AboutTo mark the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, the Fleming Collection is showing an exhibition of work by Scottish photographer Peter Cattrell. Born in Glasgow in 1959, Cattrell's interest in the Somme was originally inspired by the unearthing of a photograph of his great uncle, William Wyatt Bagshawe pictured along with three of his companions in the Sheffield âPals' Battalion. Cattrell subsequently discovered Bagshawe's name on the war memorial at Thiepval in Belgium during a visit in 1989. Having enlisted in response to Lord Kitcheners' calls for volunteers, all four men died as result of the initial assault along the Somme on 1 July 1916.
In 1996 Cattrell returned to the Somme, this time with his camera. The photographs he took of the landscape that day were the start of a project which led Cattrell to return on numerous occasions over many years, resulting in an expansive and emotive body of work. The landscape Cattrell captures is a contradictory one; witness to the horrors of war, yet simultaneously tranquil and softened by the constant renewal of nature.
These quiet, reflective landscapes are accompanied by a more recent series of still life photographs, exhibited here for the first time. Shrapnel and other debris found by Cattrell on his trips to France and Belgium have been carefully photographed at his studio in London, their surface treated with the same fine eye for detail the photographer applies to his images of the battlefields. Although in stark contrast to the natural forms of the landscapes which are consciously devoid of human presence, Cattrell approaches these remnants with the same gentle contemplation.
Also on display in the exhibition are a series of photographs by George P. Lewis on loan from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, which depict the women who worked in transport and heavy industries in Scotland during the war. Lewis was commissioned by the Women's Work Committee for the Imperial War Museum in 1918 and, in 2004, Cattrell was commissioned by the Scottish National Portrait Gallery to produce silver gelatin prints from Lewis' negatives.