1st annual St Andrews Photography Festival reveals headliners

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The first annual St Andrews Photography Festival, which is set to celebrate the role and legacy of the town’s pioneers of photography from August 1, has revealed details of its headlining exhibitions and events.

BID St Andrews – the business improvement body created in January to support businesses in the town – has been working with the University of St Andrews and local businesses to create the new annual festival of photography to celebrate the role and importance of the town in the origins of the art and showcase the Scottish photography which has become part of the legacy of the pioneers who were based in St Andrews.

Dr John Adamson is perhaps the most celebrated early amateur photographer as he taught his brother Robert Adamson, who went on to form the seminal documentary partnership with David Octavius Hill, as well as Thomas Rodger – who set up the first photographic studio in St Andrews while still on 16 or 17 years old in 1849. But many other names are to be celebrated for the role they played, including Sir Hugh Lyon Playfair, David Octavius Hill, Robert Adamson, Thomas Rodger and Sir David Brewster.


The first six-week-long festival – from August 1 to September 11 – will see events and exhibitions focus on the earliest days of photography in St Andrews as well as the pioneers’ legacy in Scottish documentary photography since.

The festival will put some of the photographic archive highlights of the University of St Andrews Library Special Collections on show, as well as creating a showcase for contemporary Scottish photography.

Thirteen local businesses, including cafés and restaurants, are hosting exhibitions alongside six more conventional venues. There will also be workshops to demonstrate a variety of early photographic processes including calotype and collodion, talks and events for photographers of all ages and levels.

The exhibition highlights include:

  • Scotland Through The Lens: 175 years of documentary photography – prints from University of St Andrews Library’s Special Collections archive.
  • Pioneer Thomas Rodger – prints from the University of St Andrews Library’s Special Collections archive will be on show in the first purpose-built photographic studio on St Mary’s Place, now the University Careers Centre.
  • Photographic artist Calum Colvin RSA OBE – a selection from Colvin’s much-collected ‘constructed photography’ output over the last 30 years, including a stereoscopic portrait.
  • Document Scotland – a collaboration between Scottish documentary collective Document Scotland and the University of St Andrews Special Collections will see a selection of images displayed outdoors along the railings of The Scores, which looks out to the West Sands and the Firth of Tay.
  • David Peat – street photography by the award-winning Scottish documentary-maker, cinematographer and photographer. There will also be a talk on Peat’s work by David Bruce.
  • Renowned rock photography of Harry Papadopoulos – 16 images from the collection at Street Level Photoworks which resulted in the major project What Presence: the Rock Photography of Harry Papadopoulos.
  • Franki Raffles – a cross-section of the archive of the feminist social documentary photographer, and St Andrews alumna, whose powerful images for the Zero Tolerance campaign highlighted awareness of domestic and sexual abuse against women around the world.
  • Alicia Bruce – prints from the controversial Menie: TRUMPED project by the award-winning documentary photographer and lecturer about the effect on the natural landscape and local residents of the creation of the Trump Resort in Aberdeenshire. She’s also hosting a presentation of her portfolio and giving a portraiture workshop.
  • Landscape pioneer Robert Moyes Adam – Once Scotland’s foremost landscape photographer, his work is known from Scotsman calendars, The Scots Magazine and many books from the 1930s and ‘40s.

The extensive events programme includes:

  • Early processes demonstrations – Demonstrations of three of the earliest photographic processes: the calotype, the lucotype and the photogenic drawing and well as cyanotype printing workshop.
  • Outdoor Victorian Tintype Studio – Have Richard Cynan Jones take your photograph in a recreation of an outdoor Victorian Tintype Studio.
  • ‘Become a Street Photographer’ youth workshop – local photographer Carolyn Scott will give 13-17 year-olds tips on becoming a better storyteller with their photos. The resulting pictures will become part of the Scotland Through The Lens exhibition at the Gateway Galleries.
  • Literary Readings inspired by the work of Hill & Adamson – Award-winning writer and St Andrews graduate Ali Bacon creates stories around the calotypes of Hill and Adamson and lends a voice to those who sat for the earliest portraits. Presented with the illustrations from the University Library Special Collections which inspired them.
  • Family History Collections Day – An event for local families to bring their photos and have Rachel Nordstrom, Photographic Collections Manager at the University Library, explain their technical background, historical importance and discuss the proper long-term care of personal collections.
  • The St Andrews Photo Tour – In the 1840s St Andrews became the first town to be thoroughly documented by photography. Walkers will learn about the people and places featured in Scotland Through the Lens: 175 years of documentary photography on a free walk led by the University Library’s Photographic Collection Manager, Rachel Nordstrom.

There will also be a series of talks by notable photo historians including: Dr A.D. Morrison-Low, Research Associate, National Museums Scotland, on the work of Dr John Adamson; Dr Sara Stevenson, former Chief Curator of the Scottish National Photography Collection; Professor Elizabeth Edwards of De Montfort University and David Bruce former director of the Scottish Film Council.

For sweet-toothed fans of historic photography, local Royal Warrant-holding bakers and confectioners Fisher & Donaldson are creating ‘cartes-de-biscuite’ – chocolate versions of the Cartes-de-visite photographic calling cards used by Victorian society – as well as chocolate ‘stereo-bars’ – bars of chocolate with images of St Andrews and can be viewed in 3D.

BID St Andrews chair, Alistair Lang, told ArtsCulture: “This festival is about celebrating the gift St Andrews’ photographic pioneers gave to the world and acknowledging the Scottish photography since their day which has become part of their legacy through being inspired by their work.

“We want everyone to be a part of this unique festival which will become a regular fixture in the town’s calendar, whether in person or via social media and the web.

“The festival will provide an opportunity for businesses across the town to get involved and interact with customers in new ways.

“We gratefully acknowledge and thank the University and Fife Council for their support in creating this event.”

Festival organiser Rachel Nordstrom (Photographic Collections manager, University of St Andrews Library, Special Collections Division) said: “Thanks to a close friendship between William Henry Fox Talbot, the inventor of the photographic negative, and Sir David Brewster, Principal of the United Colleges in St Andrews, photography first arrived in Scotland by way of St Andrews. The new medium was then taken up with great enthusiasm across the country.

“While most people think of St Andrews as the home of golf, or the home of an ancient university, there is a rich photographic history which is often overlooked by many visitors. Our aim is to expand on what St Andrews has to offer for both visitors and locals.

“Over the past three years we have seen a resurgence in Scotland for the appreciation for historic and contemporary photography. Our aim is to build on this but highlight the vital role St Andrews played in the earliest days of photography, and the role Scotland played for the following 175 years.

“I am extremely excited to be involved in this joint project between the town and the university which highlights an important part of local heritage and celebrates a long line of talented Scottish photographers.”

The St Andrews Photography Festival will run from 1 August to 11 September 2016.

For latest details as they’re revealed, go to the Festival Facebook page at www.facebook.com/StAndPhotoFest/


(from a press release)