AN exhibition linking the shipyards of Govan in Glasgow and Gdansk in Poland and their post-industrial decline and resilience is being launched this weekend.
A range of events will run alongside the exhibition of work by acclaimed photographers Michal Szlaga from Poland, Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert from Scotland, Nick Hedges from England and Raymond Depardon from France.
The exhibition Govan/Gdansk is a partnership between Glasgow-based Street Level Photoworks and the University of the West of Scotland and is supported by the Polish Cultural Institute, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) and the Scottish Parliament. It is on show at Street Level Photoworks’ gallery in the Trongate.
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The exhibition and the programme of events are organised in association with RSE-funded research on waterfront regeneration in urban spaces in northern European cities. The main case studies of regeneration focus on Govan and wider Glasgow and Gdansk, each of which deal with the consequences of the post-industrial demise of the shipbuilding industry and trying to find a transition into a new economy and community.
Szlaga graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in Gdansk. Since 2000, he has returned obsessively to the subject of the Gdansk shipyards, regarded as the place of the birth, rise and fall of the Solidarity (Solidarnosc) labour movement and an example of Poland’s once great shipbuilding industry. Stocznia/Shipyard – Documents of Loss is the outcome of a 15-year project in which Szlaga has documented the buildings of the Gdansk Shipyard, their gradual demolition and replacement.
For Szlaga, the shipyard represents a dynamic landscape of industrial architecture reflecting a people and their history, the images loaded with memories of the turbulent anti-communist revolution.
A collaboration with the Wyspa Institute of Art, located on the premises of the Gdansk Shipyard, has allowed the photographer to present his work in important contemporary art exhibitions (Dock Guardians, 2005; Again and Again 1989–2009, 2009).
In 1980, Depardon was commissioned by the Sunday Times to record aspects of Glasgow: the evocative results are now lauded as telling an unremittingly bleak portrayal of urban deprivation and decay.
Depardon began taking photographs on his family farm in Garet at the age of 12 and spent the 1960s and 70s working as a reporter for various agencies, making documentary films alongside his photographic career, before joining Magnum in 1978. He received the Grand Prix National de la Photographie in 1991 and a César Award for his film Délits Flagrants in 1995. Since 2000, his work has been part of exhibitions by The Maison Européenne de la Photographie and Fondation Cartier.
In 2006 he was invited to be artistic director of the Rencontres Internationales d’Arles. He has made 18 feature-length films and published 47 books.
Hedges studied photography at Birmingham College of Art between 1965 and 1968. He subsequently worked for Shelter, the National Campaign for the Homeless, in London from 1968-1972 as a photographer and researcher, producing exhibitions and publications. In 1968, Shelter commissioned Hedges to document the abject living conditions experienced in slum housing in the UK, including Glasgow. The images in Govan/Gdansk are from his seminal body of work A Life Worth Living, which echoes Depardon’s art in its depiction of children happily at play against the backdrop of the Govan cranes; evidence of a community spirit unblighted by the harsh realities of life.
After working as a freelance photographer for, amongst others, Mencap, CSV, the Royal Town Planning Institute, the BBC and Penguin Books, he returned to the Midlands to complete a two-year photographic documentation of factory work exhibited and published as the book Born to Work in 1982. Hedges was subject leader in photography at the University of Wolverhampton in 1988 until 2002.
Sutton-Hibbert grew up in Scotland and on his 13th birthday he received the gift of a camera. He is now a UK-based freelance photographer for editorial, corporate and NGO clients with his work appearing in Time, National Geographic, Italian Geo, Le Figaro, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, and many other publications. His work has taken him to more than 70 countries, as far flung as Antarctica and Outer Mongolia. In recent years he has returned to Scotland after a spell in Japan. He is a member of the photography collective Document Scotland which was established in 2012 to document Scotland at a critical juncture in its history. Café Royal Books have published a number of his projects, including Klondykers in Shetland 1994, Nelson Mandela, Glasgow 1993, North Sea Fishing and The Common Riding. Sutton Hibbert has also self-published the books The Roma Portraits and Unsullied and Untarnished. Shot over a few days for editorial clients, Shipbuilding from the mid-1990s records a critical time at the Kvaerner shipyards in Govan, capturing the importance of this industry and the people who drove it.
The exhibition runs from today until July 31. This afternoon, Szlaga and Sutton-Hibbert will talk about their work at a symposium also attended by Dr Waldemar Affelt of Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun, and the Main Conservation Commission to the General Conservator of the Polish Republic, who will be addressing issues of documenting and conversation, linked to his on-going research on Gdansk shipyard and post-industrial regeneration.
Related future exhibitions include Larry Herman – Clydeside 1974-76. This will run from October 1–November 27 and covers a vast geographical area from Elvanfoot to Stepps, as well as many rural districts. where people worked in farming, forestry, fishing and tourism.
To mark 10 years of friendship and twinning between Glasgow and Marseille, Street Level Photoworks is also hosting an exhibition from June 10 until July 23 at the Consul d’Art, Marseille. The changing face of Glasgow is explored in 26 photographs covering styles of social documentary, portraiture, architectural and street photography. The exhibition aims to capture aspects of the social, cultural and political identity of the city and includes images by Sutton-Hibbert, Hugh Hood, Iseult Timmermans, Chris Leslie, Keith Ingham, Martin Hunter, Sarah Amy Fishlock and former Sunday Herald photographer David Gillanders.