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In Memory of Sandy Sharp

In Memory of Sandy Sharp

Posted on: 14th September 2022

Article

Sandy Sharp was a self-taught independent photographer based in Motherwell. A chemist by profession, a teacher by trade, he left the job in order to spend more time making photographs and music. 

He was a founder member of the Contemporary Group of the RPS, a member of Glasgow Photography Group (GPG – the precursor to the establishment of Street Level in 1989) and he was a Street Level board member for several years. 

Sandy's work was included in various solo and group shows, including the fourth GPG exhibition at the Corridor Gallery in Fife in 1988, but the most expansive solo exhibition was Another World at here Street Level in 2004. The exhibition focussed on the natural regeneration of the former industrial site of Ravenscraig, in his home town, and the accompanying minigraph had an essay by Ray McKenzie which stated, ‘Using photographs as metaphors rather than documents, it provides a subtle evocation of what is not there through an allusive treatment of what is... A central part of its strategy is teh division of the show into three connected parts, each exploring the separate themes of 'Beginning', 'Acheivement' and 'Renewal'... I [ ] think of the show as a kind of visual symphony in three movements, with programme notes that might read like this:

Maestoso. The origins of the world. Geological time measured in aeons. Mahelerian stirrings into life in full orchestral colour. 

Scherzo. Crisp black and white statemetns in a quasi-documentary mode. Visual puns, witty incongruities, close ups of found objects, glimpses of a more expansive space.

Moderato. Colour returns, along with a new lyricism. The aesthetics of corrosion: thistledown embracing rusty wire; wild flowers triumphing over tarmac.

[Ray McKenzie 'Calvino's Goat', exhibition minigraph essay, 2004.]

Sandy was also an advocate of photography and a great supporter of others. The Scottish Photographers group was initiated by Sandy and Stewart Shaw in 2001 which emerged out of meetings of practitioners who had organised residential weekends. NOTES newsletter (which became more of a magazine, although modestly did not call itself such) sprung from this source. It was edited and guided by Sandy and was published from 2003 to 2012, producing twenty-seven issues featuring the work of both its members and many others. Scottish Photographers remains to this day a network of photographers who regularly meet to discuss each others work. 

The first issue of NOTES had approx 60-70 people on its mailing list and at the time of the last issue in Autumn 2012, it had near on 300 members (although other records say 200). The list of its members was published in each issue also, always remaining transparent about what it was, and who it embraced. It was an open platform for information, listings, and championing fellow photographers whose work might not otherwise be known about. Interestingly it upheld the term ‘independent’ to designate work which was not commercially driven, or amateur, work made without external compulsion. The Glasgow group of Scottish Photographers used Street Level as their meeting point for portfolio reviews and we partnered in several events, including book launches for both Paul Hill, John Blakemore and others. The Glasgow contingent still meet regularly in person at Street Level and on zoom, which they commenced with during lockdowns. There were and remain iterations of the group also in Inverness, the Highlands and Edinburgh. 

A history of Scottish Photographers  can be found on the website of The Scottish Society for the History of Photography (SSHoP) written by David Buchanan, with input from Stewart Shaw and Sandy Sharp. There is a link on that page to part II. All the issues of NOTES can be found here.

In 2009 Sandy initiated the exhibition ‘Worlds’ at Lillie Art Gallery in Milngavie which gave evidence of (some of) Scottish Photographers’ diverse artistic and photographic standpoints at the time, including work by Thomas Joshua Cooper, Caroline Douglas, Alex Boyd, Roger Farnham, Keith Ingham, Chris Lesley, Harry Magee, Douglas McBride, Carl Radford, Stewart Shaw, Melanie Sims, Hugh Walker and Vanessa Wenwiesser. He remained principled in all his dealings, and according to Stewart Shaw, he thought it inappropriate that his own work be shown as part of this given he was largely organising the exhibition.

He was a trusted source of information and support for me, for Street Level, for his numerous peers, and for the photographic community which he helped build and provide sustenance for.

Malcolm Dickson

Photograph: L-R, Scottish Photographer stalwarts Keith Ingham, Sandy Sharp and Stewart Shaw, with German photographer Helga Paris, at the time of her solo exhibition ‘Fotografie’ at Street Level in February 2014.

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