Scotland through our nation’s eyes: 4,500 photos taken by Scots public to be exhibited

A photographic project to record Scotland’s creativity attracted around 4,500 images from the public. Here, Brian Ferguson looks at some of the highlights before the top entries are exhibited nationwide

A photographic project to record Scotland’s creativity attracted around 4,500 images from the public. Here, Brian Ferguson looks at some of the highlights before the top entries are exhibited nationwide

THEY are the snapshots of Scotland that will be combined to tell a story of national creativity. From quirky characters on the streets of its cities to top-drawer performing artists, the eye-catching images were shot by the public over four months last year. Now these images are to have pride of place in what is being billed as a permanent record of Scotland’s creative side.

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Launched last June, the See Us project – which The Scotsman helped stage – is set to culminate in a major new book and touring exhibition. The images have been selected from around 4,500 submitted by amateur snappers, including some from as far afield as New Zealand and the United States. Crime writer Ian Rankin, violinist Nicola Benedetti and former Scottish culture minister Michael Russell – who posts a photo online every day – were among the panel of judges for See Us. A full list of the top entries will be revealed later this year but, in the meantime, selected highlights have been published on the photo-sharing website Blipfoto, which ran the initiative along with The Scotsman and arts agency Creative Scotland.

Entries include Max Blinkhorn’s image of two men he came across on Portobello Beach after helping out with a clean-up of Edinburgh’s seaside area. He says: “This image blends musical influences from outside and inside of Scotland and most importantly, is taking place out ‘in the wild’. Andrew, the accordion player, is from Poland and makes people smile daily on Portobello Promenade … the fiddle player is a Scot. He just arrived and started jamming with Andrew. The music changed the feel of the promenade for half an hour.”

Fife photographer Paul Gilzean drew a set of steps onto paving stones and persuaded his son to pose with balloons for his entry. “I don’t think I’m the most technical photographer, but I get inspired by what I see around me. I always want to create a photograph that challenges what you’re looking at, but not through manipulating it with Photoshop or such. So, with my willing model, my son, Joshua, I drew the steps and he did the rest.”

Caroline Anderson snapped her son Eoghan posing alongside a painting he sat for by the artist Lex McFadyen, which was on display at the Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts last year. Anderson says: “Lex is a neighbour of ours and asked Eoghan if he would model for the picture while holding his pipes, which he happily did. I like the contrast between the kilted Eoghan of the painting and the casual Eoghan looking at it.”

Among the major events captured were: the one-off Forest Pitch event, in which two games of football were played on a specially created field in the middle of a forest near Selkirk; Calvin Harris on stage at T in the Park; and the Speed of Light event around Arthur’s Seat during the Edinburgh International Festival. Smaller events featured included the Auchinleck Festival in Ayrshire, the Spring Fling in Dumfries & Galloway, the Burry Man Parade in South Queensferry, and a ferry journey to the Orkney Folk Festival.

All the entries had to be submitted to online journal Blipfoto. The project was part of the Scottish Government-backed Year of Creative Scotland, and contributors were able to submit as many entries as they wanted. Joe Tree, founder and chief executive of Blipfoto, says: “Blipfoto is in a unique position to document life around Scotland. And indeed it does this on a daily basis as people from Scotland (and around the world) take and share a single photo a day to represent their daily lives. The See Us project was a natural extension of this and a perfect way to help record and celebrate the Year of Creative Scotland.”

Kenneth Fowler, director of communications at Creative Scotland, says: “One of our objectives with the See Us initiative was to capture, through photography and writing, what creativity means to people today and to encourage as many people as possible to participate in an everyday creative act. We now have a rich and varied visual record of Scottish creativity with images from the familiar to the personal, the conventional to the truly stunning. This initiative is all about the people that have taken part and we are very pleased with the results.”

The final 100-odd entries will go on display in a touring exhibition later this year, starting in Edinburgh at Creative Scotland’s headquarters, and around 40 will be featured in a commemorative book.

•  A wider selection of See Us images be found at