Just a Photo

Raploch, Stirling, 1992

margaret_mitchell_sixteen24 This image has always been a favourite of mine although it became edited out when I worked on 'At Sixteen' originally.

When asking if I could do his photo, this teenager became a little flustered about what to do with his cigarette and so stuck it behind his ear. I only got one shot, unfortunately before he turned away to take another drag.

The 'At Sixteen' archive is being scanned and updated and all images will be online (kinda) soon.

Just a photo # 1

I've decided to start publishing more random images on the blog. Sometimes they will be something I have just shot that is sitting there not doing much at present and needs a home; sometimes it will be an image from the archive. Older images and snaps which just sat on the blog have been put in here too. So kicking it off here's 'just a photo'.




Family Archive, Raploch, circa 1992


Over the years I have often photographed my extended family within their own environments. I also sometimes photographed their friends and their relationship with them. This photo is of my niece and nephew taken behind their house in the Raploch in Stirling circa 1992. The Raploch had a - rather unjust - less than glorious reputation for itself and has had significant regeneration over the past decade.

At one stage my mum, sister and brother and their respective families all lived in the Raploch and I knew the area and some of the people quite well. I always found it to be a decent place with decent people and its reputation unfair in its negativity.

Whilst these pictures were taken for personal documentation at the time I can now look at them as situated within a time and a place and what they tell us of that. This vast expanse of grass behind the houses where the kids played was full of mattresses and settees and sometimes empty bottles of cider. People probably complained of needles and dog mess but I cannot remember it being a main issue. Rather there was a freedom in this area of untamed grass and expanse of land where you could run around and jump on old furniture and play. There was a wildness and an adventure to be had.

None of my family live there now. It has been designated Urban Regeneration pathfinder status by the Scottish Executive. It has changed and for those who live there now, it is probably much improved.

Yet some part of me still believes that children might miss those vast expanses of untamed land and the possibilities that lie therein.

Stookie in the Landscape


 Originally, I never included this photo as part of my Tiree Schoolchildren Project but I kept coming back to this boy. I really wanted to get a decent photo of him and it annoyed me that I didn't quite get what I was trying for (whatever that is...)

As we wandered round the windswept landscape on Tiree, we came across this stookie (plaster cast for those non-Scots out there). The possibilities of where this came from saw me invent many fantastical scenarios in my head. Maybe that's why I didn't get my ideal photo.....

Still, I quite like this boy with the "stookie in the landscape" and he is now part of the series, adding something to the experience and feel of Tiree.

Bingo Christmas Party

As a student, I worked in a Bingo Hall. This photo was taken at the Bingo Christmas Party, a free event for pensioners run by the manager and staff every year. After this party I made some notes of the events:

"A man collapsed and died whilst we served the entree. Those beside him complained that they were still waiting on their soups. The man lay in the aisle, shirt open, resuscitation in progress. Eventually the punters beside him moved. They took their soup with them"


Artist Poland 1997

I met this guy when I was on a short residency in a small village in Poland. He was really helpful in walking me around the village and giving me the background on what kind of place it was. There was a strange melancholy in the whole experience: from meeting the oldest man alive (as he was known) through to the town drunks who hung around the village square all day. Some I photographed, some not.

The camera gives you this way in to people's lives and it is a honour to experience that. All the people you meet that you would never have met otherwise, all the conversations and all the shared moments, some deep, some not.



© Margaret Mitchell 2013 Person photographing the panda Edinburgh Zoo I find that managing my time is not one of my greatest attributes, evident enough in the lack of postings here....

The inability to find time to post on photography is reflected in real life practice of finding time to fulfil projects, some of them sitting there for quite some time in my head.

My decision then is that perhaps what a blog should sometimes be is not just long writings on photography itself, which is sometimes hard to fulfill due to time constraints, but rather quicker yet more numerous (!) postings on snippets, snaps and finds.

