concerned to explain the misunderstanding and to answer any questions that they may have about the situation.

“We are extremely disappointed that this misunderstanding has taken the gloss off what has been a fantastically received project, which was developed through an identified community need, put together with the support of a number of local volunteers, groups and organisations and is a fantastic community resource (having been delivered free through every door in Tillydrone).”

“As I said, I recognise the problem that has been raised, I have apologised and will apologise personally to all the photographers involved”

Poor Exposure?

Since Dawson wrote that he had “…the impression that we could use the SURF images for the project, as long as the project was not-for-profit and that we credited the photographers correctly in the book” then two problems arise.

Firstly, how is it possible that a multi-media charity/company involved in producing booklets and training others to be media professionals could get it so wrong? They should certainly be aware of basic laws involved in publishing work.

Secondly, who could possibly have given SHMU the impression they could publish these photos if printing a not-for-profit book without asking for permission, and just giving credit?  The conclusion that the person who gave SHMU this impression must have been Laing, who supplied the photos in the first place, is almost an unavoidable conclusion to reach.  If it was not Laing who gave the go-ahead, who was it?

Of course, Laing has written that:

“At every turn, organisations and projects have also been told very clearly and in writing of their obligations before utilising any images, e.g. to get written permission in advance from the copyright holders”

How then was such a miscommunication possible between two media professionals?

Further questions remain: what other organisations has Laing offered the work to, why is he offering work out at all, what authorisation did he have from either artist or council to act as a photo brokering service, whether or not fees were involved?

Photo Finish

Even if the photographs in question were merely holiday snaps made on a camera phone, they are the intellectual property of whoever created them.  It is worse that these people are painstaking photographers who incur huge costs for equipment and photo processing.

Worse still, many of them are aspiring to be professional photographers and should have been treated as such by both ACC and SHMU, for undeniably they were not consulted.

In particular artists who took great time and care to frame their shots and compose them, will in some cases have their name associated with bastardised versions of their photos which have been cut and cropped without permission, lessening their impact and taking away from what their creative intent was.

If you start to wonder why we didn’t become a City of Culture, perhaps this is a symptom.

Stop Press. At the time of publication efforts were ongoing, as promised by Murray Dawson, to contact all photographers and issue individual apologies.

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Oct 142013

WOSWBanner2With thanks to Keith Byres .

For one weekend only, artists at Langstane Place will open their doors and showcase a wide variety of work including:  drawing, painting, photography, textiles, glass and installation.

Wasps Studios provide studio space for artists and makers across Scotland.

During the month of October 2013 we will be opening our studio spaces to the public and inviting you to come inside, meet artists in their working spaces and talk to them directly about their work.

Wasps Studios are at 36-48 Langstane Place, Aberdeen  AB11 6FB.

For more information about participating artists, venues and additional activities, please visit waspsstudios.org.uk

Nov 302012

A student-run music website based in the Northeast of Scotland is set to release its third annual compilation of the best music in Aberdeen, free of charge. With thanks to Eoin Smith.

Following the success of two previous releases, Hercules Moments, a student-run online music magazine founded by Eoin Smith and Russell Thom, both 21, is ready to unleash a brand new compilation featuring nine top Aberdeen artists.

The creatively named Hercules Moments: Vol. 3 will be released as a free download on www.herculesmoments.co.uk on 5 December, in a variety of digital formats.

To celebrate the release, Hercules Moments is holding a Christmas-themed launch party in The Tunnels, on Aberdeen’s Carnegies Brae, at 8pm on 5 December.

The evening will feature four fantastic acts who also appear on the sampler – Das McManus, Orienteering, Cara Mitchell and [ ] (pronounced ‘Wall’) – as well as the debut of the Hercules Moments DJs.

Boasting a wealth of talent from around Aberdeen and surrounding areas, the sampler was mastered by award-winning producer Iain Macpherson and also features tracks from Marionettes, Forest Fires, Brothers Reid, Ashley Park and Boy With Compass.

Eoin, an English student at the University of Aberdeen, said:

“We are very excited to be releasing our third sampler this December. There’s a really eclectic mix of music on there, and we can’t wait to let people hear it!

“We started Hercules Moments as a way to share the music we love with a wider audience, and the samplers are really a logical extension of that. We hope everyone who hears the latest one is as passionate about the bands on it as we are.”

Hercules Moments editor Siobhan Hewison, 22, also studying English at Aberdeen University, added:

“Joining the Hercules Moments team in the last year has helped me expand my music collection and awareness of local bands which, as a music lover, is something I greatly appreciate.

“The wide variety of bands covered on the site, the special features, and the professionalism of the whole team make working on Hercules Moments great fun.”

It was in March 2009 that then-school pupils Eoin and Russell launched Hercules Moments: a blog dedicated to the music they loved listening to. The website has since grown into a thriving online music magazine featuring international stars and smaller local artists, and has been nominated for a variety of awards along the way.

Eoin said:

“Looking back on the journey Russell and I have taken to get where we are now, I sometimes have to pinch myself. What started out as a hobby for us has surpassed our wildest dreams: we now work with a four-strong editorial team and an ever-expanding group of enthusiastic and talented contributors.

