BBC Landward

I recently spent a very wet and windy couple of days filming with the wonderful Sybil MacPherson, a hillfarmer in Argyll for the BBC’s Landward program. You can see the film here, I talk about my work and the motivation behind it with the presenter Sarah Mack from about 22:00 minutes in.

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Watch the episode of BBC Landward on BBC iPlayer now from 22:00 mins.


I’m delighted that Landward were interested in my project, after long discussions with the producer, Clare who had visited the exhibition and was curious about the work, we arranged a couple of days in November when we could meet with Sybil and do some filming on her remote and beautiful hillfarm near Dalmally. Sybil’s story and her relationship with the land she works and farms is fascinating. The 5 munros which make up her farm have been farmed by her family for over 175 year. There are ruins on the hill where her grandfather went to school. It’s a place full of history and full of connection which is why I thought it would be great to hear more from Sybil and introduce her to the Landward team. The fact that it turned out to be the wettest day I’ve seen in Argyll for some time wasn’t ideal – that it doesn’t even look that bad on tv is annoying!

BBC Landward presenter Sarah Mack with hill farmer Sybil MacPherson, Dalmally, Argyll © Sophie Gerrard 2015 all rights reserved.

BBC Landward presenter Sarah Mack with hill farmer Sybil MacPherson, Dalmally, Argyll © Sophie Gerrard 2015 all rights reserved.

Having never done any TV before I was struck by how long everything took – there was quite a lot of back and forth, re-shooting, “say that again”, “drive over that bridge again and again”. So I’m hugely grateful to Sybil for taking time out of her busy week to allow this piece to be filmed. It was interesting seeing how it all worked, piecing together the parts of the interview and also seeing how they would include my photographs in the piece.


Colin, the BBC Landward camera man, films Sybil as she packs and rolls fleeces on her hill farm near Dalmally. © Sophie Gerrard 2015 all rights reserved.

Colin, the BBC Landward camera man, films Sybil as she packs and rolls fleeces on her hill farm near Dalmally. © Sophie Gerrard 2015 all rights reserved.

I hope what the filming does is introduce the project and my reasons behind shooting it. Women are under represented in farming. Commonly referred to as ‘farmers’ wives’ and seen as having a behind the scenes role. Sybil and the other women in my project are front and centre, they make life and death decisions every day. They are engineers, midwives, business women, decision makers and forward thinkers. The common sense of responsibility for the work they do, and to the landscape and the livestock is something that all the women in my project share. All of them talk as custodians, of having a sense that they are looking after this land for future generations. I have a huge respect for them and the work they do. It’s been a privilege and an honour to work with them and I look forward to continuing the project.


Clare, Colin and Sarah, the BBC Landward crew with Sybil, Dalmally November 2015 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.

Clare, Colin and Sarah, the BBC Landward crew with Sybil, Dalmally November 2015 © Sophie Gerrard all rights reserved.


Sophie with Sybil and the crew. Dalmally November 2015

Sophie with Sybil and the crew. Dalmally November 2015


Recent press and reviews


‘Drawn to The Land’ is currently being shown as part of Document Scotland’s major exhibition “The Ties That Bind” curated by Anne Lyden and I’m delighted by recent press attention and reviews.


These include …

A 4 star review of the exhibition by Duncan McMillan in The Scotsman

A spotlight piece on my work by The Photographers’ Gallery

A beautifully written article in The British Journal of Photography on my work by Jamie Dunn

An in depth interview with Annie Brown on ‘Drawn to The Land’ in The Daily Record

An insightful article about the exhibition in The Independent by David Pollock

An excellent in depth article on Document Scotland in  The Scotland on Sunday by Janet Christie

A review of ‘The Ties That Bind’ featured in Photomonitor written by Dr Katherine Parhar

A feature on my work by Brighton Photoworks

A piece in PDN Magazine on the exhibition

An online gallery of Document Scotland’s work on the BBC: In Pictures by Phil Coomes

A feature in The List Magazine on ‘The Ties That Bind’


I will also be featured on BBC Landward and BBC Radio Scotland in the coming week. I’ll post links here.




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PDN Photo of The Day – Forging Scottish Identity

“The four photographers who make up the collective Document Scotland set out to look at how the past has shaped Scotland’s present, and what its history and traditions mean for the future. Collected in “Document Scotland: The Ties That Bind,” an exhibition at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery up through April 24, the show features work by Stephen McLaren, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Colin McPherson and Sophie Gerrard, and is in part a response to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom, which was rejected by voters who turned out in record numbers.