So my first return is a snap from the pandas (well, one sitting munching bamboo and, well, munching bamboo) at Edinburgh Zoo which leaves one musing, as usual, on the nature of snaps, tourism and what we do with these photos afterwards. A well covered subject but one more pertinent with ease of digital and phone cameras. I, for one, am sticking my snap on the web.....

I ♥ Hipstamatic

© Margaret Mitchell Olympic Hipstamatic Photograph It's funny all the hoo-ha about real photography and camera phone apps such as Instagram and Hipstamatic. I've read a few pieces where people are getting very upset about these apps and what they do (and do not do) and to be honest it really confuses me, where this dislike comes from.

I recently posted a photo of mine that I took in London of Tower Bridge and the Olympic Rings to Hipstamatic Facebook page and it received over 2,700 likes and many shares. This probably makes it my most viewed photo of all time and probably my most appreciated.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

However, I love Hipstamatic. It's a great little app. It sits there on my phone and is ready to use unlike the camera that I never carry with me (used to think I would, but never do....). I stick to a couple of "lenses" and "films" and find it quite amusing the whole "processing" aspect. Of course there are limitations but that is always the case with any chosen technique in photography, each one is chosen for aesthetics and suitability to the content.

It is nonsense to talk about "real" photography. Very tedious. Photographers have always selected equipment, processes, played about, used chemicals unconventionally, all in order to achieve image "enhancements". Why do current day photographers use 19th century processes if not to achieve an aesthetic outcome? Some haters of Hipstamatic forget  that  photographers still have to take the photo. Some photos by Damon Winter using Hipstamatic won  third place in Pictures of the Year International and he talks sensibly about his use and approach in some detail in a piece here.

Anyway, maybe I will tire of Hipstamatic but I think its a great app, great fun and can add to the image making process. I also did cyantoypes for fun for a time too, but after a while didn't really see the point or suitable application for that either.

Hipstamatic also has a touch of the Cartier-Bresson and his decisive moment and no cropping malarkey, so loved by some (mostly "real") photographers. Which brings me to why my photo pains me: the composition is not right. In my defence, I was on a fairly fast moving boat, with shifting light, a flapping flag, with my kid, on my hols ....taking fun holiday snaps.

Ultimately this is for me a happy-snap that satisfies the purpose for that it was created for.  I have a nice memory of my travel up the Thames under the Olympic Rings because I had Hipstamatic's fun little app right there on my phone. In time I might use it for more than quick snaps (or not) but presently, to all those purists (or whatever they are, I'm not quite sure), all I can say is "lighten up and ♥ Hipstamatic".


Behind the pose

I sometimes think it is interesting to read how photographers went about photographing someone. I like looking at other's contact sheets because you see a story unfold of the relationship between photographer and subject. You see at what point the photo happened and what preceded and what came after. In the digital era, some photographers might check their shots one after another, but when shooting with film I would see the roll out. That's kind of the beauty of it all. The excitement of developing a film: first relief that the exposure is good, followed by getting a contact which shows that one (hopefully) image that works. Not always, sometimes there's a few good ones, sometimes it's just been missed, but if it's there, it stands out. It is one thing to have a photograph in your head and yet another to realise it. Sometimes intervention is sweet and the person does something unexpected and the image is made.This is what happened to me on Tiree.

Margaret Mitchell Tiree

So, to the story behind this little girl's pose. We were a group a students spending a week on the island of Tiree with the idea of  exhibiting the work that we managed to do during our stay. Being a people photographer, I approached the local school who helped out enormously in co-ordinating parental approval for the children. One child from every year was photographed. I also left film with them to photograph the island, which the art teacher facilitated and kindly sent to me for the exhibition. I liked the idea of involving the children in this project, for them to represent their island rather than me who had only been there one week.

This little girl went for a walk with me in the beautiful sand dunes beside the school. I found a location and asked her to stand in a certain place. I like to see how people react to the camera and as I started to photograph she struck a pose. Pulling out her jogging trouser pockets into a feminised curtsy stance.

When the film the kids shot came down from the school, this little girl had photographed a triangle of sheep which reflected beautifully the triangular sand of the dune.