Photographer gifts one million images that help tell the story of Scotland

A highly-regarded Scottish photographer has donated more than one million of his images to a university archive with the collection capturing more than 30 years of the ways of a nation.

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert has gifted his work to St Andrews University, with the acquisition doubling its photographic archive which dates back to the first half of the 19th Century.

Everyday moments of ordinary people and their environments regularly feature in his collection as do the realities of industry - from North Sea fishing to coal mining - as he searches for the stories of our times.

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Mr Sutton-Hibbert said: “It’s a huge privilege for my work to enter the collection but I don’t really see it as being about me. Over the past 32 years so many people have let me into their life, whether its into their living room or onto their fishing boat. So many people have let me in and on many occasions not really questioned why.

"This collection of work is their story and I hope that the pictures I take, if people see merit in them, will help in some way to contribute to the story of Scotland.”

Series of photographs taken in the aftermath of national tragedies, such as Dunblane and Lockerbie, also form part of the collection.

Mr Sutton-Hibbert started taking pictures aged nine, with his pet cat and family holidays among his first subjects. He later went to Glasgow College of Building and Printing with his growing abilities with a camera helping to fuel his need to travel and explore.

While Scotland remains a constant seam of his work, he has spent more three decades “travelling the world twice”, with overseas assignments including aftermath of 9/11 in New York, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan and whaling in the Southern Ocean.

Longannet Colliery, three generations of miners. George Lang (centre), grandfather Jock Land (left) and father Bert Lang (right) have been miners all their lives. They are pictured having a beer in the Mansfield Arms, Sauchie, Scotland, April 2001. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/ Courtesy of University of St Andrews.

Mr Sutton-Hibbert added: “I am extremely lucky that my little camera takes me all over the world, whether it be down a coal mine or into Papua New Guinea. But with that there is the responsibility to share those images.”

He started to organise the last three decades of his work over lockdown with advice on archiving from Rachel Nordstrom, Photographic Collections Manager in the university’s Libraries and Museums, leading to the acquisition.

The photographer said: “You don’t take these pictures for them to be hidden away in a back bedroom. You take them so that hopefully they can benefit society.”

Mr Sutton-Hibbert said a photographer “first and foremost” had to be a people person who operated with honesty and inquisitiveness.

East European 'klondyker' fish factory ships at anchor off the Shetland Isles, where they had come to buy herring and mackerel. 1994. PIC: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

He said he felt he caught the “tail end of the golden age of photo journalism” with spreads in Sunday magazines and figures such as Don McCullin helping to propel the work.

Mr Sutton-Hibbert, a founder member of the Document Scotland photography collective, added: “Today, people everywhere are taking photos on smartphones and publications and websites are using this content from the public.

“But the danger is if that photo is not being archived. Is that image going to be looked after in 50 years time? How will it be accessed? How will you find it, where will it be?

"There is a great need for photographers to work in a documentary fashion. That is why archives like St Andrews are so important for the nation.”

Photographer Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.
‘Satra, the Roma of Sintesti’ - Two Roma gypsy youths tend to their horses on the approach road to Sintesti Roma camp, near Bucharest, Romania, 1990. PIC: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/ Courtesy of University of St Andrews.
A New York policeman stands on Broadway beside flowers, a Scottish saltire flag, and cards of condolences to the victims of the September 11th 2001 terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre buildings in Lower Manhattan. New York, America, October 2001. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/ Courtesy of University of St Andrews.
Bill Smith secures the nets aboard the seine netter Argosy in the North Sea, Scotland, February 1995. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/ Courtesy of University of St Andrews.
Burning scrap wire to retrieve the copper within with ‘Glasgow’s Miles Better’ iconic logo on the wall behind. The Gorbals, Glasgow, November 1993. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/ Courtesy of University of St Andrews.
Graham Craig of Tayreed Company, who harvested water reeds for the thatching industry, on the River Tay near Dundee, April 1997. PIC: Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.
People await the results of a raffle competition during a local community action day to save the Calder Street swimming pool in Govanhill, Glasgow, Scotland, 2001. © Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert/ Courtesy of University of St Andrews.