“A Sweet Forgetting,” Stephen McLaren’s project, examines the involvement of Scots in the sugar economy of Jamaica in the 18th and 19th centuries, which depended on slave labor from Africa. In Jamaica, McLaren documented seven plantation sites owned by Scotsmen, and on his return home, traced the how their wealth was spent and what of it endures, showing the influence of this history on the physical landscape of each place, in the architecture and the names of streets, and on the lives of inhabitants of each place.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert looked at traditional summer festivals in the Scottish Borders area known as the Common Ridings for his series “Unsullied and Untarnished” (also published recently as a book). Dating back to land disputes and clan rivalries from the 13th and 14th centuries, the Common Ridings are symbolic surveys of the boundaries of a town’s common lands, carried out on horseback by young people chosen by their community. Shot against a white backdrop or in the rugged landscape, Sutton-Hibbert’s subjects enact rituals that help sustain their community. The participants “maintain the golden threads that stretch back through the ages to a time when the world was a younger place,” writes Alex Massie in an essay in the book. “These festivals are the guardians and custodians of memory and without memory, what does identity matter?”

For the last ten years, Colin McPherson has been photographing soccer culture for When Saturday Comes, a magazine with the tagline “the half decent football magazine.” His series of the same name explores the lower-league levels of the game and the rituals associated with it, focusing on the shared sense of purpose of players and fans, who come from the same small towns. In his images, the character of the supporters and the texture of the places is as important as the game itself.

For her series “Drawn to the Land,” Sophie Gerrard photographed six women farmers in Argyll, Perthshire, the Scottish Borders, the Isle of Eigg and the Isle of Mull, looking at how they shape, and are shaped by, their surroundings. “Working and living in a male dominated world, women have a significant yet under represented role to play in farming in Scotland,” writes Gerrard in a statement. “Farming some of the most inhospitable and isolated rural areas of Scotland, these female farmers have an intense and remarkable relationship with the harsh landscape in which they live and work.”

Together, these four series ask what modern Scottish identity means, and find diverse answers.”

Taken from PDN online publication Forging Scottish Identity, November 25th 2015


Scottish National Portrait Gallery

Drawn To The Land, at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery as part of the Document Scotland exhibition, The Ties That Bind







British Journal of Photography

Jamie Dunn from the BJP wrote an insightful and considered piece about my project, Drawn To The LandScreen-Shot-2015-11-03-at-10.42.49

“Returning to her native Scotland after years of living in London, Sophie Gerrard explored the character of her nation by documenting the harsh splendour of its landscape

“The land was forever, it moved and changed below you, but was forever.” These words from Sunset Song, Lewis Grassic Gibbon’s literary elegy to the world of Scottish farming, echo loudly in Sophie Gerrard’s lyrical photography series Drawn to the Land, which captures a similarly fierce bond between Scotland’s wild, untameable countryside and the women who work it.

Gerrard began the project two and a half years ago, when she moved back to her native Scotland after years based in London, as a way of exploring her own relationship with her home nation. “When you’re a Scot living away from Scotland, a lot of the questions you get asked about your home country often reflect on the image of this bonny land, the picture-postcard setting and the heather,” Gerrard told us by phone from her home in Edinburgh. “I realised I didn’t know Scotland any better than that, so I wanted to get to know my landscape as it is a real symbol of our national identity for many people.”

She couldn’t have chosen a more opportune time for this self-reflection; with the world’s eyes on Scotland during the 2014 independence referendum, a series examining its people’s relationship to the country’s hills and glens has rarely felt more pertinent. But there’s no explicit reference to nationalism in Drawn to the Land. Her subjects’ emotional ties to Scotland don’t feel like patriotism, nor does it suggest the little Britain mentality of one’s home being one’s castle – these aren’t ladies of the manor. The women of Drawn to the Land’s connections to their crofts are much more elemental. “One thing they all talk about is the fact that they have something in their blood,” explains Gerrard. As the series’ title suggests, working the land is a calling: “They just couldn’t do anything else. They couldn’t even work some lowland farm. They need the hill; they need that rugged, raw Scotland.”

For Gerrard, the key to the series was building a relationship with her subjects. “I work slowly and that’s something that works for me. I want to get to know these women because I want to show them in a really truthful way.” This intimacy leaps off her images: “I’d realised the emphasis was on photographing these women in their environment and telling their emotional story.”

