Edinburgh, capital of Scotland, is witness to all of the diverse cultural walks of life. Booming through the heart of the city are accents from Italy, Spain, Estonia – not forgetting the lyrical home grown lilt of Gaelic – wave through the air, finding a way into your eardrums, reminding you that you are on foreign soil (it’s okay, Edinburgh speaks English too!)
The 12 students from Staffordshire University’s Photojournalism course set off to Edinburgh in a white mini-bus with Andrew Duke, our tutor, driving us all the way. The objective of this trip was informative and educational: to explore the concept of nationhood. Divided into teams: BURNS, BRUCE, SLESSOR and MACKINTOSH, we worked in small groups, amalgamating ideas on how to cover and shoot the assessed agenda in Edinburgh – the upcoming referendum that would decide whether Scotland will or will not be an independent country from the United Kingdom. Andrew wanted eight photographs from each team depicting the agenda: “A United Kingdom?”
The subject and composition of the eight photographs was entirely up to the members of each group to decide. In order to help develop our ideas, we attended a talk by Colin MacPherson upon our arrival in Edinburgh. Colin, a freelance Scottish photojournalist, has a healthy portfolio and has photographed and documented an array of events in the UK and overseas; from Scotland’s salmon netsmen, to the searing heat of Amazonian jungles, to the hotly contested city of Jerusalem. Colin is a tall chap, slim in frame with steady eyes full of experience hiding behind his eyeglasses. His presentation to us was clear and direct, highlighting the perks of the industry, and showcasing his stunning photography He chatted with each group after his presentation about our ideas and how we should bring those ideas to life through photographs. As Diane Arbus once said: “the subject of the picture is always more important than the picture.” Bearing that in mind, each group had the responsibility of portraying the mind-set of Scotsmen and women with regards to their fate should Scotland separate. Each group went about this business differently, opting to employ different tactics to tackle the referendum propaganda.
Team Burns was captained by Krzysztof Kaplon, flanked by Gabby Moran and Katy Eyre. Team Bruce comprised of Jack Monahan and Ben Furst and their captain, Amy Sheldon. Slessor was made up of captain, Martin Needham, Kayley Carter and Louisa Wileman, and the fourth team was Team Mackintosh, where I was accompanied by Joshua Platt and Jo Kirkalady. The four teams covered a range of topics from the opinions of Edinburgh’s young generation, to shops and business owners.
All PJ Level Four Students shared a romantic dinner at Frankie and Benny’s one night after a long day of shooting the magnificent Edinburgh under the warm sunrays; later that night saw some of us meet a legion of entertaining Americans on a cold street after a few discounted ‘cocktails’ at Revs Bar.
Team Slessor were unable to carry out their original idea of births, deaths and marriages, after being denied access to the National Records due to political reasons. But far from giving up, the team turned it around: photographing and interviewing 10 business owners in Edinburgh on their concerns and opinions in relation to Scottish and British identities, by visiting the National Museum of Scotland and Royal Mile. This move ultimately saw Team Slessor democratically voted by the class the most effective strategy that tackled the agenda: “A United Kingdom?”
BY OLYSA OSANANKPO