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wpplogoBy Graeme Murdoch

“To collect photographs is to collect the world. Movies and television programs light up walls, flicker, and go out; but with still photographs the image is also an object, lightweight, cheap to produce, easy to carry about, accumulate, store.”

Wise words from Susan Sontag. And so to Kazan, New York, Osaka, Ottawa, Seoul, Wellington … and Edinburgh? The photographic image travels well thanks to digital technology, and the world’s most impressive photo show is currently in each of these cities this month, (and travels to over 40 others during 2011).

The World Press Photo exhibition once more resides, for the sixth year, in the Scottish parliament building until 27 August. As our national icon Sir Sean might have said: it will stir and shake you. 5,691 photographers from 125 countries have submitted 108,059 photographs for judgement by 21 jury members to win the ultimate of 54 prizes from 2010: World Press Photo of the Year.

Some of the images in the Holyrood show will disturb, and hopefully prompt and cajole you into seeing the world as seen by storytellers with cameras. Many are important moments in history taken by photojournalists who, ceaselessly, put themselves in danger in some of the most hazardous places on earth. They add to our greater understanding and illuminate the unfolding events of our sometimes troubled world.

The Scottish parliament is to be commended for keeping faith with the World Press competition, as it is displayed in the public foyer at Holyrood, now surely one of the best event venues in the city.

“The exhibition is always extraordinary and we are honoured to be hosting this collection once again,” said presiding officer Tricia Marwick MSP. “It is estimated over 160,000 visitors have visited this captivating exhibition since it first opened at Holyrood.

“We hold the World Press Photo exhibition in conjunction with our Festival of Politics programme each year. This is a great opportunity for visitors to the parliament to view the exhibition as well as take part in topical debates and political discussions.”

As someone who has spent a career in news print media and been privileged to work with some of the world’s finest photographers, I predict every year that there will be a surge of interest in photography. Yes, there will be, again, at a space near you.

<em>Picture: Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery for Time magazine</em>

Picture: Institute for Artist Management/Goodman Gallery for Time magazine

Winner – Kabul, Afghanistan
Photographer: Jodi Bieber, World Press photographer of the year, South Africa

Jodi Bieber is a South African who was given her father’s old camera which she used as a diary of “very bad photographs.”

Bibi Aisha, 18, was disfigured as retribution for fleeing her husband’s house in Oruzgan province, in the center of Afghanistan. At the age of 12, Aisha and her younger sister had been given to the family of a Taliban fighter under a Pashtun tribal custom for settling disputes.

When she reached puberty she was married to him, but she later returned to her parents’ home, complaining of violent treatment by her in-laws. Men arrived there one night demanding that she be handed over to be punished for running away. Aisha was taken to a mountain clearing, where, at the orders of a Taliban commander, she was held down and had first her ears sliced off, then her nose. In local culture, a man who has been shamed by his wife is said to have lost his nose, and this is seen as punishment in return.

Aisha was abandoned, but later rescued and taken to a shelter in Kabul run by the aid organisation Women for Afghan Women, where she was given treatment and psychological help. After time in the refuge, she was taken to America to receive further counseling and reconstructive surgery.

<em>Picture: Andrew McConnell</em>

Picture: Andrew McConnell

2 – Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo
Photographer: Andrew McConnell, Ireland

Joséphine Nsimba Mpongo, 37, practices the cello in the Kimbanguiste neighborhood of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. She is a member of the Orchestre Symphonique Kimbanguiste (OSK), Central Africa’s only symphony orchestra. During the day, Joséphine sells eggs in Kinshasa’s main market, and rehearses with the orchestra most evenings during the week.

The OSK was founded by its current conductor Armand Diangienda in 1994. Initially, just a few dozen musicians shared the small number of instruments they had at their disposal. Today, the OSK can muster 200 players for a concert. Most are self-taught amateurs who hold down day jobs all over the city.

<em>Picture: Guillem Valle</em>

Picture: Guillem Valle

3 – South Sudan
Photographer: Guillem Valle, Spain

A Dinka man stands in front of his house in Akkach, South Sudan. The Dinka, the largest ethnic group in region, are an agro-pastoral people who migrate according to season. At the onset of the rainy season in May or June, they move to settlements of huts built from mud and thatch above the flood level, where they plant crops. During the dry months, beginning around December, they leave for better grazing grounds in the lowlands, living in semi-permanent shelters.

Between 1983 and 2005, the people of South Sudan were embroiled in a bitter civil war with the largely Muslim government in the north, which cost some 1.5 million lives. In January 2011, a referendum among southerners, promised as part of a peace deal, resulted in a near-unanimous vote for independence.

<em>Picture: Altaf Qadri/Associated Press</em>

Picture: Altaf Qadri/Associated Press

4 – Kashmir intifada
Photographer: Altaf Qadri, Associated Press, India

The sister of Feroz Ahmad Malik wails as she clings to the bed carrying his body, at his funeral in Palhalan, near the city of Srinagar, in Indian-administered Kashmir. Feroz was one of two people killed when Indian police and paramilitary fired at random in the town marketplace on 6 September. The incident led to massive protests in the town, during which a further two people were killed.

Separatist unrest across the region had lasted since July, resulting in more than 60 deaths. Kashmir, which is over 60 percent Muslim, has been disputed by India and Pakistan since the partition of the subcontinent in 1947. From 1989 onwards, a growing Muslim separatist movement against Indian control has led to frequent clashes with government forces.

<em>Picture: Ivo Saglietti</em>

Picture: Ivo Saglietti

5 – Srebrenica massacre – 15th anniversary
Photographer: Ivo Saglietti, Italy

Relatives of victims mourn at the Srebrenica-Potočari Memorial and Cemetery on the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre. During the 1992–95 Bosnian War, the town of Srebrenica was declared a UN safe zone, to which thousands of Bosnian Muslims fled. The advancing Bosnian Serb Army overran the Dutch peacekeepers there in July 1995, killing more than 8,000 men and boys from in and around the town.

