European Prospects
Exploring European Identity through Photography

Alicia Bruce

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Alicia Bruce

Alicia Bruce is an award winning Scottish photographer who explores community, environment and the politics of space. She studied Photography, Film and Imaging at Edinburgh’s Napier University, graduating in 2006.

Alicia Bruce

Biography

Alicia Bruce studied Photography, Film and Imaging at Edinburgh’s Napier University, graduating in 2006. Since then her work has focused on the collaborative nature of portraiture by exploring the relationship between the photographer and the sitter. Her practice explores environmental politics of space, territories and how this impacts on our heritage.  Her most recent projects have involved communities, such as Menie: A portrait of a North East community in conflict, a humane story of a Scottish community whose homes were under threat as Trump International started work on what was claimed would be ‘The Greatest Golf Course in the World’. These photographs were acquired by National Galleries of Scotland and later celebrated in a Scottish Parliamentary Motion following the project gaining International acclaim and portraying a side of that story that otherwise might have gone unheard.

In the summer 2011, Bruce was commissioned to take up the first residency in Ffotogallery’s re-launched Valleys project. She produced a significant body of work in collaboration with residents of Blaenavon, an ex-mining town in The Valleys.  

Alongside her work as a practicing photographer, Bruce teaches photography at City of Glasgow College and the University of West Scotland. She is currently Artist in Residence at Woodend Barn in Banchory.

Recent exhibitions include The Scottish Parliament, The Royal Scottish Academy, Dovecot and Gracefield Arts Centre & Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography. 

Portfolio The Valleys Project

In summer 2011 Alicia Bruce spent three months in Blaenavon, an ex-mining town in the South Wales Valleys. She was the first photographer commissioned by Ffotogallery’s Valley’s Archive project since 1990 following in the footsteps of David Bailey, John Davies, Peter Fraser, Francesca Odell and Paul Reas. Bruce’s practice involves fully integrating herself with communities and creating work about those who inhabit them.

Bruce used the artwork ‘Welsh Landscape with Two Women Knitting’ by William Dyce  (1806 - 1864) held in National Museum Wales collection as a starting point drawing parallels with her own heritage.   Dyce was, like Bruce, originally from Aberdeen, Scotland and came to Wales for his health and a change of air in 1860. The painting was created in 1860, 20 years after the birth of photography, oil on millboard crates the look of a colour glossy photograph and the displacement of figures create an early day Photoshop of sorts. “I wished to question the romanticised view of this painting and hold a mirror up to The Valleys in 2011.  I made three photographs in response Dyce’s work at Foxhunter on the Blaenavon hilltops.  I collaborated with Mike & Holly, a grandfather & granddaughter, Claire & Jenny, who run a wool shop and Paul & Heidi who run Oakfield B&B where I stayed in my final weeks in The Valleys.“ The series also features collaborative portraits of people Bruce encountered during her time in The Valleys in collaborative portraits that take inspiration from The National Museum of Wales collection and from the individuals themselves.

 

Portfolio Menie

Alicia Bruce spent the summer of 2010 collaborating with residents of the Menie estate, an area of outstanding natural beauty and a Site of Special Scientific Interest situated 20 minutes north of Aberdeen.

The residents' homes were under threat of compulsory purchase as Trump International started construction of a golf course, hotel, and housing development with plans to re-name Menie 'The Great Dunes of Scotland'.

Alicia Bruce’s photographic portraiture retells the stories of the Menie residents, not to monumentalize or misrepresent them but in order to fix their message more securely in the cultural imagination. By restaging compositions from celebrated paintings (the majority of them in the permanent collection of the local Aberdeen Art Gallery), Bruce eloquently carves out the residents’ place in Scottish heritage. Without over-romanticizing, these photographs play on a history of national mythology. These families will not be intimidated, neither by far-away business nor next door construction site. They will not be bribed or bought out. Whatever side you stand on over this issue, their stance demands to be respected rather than patronized.    

 

This is further underscored by the 19 photographs of the nearby dunes taken from 1pm – 10pm one day in August 2010. They depict a scene of natural beauty with its lights going out. Playing on ordnance surveys, Bruce maps this coastal terrain which faces imminent destruction, ‘Trumped’ over by the proposed golf course and hotel complex. The posts are evidence of the encroaching commerce that will swamp the area. But the tides are strong and many of the posts are already beginning to bend as metaphors of surrender.  

Portfolio Encore

Blaenavon Male Voice Choir and Scream to a Sigh are two complementary series of portraits of musicians in Blaenavon, a former mining town in the south Wales Valleys. Inspired by historic portraits in the National Museum Cardiff collection, Alicia Bruce’s photographs highlight the individuality of the sitters while retaining their identity as a collective. Both series were shot on stage in Blaenavon Workman’s Hall during Bruce’s residency as part of Ffotogallery’s recent Valleys Commission. They depict distinct groups of performers from different generations who are tied together geographically and share a love of performance. By restaging compositions from celebrated paintings in the National Museum Cardiff, Bruce eloquently reconnects the Blaenavon musicians with a greater Welsh musical heritage.

Publications

Publications: 

Bruce has been published in numerous magazines, newspapers and journals including BBC, engage Journal, F-Stop Magazine, Magenta, Foundation Flash Forward, Museums & Heritage Magazine, The Scotsman, Selvdege, The Times and The Telegraph. 

Exhibitions: 

2014 Contemporary Photography in Scotland, National Galleries of Scotland Photography Collection, Gracefield Arts, Dumfries, Scotland

2013 Menie: a Portrait of a North East Coastal Community in Conflict, The Scottish Parliament, Edinburgh, Scotland

2013 The Valleys Re-Presented, Tramshed, Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography, Cardiff, UK

2013 Encore, Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography, Cardiff, UK

2011 Menie: a Portrait of a North East coastal community in conflict, Peacock Visual Arts, Aberdeen, Scotland

Additional information: 

You can see a selection of Bruce’s work from Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography on the BBC website, hear her talk about the projects here and also in an interview with Louise Hobson at  A Fine Beginning. The exhibitions Encore and The Valleys Re-presented at Diffusion: Cardiff International Festival of Photography were reviewed by Anna Falcini on Photomonitor.

Bruce was AxisWeb’s artist of the month for October 2012, where she discussed her past and future projects.