The photographs in Drawn to the Land can be categorised into roughly three forms: vivid landscape pieces showcasing the harsh splendour of the women’s farmlands; expressive portraits of the women in their environment, be that outdoors or in the farmhouse; and sharply observed still lifes featuring personal objects and paraphernalia of farming. Each mode is evocative and revealing, with Gerrard capturing the practicality, the beauty and the everyday of these women’s working lives. “I do like to find an aesthetic way of presenting something,” she admits, “because I think if you can grab somebody by showing them something beautiful then you can then talk about the issues maybe once you’ve got their attention.”

She’s capturing truths as well. The series isn’t so much about farming, but how these women connect to their environment, be it the land that has been here for millennia, or the textured and memory-filled lives they create for themselves at home. “Maybe that then tells us a little bit about how we’re all connected to our own surroundings and what it means to us,” suggests Gerrard.”

Drawn To the Land will be exhibited at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery in Edinburgh from 26 Sep 2015 – Apr 2016 as part of Document Scotland’s exhibition The Ties That Bind.

Document Scotland is a photographic collective comprising of Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren — four Scots-born photographers, each exponents of documentary photography.

Piece written by Jamie Dunn and published in the BJP September 2015.

Spectrum Magazine


Document Scotland’s exhibition ‘The Ties That Bind’ at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery – featuring my project Drawn To The Land, has been featured by The Scotland on Sunday Spectrum Magazine. You can see and read the article by Janet Christie here.




Develop North

I will be speaking and giving portfolio reviews at Develop North in Aberdeen alongside Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sarah Amy Fishlock and Steve MacLeod on 3rd October.


For more information and booking details see here

New Prints

Signing off on newly printed images from Drawn To The Land for The Scottish National Portrait Gallery.


Royal Photographic Society Journal


‘Scottish Workers, then and now’ My picture of Liz, a worker in the #Tunnock’s factory in #uddingston placed opposite Hill and Adamson in the current #RPS journal.



Street Level Glasgow

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Common Ground: New Documentary Photography from Scotland & Wales

Inspired by notions of ‘home’ and ‘community’, Common Ground brings together new work from two photographic collectives, Document Scotland and A Fine Beginning, taking an outward-facing view of their respective home countries of Scotland and Wales. Working with diverse themes and ideas associated with distinctive national and cultural visual inspiration, this collective exhibition welds them together into a cohesive narrative, at times overlapping and continuously referencing and complementing each other.

Highlighting the fragility and self consciousness of youth and identity, Abbie Trayler- Smith’s sensitive and empathetic ‘The Big O’, and Sophie Gerrard’s personal and political ‘Scottish Sweet Sixteen’, introduce us to young people and give an insight into their thoughts and lives.

Community and landscape, also at times fragile and vulnerable, are explored in Colin McPherson’s historical ‘Phoenix: The fall and rise of Ravenscraig’ and Gawain Barnard’s poignant ‘A Line Runs Through Us’.

We continue to look at communities but from an increasingly personal viewpoint in Jack Latham’s childhood referencing ‘Looking for Lilacs’ and James O Jenkins’ family ties and connections in ‘Rutherglen’, shot in both Scotland and Wales.

Themes of ritual and tradition are explored through Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert’s striking portraits in ‘Unsullied and Untarnished’, whilst Stephen McLaren shows us humour in the rituals of everyday life in his candid series ‘Scotia Nova’.

Document Scotland, formed in 2012 by Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert, Sophie Gerrard and Stephen McLaren, are responding to the global audience looking at Scotland at this, one of the most important times in the country’s history.

Formed in the wake of Document Scotland in 2013, the Welsh collective A Fine Beginning is made up of photographers James O Jenkins, Jack Latham, Abbie Trayler- Smith and Gawain Barnard and showcases contemporary photography being made in Wales.


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See more about this exhibition at the Street Level Photoworks website



Edinburgh University Alumni

It was a pleasure to be interviewed by the University of Edinburgh alumni magazine Edit. They profiled my work and career in the magazine for  those who have left Edinburgh University – I was actually at Edinburgh College of Art, which is now part of the university but wasn’t then so it feels a bit odd been seen as an alumni of Edinburgh University.



You can see the whole issue of Edinburgh University’s alumni magazine EDIT  from the summer of 2014 by downloading the PDF here