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Patricia Glennie on her hill farm, Lauder, The Scottish Borders, April 2013. From the series Drawn To The Land

1 May 2016


Sophie Gerrard's work Drawn To The Land forms part of the Document Scotland exhibition The Ties That Bind shown at The Scottish National Portrait Gallery from September 2015 - April 2016 and curated by Anne Lyden. The work will now travel to various venues in the UK starting with Iona Gallery, Kingussie, from 6th May - 6th June 2016.

This image is from my long term series Drawn to The Land - a project I started in 2013, documenting the lives and work of women hill farmers in Scotland. The photograph shows hill farmer Patricia during lambing on her farm in the Scottish Borders. Her son Andrew, who has returned home to help with lambing, can be seen in the background. She's taking a break from the hard work. It was April 2013 and incredibly cold, the ground was still frozen and there was no grass to be seen.

Working in a male-dominated industry, women have a significant yet under-represented role in farming in Scotland. From Highland crofters to Lowland farmers, this ongoing series takes an intimate look at these women and how their lives interrelate with the land in which they live and work.

Patricia is pretty exhausted in this image. I love the look on her face, and the detail of the duct tape on her finger.

I began this project as a way of exploring my own relationship with the Scottish landscape. Having worked and lived away from Scotland for the majority of my photographic career I felt it was time to work on something closer to my heart and my home. I wanted to understand the connection I, like many Scots, have with the Scottish landscape. I wanted to scratch the surface, go beyond the romantic picture postcard view and learn about the land through the eyes of those who are responsible for it. I then realised that in so many cases that view is presented as a male one - I was curious to see it from a female perspective, looking to the women who see themselves as custodians of their landscape to show me their stories.

It's been a fascinating and tiring, enjoyable, exciting, cold, dirty and very emotional journey so far. My working process is to go away for periods of time and spend concentrated and intense days working and living with my subjects and photographing them.

A lot of the project focuses on memory, the women’s histories, influences and intense feelings about the land they care for and shape. The women’s passion, commitment and resilience became my focus as I walked around and photographed them.

I am fascinated by the people I have met during this project and the wonderful stories they have told me. I feel a connection to them, I am enjoying the stories I hear. I have been overwhelmed by their generosity and their welcome. I admire their attitudes and their strength, I have a huge respect for what they do and they way they do it. I've met some very diverse individuals and every situation is so very different. What they do have in common is a passion, a desire and a pull towards the land. Many of them have talked of something in the blood.

Sophie began her career in environmental sciences before studying photography at Edinburgh College of Art and then London College of Communication. Gerrard’s work frequently combines contemporary social stories with environmental themes, and has been featured in publications such as Esquire Magazine, The Guardian Weekend Magazine, Financial Times Magazine, The Telegraph Saturday Magazine and The Independent on Sunday. A recipient of a number of awards including the Jerwood Photography Award (which identified the most innovative artist photographers emerging in the UK) Gerrard was shortlisted for the 2015 Remote Photo Prize. Her work has been exhibited internationally, including at The Jerwood Space, The Photographers’ Gallery in London, The Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Streetlevel Photoworks in Glasgow, Paris Photo and a solo show in The Arbetes Museum Sweden. Gerrard currently lectures in photography at Edinburgh Napier University. She is represented by The Photographers’ Gallery, London and on the Board of Trustees of Impressions Gallery, Bradford.

In 2012, along with Colin McPherson, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert and Stephen McLaren, Sophie co-founded the Document Scotland photography collective. Document Scotland aim to promote, produce, and to disseminate documentary photography work in and about Scotland, to an international audience. The Ties That Bind is their third major exhibition and they have also authored numerous publications, all available to view via their website: www.documentscotland.com

See more work by Sophie Gerrard

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