As What We Do Now transitions towards an exciting new phase, those involved reflect on their experience.
Saskia Coulson & Colin Tennant in Sanquhar look back at some of the highlights of this time.
How did you get into your artistic field?
Saskia – Both my parents were photographers, so I grew up around cameras and talking about visual storytelling. When I got older, I was fortunate to be accepted to the Glasgow School of Art’s Fine Art Photography programme. This is where I met my husband and collaborator, Colin Tennant, who I have worked with on the WWDN project. After graduating I continued with further education, but I returned to photography and film making about six years ago when Colin and I started our business CT Productions together.
Why did you want to be involved in What We Do Now?
Saskia – We wanted to be involved with WWDN because we had just moved to the Upper Nithsdale area of Dumfries & Galloway. Over the past few years we have spent a large part of our practice traveling around the world and we wanted to be part of a project where we could share our passion and knowledge for film and photography with the local community. We had also done similar short-term projects where we had collaborated with young people in Scotland to create a short film. WWDN offered us a chance to try and do something similar but with a longer timeframe.
Colin – I felt it would be a great opportunity to connect with our local Community, Sanquhar, as we had recently relocated to the area. I was also interested in working with A the Airts, The Stove Network & Creative Scotland.
What has been your highlight of What We Do Now so far?
Saskia – The highlight of WWDN was when we developed and curated an exhibition of photography by the young people of Sanquhar. After several months of learning various photographic techniques and documenting their town, the group put together a show called, Sanquhar in Focus. The exhibition was shown in the gallery at our Place Hub, A the Airts. Their work was also featured in Dumfries & Galloway Life, a regional monthly magazine with over 20K subscribers.
The opening of the exhibition was incredible, there was such a great atmosphere at the gallery and there were so many people there from the town and the region. The young people were very happy and proud of what they had achieved.
Colin – My highlight of phase 1 has been seeing the development of the young people we have worked with. Many of the young people have moved into higher education to study various courses within the creative industries and it’s been hugely rewarded playing a part in their development.
What have you learned during What We Do Now so far?
Saskia – In phase two of WWDN, we were able to focus some of our time on the development of our own practice. This has been invaluable to our own creative profession and we have learned a lot about our own practice through this. Namely, we were able to seek and have sessions with a creative mentor and we were also able to become members of StreetLevel Photoworks and have learned so many skills in their facilities.
How would you sum up your What We Do Now experience?
Saskia – Being part of WWDN has been incredible. I’ve really enjoyed working with the young people of Sanquhar and seeing them flourish both creatively and in their confidence. It has also been great to be able to spend time focusing on my own practice and being afforded the time to develop some personal projects that mean a lot to me.
What else have been working on or have planned?
Saskia – We hope to continue to work with our Place Hub, A the Airts, in Sanquhar and the Sanquhar Camera Club is still going strong. We are also working on a few other photography projects across Scotland, including a project documenting all the incredible things happening in the Galloway and South Ayrshire Biosphere.
Why is a project such as What We Do Now important for Dumfries and Galloway?
Colin – I believe it’s important as it provides an opportunity for local people and communities to understand and participate in creative projects for the good of their community and their own personal development. It adds to the cultural offering of the area and inspires and engages local people as well as offering a platform for individual artists to develop their own practice.
What have you learned during What We Do Now?
Colin – What I have learned is that working with and within communities takes time and a certain type of approach and understanding. One of the greatest strengths of the WWDN project is the time frame that was offered by the project. Sustained ‘community engagement’ takes empathy and understanding and that is something I have learned in greater depth through the project.