“Everyone at Hercules Moments is absolutely thrilled with, and humbled by, the feedback we have had over the past three and a half years. We can’t wait to see what the next year will bring.”

Aug 302012

Interesting Music present an exciting night of music at The Tunnels on Carnegie Brae on Friday 31st of August featuring THE UNWINDING HOURS, OLYMPIC SWIMMERS, and FOXHUNTING.

THE UNWINDING HOURS release their new album ‘Afterlives’ on 20 August on Chemikal Underground Records. Influences such as the Flaming Lips, Max Richter, The Cocteau Twins and Laurie Anderson filtrate the album throughout.

After releasing their debut album, touring and support slots with Idlewild, The Twilight Sad and Biffy Clyro, the duo took their time writing and recording any new material.

Craig B went back to university to study Theology and Sociology while Iain Cook, concentrated on production and recording in his studio.

Craig would bring new demos once a week for them both to work on, and their sophomore effort slowly took shape.

Spurred on by a new found excitement for study, Craig claims this hugely influenced the writing process.

I felt I was finally able to learn and absorb as much as I could but also use it to be able to articulate what I had been trying to express for years. Working with Iain at our own pace allowed us to experiment, try out new ideas and make sure we didn’t repeat ourselves”.

“We tried to tie ourselves to different time signatures, made some songs specifically guitar orientated, made others more synth based but also stripped it all back when necessary. We basically just had a ball throwing ideas around. You can hear a kitchen sink being battered by a piece of metal near the end of the first song, so yes we had a lot of fun.”

The album artwork was taken from an etching by an American artist called Jack Baumgartner. It depicts the biblical story of Jacob wrestling with the Angel.

Craig explains,

“We thought Jack’s depiction was perfect for the front cover. I love the fact that the biblical story is so enigmatic and open to so much interpretation. These stories, as all things capable of stirring the imagination, continue to have an afterlife.”

With a strongly held belief that an album should be consistently engaging from start to finish, The Unwinding Hours have produced just that and have plans to continue making music for as long as it remains possible. They just might take their time doing so.


OLYMPIC SWIMMERS are a Glasgow band who recently released their first album ‘No Flags Will Fly’ on 4 June.

“I would describe our music as shoe-glancing indie that goes down the quiet/loud path, but with lots of wandering around along the way” says vocalist Susie. “We’re all agreed in our admiration of Low, Pavement, The Wedding Present, The National and Bonnie Prince Billy.” (The Skinny)

“Their familiar yet endearing sounds pay homage to myriad Scottish forebears, notably the Cocteau Twins, whose yearning distortion, disembodied vocals and celestial guitars are echoed on In This House; and perhaps indirectly, the picturesque folk-rock of early-90s Pearlfishers (Bricks of our Building) and the unsung guitar-pop of Wild River Apples (Apples and Pears).” (Nicola Meighan, The Herald)


FOXHUNTING is the solo project of one Joe Sutherland, a teenage singer-songwriter from Aberdeen, Scotland. Dealing mainly with acoustic guitar and vocals, he provides a visceral edge not often found in the folk-pop scene. Live shows combine energetic, foot-tapping music with soulful, emotional lyricisms.

He has supported the likes of Withered Hand, Woodpigeon, tUnE-yArDs, Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun, Juffage and Esperi since his first proper show in 2011.

Debut studio album ‘Come On Sweetheart, Take My Hand’ in October 2011 saw Foxhunting experiment with electronic music, providing a contrast to the organic and homemade noise captured on earlier EPs.

After a year’s stay in Australia, Foxhunting is due to return to his home town in August.


Friday, 31 August 2012, Doors 7.30pm 

The Tunnels (Room 1),
Carnegies Brae,
AB10 1BF.
Phone (01224) 211121

Advance Tickets £8 + bf / £10 on door
Available from One-Up Records, Belmont Street, Aberdeen. Phone (01224) 642662 or online http://www.wegottickets.com/event/174932


Jul 052012

Following a successful showing at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum, Aberdeen Art Gallery is pleased to host ‘The House of Annie Lennox’, opening 7 July.

The House of Annie Lennox pays tribute to the creativity, style and passion for life of the Aberdeen-born artist.

This touring exhibition from the V&A features costumes and accessories worn by Lennox together with photographs, personal treasures and awards, ephemera from the political campaigns she has championed, music videos and a specially commissioned video of Lennox in conversation.

There will be exclusive new content curated by Annie Lennox in partnership with gallery staff including memorabilia from her musical beginnings in the city, family photographs and a piece specially written by her for the exhibition.

Annie Lennox said:

“I’m delighted to be presenting The House of Annie Lennox in Aberdeen. I used to regularly visit the gallery as a teenager, and found it to be a place of beauty and inspiration.  It feels like coming full circle to be actually holding an exhibition here myself, over forty years later.  

“I very much hope that people get a better sense of my life as an artist and communicator, and can derive a similar sense of inspiration that I enjoyed from my visits there.”

