Photo event brings out flashes of genius

This year's PhotoArch competition has developed pupils' understanding of the `built environment' around them. Jackie Cosh zooms in

Jackie Cosh

At first glance it is a striking but simple silhouette of Scotland's industrial past - a chimney brooding black against a pale blue winter sky. Look closer though and a white airplane trail in the distance crosses dark telephone wires in the foreground, creating the illusion of a Saltire.

Young photographer Parris Wilson, who goes to Howdenburn Primary in the Borders, happily admits that the patriotic effect was accidental. "I didn't notice the cross shape until I was showing my photograph to my teacher, who noticed it," she says.

The 11-year-old was surprised to hear that her picture, of an old boiler house at her school, had won the primary section of the 2012 PhotoArch competition.

"I just thought I would photograph the chimney at school. I didn't expect to win. I thought someone else at my school would win," she says.

Parris is among 630 pupils aged four to 17, from 34 schools across Scotland, who submitted photographs to the competition, celebrating the places and spaces around them. Run by the Scottish Civic Trust, it aims to make pupils more aware of the "built environment", from shopping centres to crumbling churches and everything in between.

The standard of photography is impressive, particularly from primary schools where youngsters show a keen and creative eye for the manmade world around them.

A warm close-up of sunshine on "sandstone" taken by nine-year-old Olly Carr, of St Mary's Primary in Stirling, catches the judges' attention, as does a clever shot of railings reflected in a puddle by Sara MacDonald, also nine, of Langside Primary in Glasgow.

This is the first time that secondaries have been invited to take part, and entries for 2012 doubled on last year, although the vast majority of submissions are still from primaries.

Judging the 69 entries from 11 secondaries, however, it is clear that the competition is starting to capture the imagination of older pupils.

The winning image in the secondary category shows black and white spirals drawing the eye in to what looks a bit like a helterskelter - the title, "Staircase to a fairytale", adding to the mystery.

"I was having a little wander in old Aberdeen and when I saw this spiral staircase I wanted to go up it but I wasn't allowed, so I had to think of a different way to take the picture," says Megan Robertson, 15, from Mackie Academy in Stonehaven.

"I took it from below looking up, using black and white because I thought it would be more effective. I know a title can make a picture stand out more and I thought it looked like it was leading to a magical place.

"I want to be a photographer now and on car journeys I keep seeing buildings and thinking they would make a good picture."

For Ray Entwistle, Scottish Civic Trust chairman and one of the four judges, the response of pupils like Megan is a positive contrast to last summer's riots in England.

"I look back and remember when the TV screens were filled with images of burning buildings in Croydon and other parts of London and there were young people out on the streets, and then I look at what we are doing here with this competition," he says. "Our young people are out on the streets with cameras, taking pictures of our heritage."

The theme of the contest was deliberately broad to allow teachers to develop a range of related projects.

The trust did suggest the topic "Old and new" to give classes inspiration to express their thoughts, feelings, experiences and perspectives on the heritage, buildings and archaeology around them.

Every pupil has received a certificate of participation. Winners and runners-up will attend a prizegiving ceremony on 27 March at the Lighthouse in Glasgow.

It will be held jointly with My Place Awards, another trust competition celebrating Scotland's heritage. From next year, PhotoArch will be renamed the My Place Photography Awards.

Meanwhile, the winning pictures will form Scotland's entry to the International Heritage Photographic Experience, where they will join images taken by schoolchildren in 50 countries around the world.

All the entries can be viewed online at:




"The Boiler House Pipe" by Parris Wilson, 11, Howdenburn Primary, Borders

Highly Commended

"No-one home" by Holly Taylor, 9, St Mary's Primary, Stirling

"Sun on Sand" by Olly Carr, 9, St Mary's Primary, Stirling

"Railing reflections" by Sara MacDonald, 9, Langside Primary, Glasgow



"Staircase to a fairytale" by Megan Robertson, 15, Mackie Academy, Stonehaven

Highly Commended

"Duart Castle, Mull" by Sam Wood, 15, Woodfarm High, East Renfrewshire

"George Square Fairground" by Murray Angus, 16, Strathaven Academy, South Lanarkshire

"Princes Peacock" by Nicholas Hamilton, 17, Strathaven Academy, South Lanarkshire

"Corner" by Marlon Bozic, 12, Fairview Secondary, Perth and Kinross.

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Jackie Cosh

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