Photography in St Andrews, art in Pittenweem

St Andrews is currently hosting a big photography festival. Because Fox Talbot’s patent on his photographic process was not valid in Scotland, local St Andrews photographers were able to have a go themselves, and develop the process. The festival covers both the historic and the modern.

We haven’t had time to see much of the exhibition; a trip to the antipodes looms, and it will mostly be over when we get back. But we made time for a few things.

On the railings on the Scores, the work of four Scottish photographers had been blown up and printed on waterproof material to stay out for the whole festival. These photographers were consciously documenting Scotland: one travelled along the English border photographing the scene on the Scottish side, another photographed women farming in the most extreme conditions in the highlands and islands.

In the Old Union Coffee Shop in North Street, there was an exhibition of work by Franki Raffles, a feminist and photographer who left a large body of work depicting women in various situations, mostly work. The most memorable image for me was a shepherdess on a bleak mountainside in Georgia.

We managed to catch an exhibition by the St Andrews Photographic Society at the Town Hall, although the hours were variable: a mixed bag, as one might expect. But we really wanted to see the work of the St Andrews Photographers, a group which may have some connection with the St Andrews Photographic Society (I am not sure exactly), but includes our colleague Richard Cormack. There was claimed to be an exhibition in Holy Trinity Church, but we found the church firmly locked, perhaps because of Lammas Fair (even though, by then, the fair was over).


However, in Pittenweem (on the south coast of Fife), the art festival has been on for a week, and this was the closing weekend. This festival draws artists from Fife and well beyond, who rent houses, front rooms and garages in the town to display their work, and is always worth a visit. So we went yesterday, and found the St Andrews Photographers running an exhibition in a garage in the High Street. So we did after all get to see their work (and buy a couple of prints).

The whole festival was far too large to take all of it in, with over a hundred artists on show around the town and outside. We went to maybe twenty exhibits, and saw some remarkable work. Some of the best, to my eye, were reflections of the Forth Rail Bridge by Karen Trotter, and abstract landscapes by Lynn McGregor.

But the most notable thing about the day occurred elsewhere. The weather was glorious, one of the few really beautiful days we have had in this rather dreary summer. The blue of the sea and the red of the flowers were so intense that the art did slightly pall by comparison. After we were “arted out”, we decided to walk a short stretch of the coastal path, westward to St Monans and Elie.

As we were walking along the beach at the East Links of Elie, we heard an extraordinary, out-of-the-world, music. I wondered if it might have been seals singing. On a rocky point stretching into the sea I saw some black shapes sticking up. With my camera on maximum zoom, the viewfinder revealed them as cormorants, which were certainly not responsible for the sound. We tried to imagine that it was caused by the wind moaning through the ruined tower on the point. But I took a picture anyway.

When we got home, I looked at it on the computer screen, and saw that the rocky point was indeed covered with seals, who were so well camouflaged that I simply hadn’t seen them while we were there. I am certain that it was indeed singing seals that we heard. A memorable experience!


About Peter Cameron

I count all the things that need to be counted.
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