Christine Rew, Aberdeen Art Gallery & Museums manager added:

“We are delighted to host the only Scottish presentation of The House of Annie Lennox.  Growing up in the city Annie was a frequent visitor to the art gallery, and we are delighted that she has lent additional material for the Aberdeen showing.  The exhibition illustrates her vitality and passion for life. 

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for the gallery and our visitors to pay tribute to her amazing career as singer, songwriter and campaigner, who has transformed the status of a generation of female performers.”

The exhibition is open until Saturday 29 September 2012.

Image credit:  ©Mike Owen

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May 242012

A major retrospective exhibition of the work of Scottish painter Ewan McIlwham opened at the Podgers Hall in Pumpherston last week.   Special Correspondent for Arts and Culture  Gubby Plenderleith  reports

McIlwham, a recluse who has led a solitary and ascetic existence on the West Coast island of Gin for the last twenty years, has been an enigmatic and controversial element in the chemistry of contemporary art since he first launched his Woman Eating a Tattie Scone on an unsuspecting public in 1932.

The model for this revolutionary piece was his muse, the legendary Senga, who featured strongly, both descriptively and metaphorically, in his early work.

Senga was a seventeen-year-old factory girl when McIlwham was first entranced by her elfin-like beauty and asked her to sit for him.  But the artist/model relationship, at least as far as McIlwham was concerned, was soon to metamorphose into an all-consuming passion which knew no bounds.

It was therefore a shattering blow to the painter when in 1934 he learned of Senga’s elopement and subsequent marriage to the critic Edwin Cohen.

Indeed, so traumatised was he by the news that McIlwham, in a fit of emotional instability, attempted to cut off his right ear. In the blindness of his excited mental agitation however, he was successful only in severing a tendon in his right hand.

Fate nevertheless plays strange tricks, and it was this seemingly tragic episode which forced McIlwham to choose between forsaking his beloved painting and returning to his job with Customs and Excise, and facing the painstaking and gruelling exercise of teaching himself to paint with his left hand.  McIlwham chose the latter.

It was this turn in his own personal tide, this caprice of Providence, which set him on the life-long quest which was, in time, to afford him the accolade of attaining the ultimate artistic achievement – of discovering the symbolic silver sixpence in the metaphorical dumpling.

From the point in time when McIlwham ‘changed hands’, he forged ahead using his new style: those tremulous, almost tentative, lines which he used in the execution of his craft and which were to become his trademark, the unique stamp of the master.

McIlwham’s strong attachment to Joey was a substitute for his erstwhile infatuation with Senga

His technique, to my mind, was never better than in Still Life with Budgie which he completed in 1936, two years after Senga’s elopement. He did not publicly exhibit it until 1939, by which time his significance, some say notoriety, as a major aesthetic visionary was widely acclaimed.

This painting, in which the elongated cubist form of the central subject is dramatically juxtaposed against the crude monochromatic linear background which is ambiguous while retaining perceptive lucidity and a solidity of definition which permeates tenuousness, remains my own personal favourite.

Indeed, I have yet to encounter a more overwhelming tour de force than the ingenious placing of the cold fish supper in the bottom left hand corner of the canvas. It is a master stroke which surreptitiously harmonises with, while creating a surreal counterpoint to, the budgie.

His subject was, of course, his beloved Joey, McIlwham’s constant companion from 1935 until the bird’s demise in 1947.

Many people have postulated that McIlwham’s strong attachment to Joey was a substitute for his erstwhile infatuation with Senga.  Indeed, Michael A. Buenoroti in his Life of a Recalcitrant Genius makes much of the surrogation theory and takes the further step of suggesting that the characters of Senga and Joey are empathetic to his right and left hands, such a parallel being perceived as a powerful driving force for physical and emotional survival.

Others, notably Hew Janus, have produced convincing documentary evidence which adds credence to the suggestion that Joey was originally owned by McIlwham’s mother and was given into his unwilling care at the time of his mother’s committal to a mental institution in 1935.  Some observers have also noted the irony of McIlwham’s own committal only two weeks after Joey’s death in 1947.

But, for whatever reason, the McIlwham/Joey cohabitation was instrumental in the production of some of our finest works of contemporary art. Any analysis of the phenomenon neither enhances nor detracts from the resultant work.  As McIlwham himself once remarked when questioned on the subject,

“Wid yis count the beads o’ sweat on a jiner’s broo tae see if the table he wis makin’ wis auny gid?”

Time and space, alas, preclude a deeper examination of the life and work of Ewan McIlwham – the course of his life, from customs officer to painter; from unrequited lover to left-handed bird fancier, from his living nightmare in a mental institution to his relative obscurity in a boarding house in Largs, before his eventual, lonely, retreat to the island of Gin.

Alas, too, we must forgo an in-depth catalogue of his work; his Budgie at Bay, the startling Rape of the Budgie Woman, his poignant When Did You Last See Your Budgie, the emotive Laughing Budgie and even his series of lithographs depicting Trill packets.

What better postscript then, than the sentiment expressed by McIlwham himself on his recent, rare, public appearance at the opening of his current exhibition:

“Whaur’s yir Pablo Picasso noo, then?”

Yes, where indeed?