Photographic roll call charts Mallaig pupils’ progress

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By Euan Carr

In a departure from his series of high-profile solo shows, British portrait photographer Donald Maclellan has rediscovered his classroom roots to construct a visual journal of real lives.

The ex-photojournalist, who was born in 1967 and grew up in the West Highlands, has been travelling 3,000 miles across Britain over 18 months to find and photograph 24 girls and boys who turn 50 this year.

They are the classmates with whom he spent his formative school days (1979-83) in the Lochaber port of Mallaig, at a northern tip of the West Highland railway line.

The project, called ‘MY CLASS @ 50’, focuses on these former classmates, plus himself, set in their 2017 workplaces, ranging from train driver to able seaman, fisherman, shepherdess and teacher. Maclellan has chosen to debut this at Mallaig Heritage Centre in the far-flung village where it all started.

Fiona Bark, shepherdess
Fiona Bark, shepherdess

Donald Maclellan said: ‘This project is about ordinary people and their place in the world. My belief is that everyone can identify with the experiences of rubbing shoulders with children at school, thrown together for that intense learning period purely due to an accident of birth. Those relationships and life lessons affect the rest of our lives, yet we each pursue such diverse paths and destinies.’

Fishing boat skipper Robert Summers.
Fishing boat skipper Robert Summers.

The project has grown into a snapshot of social change, reflecting the demise of Scottish traditional industries, like fishing, and the shift into the service sector and tourism, replacing and creating unprecedented options for the region’s populace.

My Class @ 50 runs from April 2 to September 30 at Mallaig Heritage Centre.

NO_T14_Donald Maclellan exhibition_Fiona Bark shepherdess

NO_T14_Donald Maclellan exhibition_02_Fishing boat skipper Robert Summers

NO_T14_Donald Maclellan exhibition_03_Class photo 1980