Early 20th century women filmmakers and photographers in Scotland
My research began in late 2015 thanks to research leave from The Glasgow School of Art. During this period I was able to visit archives in order to scope and analyse the photographic and film-making outputs of three women – Margaret Fay Shaw (1903-2004), Mary Ethel Muir Donaldson (1876-1958) and Jenny Gilbertson (1902-1990). In particular I concentrated on work from 1910 – 1930, especially their documentation of Scottish Highlands and Islands’ life.
Over the last five years, this has developed into a wider body of research, looking at the work of fourteen late 19th Century and early 20th Century women photographers and filmmakers in Scotland. The women are Violet Banks (1886-1985), Helen Biggar (1909-1953), Christina Broom (1862-1939), Isabell Burton MacKenzie (1872-1958), M.E.M. Donaldson (1876-1958), Dr Beatrice Garvie (1872-1959), Jenny Gilbertson (1902-1990), Isobel F Grant (1887–1983), Ruby Grierson (1904-1940), Marion Grierson (1907-1998), Isobel Wylie Hutchison (1889-1982), Johanna Kissling (1975-1961), Margaret Fay Shaw (1903-2004) and Margaret Watkins (1884-1969).
These women present different accounts of Scotland, covering both rural and city places and communities. The main aims of my research is to show the breadth of their photography and film-making, offering a critical analysis of their work. What kind of contribution do they make in terms of their outputs? What were their different motivations and how did this inform on the work they made? In what ways did their work differ to their better known male contemporaries? What different narratives do we see emerging from their work on Scotland? How is their work being cared for today?
This research has lead to curating the survey exhibition ‘Glean: Early 20th century women filmmakers and photographers in Scotland‘, in first floor, City Art Centre, Edinburgh, running 12 Nov 2022- 12 March 2023.
Please contact me on J.Brownrigg@gsa.ac.uk
‘Overlaps: Tracking the Distinctiveness of Gaze of Early 20th Century Women Photographers in Scotland‘, Jenny Brownrigg, Studies in Photography, 2021, pp. 106-117. ISSN 1462-0510
‘The event which is in front of her eyes: 1930s’ Scottish Highland and Islands life – the documentary photography and film of M.E.M. Donaldson, Jenny Gilbertson and Margaret Fay Shaw’, Jenny Brownrigg (2016) The Drouth, Winter/Spring 2016 Issue 54 ‘Interstices’, Eds BACOS, N & RUSH, B, p64-82
Brownrigg, Jenny and Main, Shona (2016) Challenge to Fascism: Glasgow’s May Day (1938). Map Magazine, http://www.mapmagazine.co.uk. On Helen Biggar’s 1938 film.
‘Glean: Early 20th century women filmmakers and photographers in Scotland‘, 12 Nov 2022 – 12 March 2023, first floor, City Art Centre, Edinburgh
TALKS / PAPERS / TV
‘Making the pictures: women behind the camera’, In: 5th International St Magnus Conference ‘Island Histories and Her-stories’, 14-16 April 2021, Online, organised by University of the Highlands and Islands.
‘Great British Railway Journeys’, Series 11, ‘From Elgin to Inverness’, BBC 2, Jan 2020. I spoke about MEM Donaldson, with Michael Portillo, in Inverness Museum and Art Gallery.
Scottish Women Photographers and the Everyday. In: Margaret Tait 100, ‘The everyday type of thing’: symposium on the work of women photographers, 24 September 2019, Goethe-Institut, Glasgow.
Early women photographers documenting Highland and Islands of Scotland: MEM Donaldson. In: Highland Folk Museum Annual Seminar: Unchartered Places: Pioneering women of early 20th century Scotland, 25 Oct 2017, Highland Folk Museum.
Alternative readings of the communities and locations of the Highlands & Islands; early women film-makers and photographers in Scotland. In: May You Live In Interesting Times, and other family stories, 5 Feb 2017, Cample Line.
‘Documenting 1920s-40s Scottish Highlands and Islands life: M.E.M. Donaldson, Jenny Gilbertson and Margaret Fay Shaw’, presentation at Communications, Media and Culture Research Seminar series, Dept of Film and Media, University of Stirling (19.10.16)
‘Documenting 1930s’ Scottish Highlands and Islands Life: MEM Donaldson, Jenny Gilbertson and Margaret Fay Shaw’, lunchtime lecture, Inverness Museum & Art Gallery (9.6.16)
‘Alternative Readings of North: Jenny Gilbertson, M.E.M. Donaldson and Margaret Fay Shaw’, paper for ‘True North: Re-Writing History’ conference, Timespan, Helmsdale, Sutherland (17-19 March 2016)
RESEARCH NOTES INDEX
Research Note 1: Jenny Gilbertson – Shetland Research Visit, October 2015
Research Note 2: Margaret Fay Shaw – Canna House Research Visit, November 2015
Research Note 3: M.E.M. Donaldson – Inverness Research Visit, November 2015
Research Note 4: Photographs of Eigg: MEM Donaldson and Violet Banks, November 2016
Research Note 5: Sanna Bheag, Sanna, Ardnamurchan: M.E.M Donaldson, April, 2017
Research Note 6: Around North Ballachulish, M.E.M. Donaldson
Research Note 7: ‘Hive Mind: Researchers of Early Twentieth Century Women Photographers and Filmmakers in Scotland’An index of other researchers working in this field.
Research Note 8: Early 20th Century Women Photographers and Filmmakers in Scotland: Violet Banks’, display at ‘Practicing Landscape: Land, Histories and Transformation’,The Lighthouse, Glasgow 2020
Research Note 9: Edinburgh Central Library and Highland Folk Museum
On the trail of a particular series of photographs by Dr Isabel Frances Grant (1887-1983) that are part of the IF Grant Photographic Collection.
Research Note 10: Orkney Library and Archive
In the Orkney Library and Archive with Fiona Sanderson, looking at the work of Dr Beatrice Garvie (1872-1956), a doctor in North Ronaldsay in the 1930’s and ’40s’.
With thanks to: Inverness Museum & Art Gallery, Shona Main, Joanne Jamieson, Dr Sarah Neely, Fiona MacKenzie (NTS Archivist, Canna House), Magda Sagarzazu (retired NTS Archivist, Canna House), The Glasgow School of Art, Shetland Museum & Archives, Sally Harrower (National Library of Scotland), Lesley Junor (Inverness Museum & Art Gallery), Raymond Strachan (The Lighthouse, Glasgow), Iain Duffus (Edinburgh Central Library), Helen Pickles (Highland Folk Museum), Fiona Sanderson, Lucy Gibbon and Colin Rendall.