The massacre is considered the worst atrocity in Europe since the second world war and is the only episode from the Bosnian war to be declared an act of genocide by the UN war crimes tribunal. During the anniversary ceremony, 775 bodies newly identified from mass graves using DNA testing were buried at the cemetery, joining the 3,749 already interred there.

<em>Picture: Thomas P Peschak</em>

Picture: Thomas P Peschak

6 – Gannet landing, Malgas Island, South Africa
Photographer: Thomas P Peschak, Germany/South Africa

A Cape gannet comes in to land during the summer nesting season. Malgas Island, off the west coast of South Africa, is an important seabird breeding ground.

The World Press Photo exhibition is part of the Scottish parliament’s Festival of Politics programme. Holyrood public foyer, Monday–Friday 10am–5:30pm, Saturday 11am–5:30pm, Sunday closed.


Graeme Murdoch is a photographic consultant and exhibition designer.

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The Samye Ling retreat, near Lockerbie

The Samye Ling retreat, near Lockerbie

By Allan Laing

Here’s the deal. You’re one of the thousands of Scots travellers still licking your wounds after a lengthy displacement overseas courtesy of that pesky ash cloud. The phrase “never again” springs to mind as you take a scunner to any thought of repeating the ordeal by jetting off abroad a few months down the line for your summer holibags.

So what can you do that won’t involve passports, departure lounges and boarding passes?

Well, you could always just wave the white flag, declare that “hame’ll dae me”, invest in The Wire boxed set, and spend a fortnight with your eyes glued to the telly.

But no. You are made of sterner stuff. Just because you decide to eschew the exotic delights of a trip to some far-flung corner of the world, it doesn’t mean you can’t stay home and broaden your horizons. Because, with a little imagination, you might end up with a holiday to remember – and this time not for the fortune it cost you to get home.

You could enjoy the genuine pleasures which await in your own back yard – and we’re not talking kilts and haggis and a warm welcome at a Highland bed and breakfast. The truth is there’s no shortage of unusual ways to holiday in Scotland.

There’s currently a camping boom in the UK – 20,000 people sleeping under canvas on any given night during the summer – but pitching your tent at a commercial campsite is for wimps. So why not try wild camping?

Down South it wasn’t until relatively recently that the idea of wandering around the countryside, putting your tent up wherever you fancied, really took off. For a long time it was only tramps, dippy New Age travellers and those slightly weird survivalist types who indulged in the practice.

But in Scotland, thanks to the fact that there are effectively no trespass laws, we’ve been doing it for years. It has a lot to recommend it. It doesn’t cost you anything, it’s eco-friendly (providing you leave your campsite the way you found it), and it gives you the freedom to go where you please and do what you want, thus allowing the wild campers to avoid the commercial sites where the “mild campers” take their mobile homes and designer three-apartment tents.

Serious wild campers travel as light as is safe to do so and, as much as they can do, eat off the land. There are no wild camping sites (defeats the purpose) but the whole idea is to go wherever the notion takes you, be it the Cairngorms, the Knoydart peninsula or the Cuillin of Skye.

Of course, if you’re more used to lying on a Mediterranean beach for your holidays, then it might be an idea to prepare yourself before you tackle wild camping. Outdoor Extreme, an Ayrshire-based wilderness survival school, runs a special course for families. Parents and children as young as six learn survival techniques including how to build a shelter, how to light fires, trapping and snaring for food, campfire cooking, and navigation and mapwork. It’s a bit like the Boy Scouts but with real attitude.

Outdoor Extreme also runs a week-long adventure activity course on the Hebridean island of Taransay, the setting for the BBC series Castaway in 2000. Fun for all the family as you learn how to make knives and use them to gut and skin animals. OK, maybe not fun for ALL the family. Not cheap either at more than £700 per person.

If this is all too much for you, then you could always opt out and retreat to, er, a retreat. Maybe it’s a mutual affinity with the mountains, but Scotland has more than its fair share of Tibetan monasteries where people are invited to drop in and drop out of the rat race for a while.

Set in its own grounds, complete with waterfalls and ancient woodland, on the shores of Loch Voil in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, Dhanakosa Buddhist Retreat Centre offers worldly souls a chance to rest their weary minds as much as their bones.

The emphasis is on meditation but, depending on the course you choose, it’s combined with hillwalking, painting, tai chi, shiatsu, yoga, photography, poetry, clowning and (my personal favourite) sitting.

There is another Tibetan Buddhist monastery, Kagyu Samye Ling, at Eskdalemuir,  Dumfries-shire – the first in the western world when it opened in 1967 – which also operates as a meditation retreat.

Set up in 1931, Loch Ossian youth hostel is one of the oldest in Scotland. Seven years ago, after a £130,000 refurbishment, it became one of the most modern and environmentally-friendly buildings in Britain. So, if you want to do something about that nasty carbon footprint you made in your frantic efforts to get back to Scotland during the flight chaos, then you could always book in to this former boat house for your next holiday.

Situated high up on the roadless northern edge of Rannoch Moor, the eco-hostel is wind and solar powered and boasts composting dry toilets, a grey water drainage system and even bat-friendly paint. The hostel, which sleeps 20, runs on electricity and needs just 24 volts, the same as a car battery, to keep it going.

Finally, if you’re not impressed by any of these suggestions, and you want to maintain both your green credentials and your home comforts, then take a look at Wilderness Cottages, an environmentally-friendly company which offers everything from remote crofts in the Highlands to luxury apartments in a converted Benedictine abbey.

Their self-catering properties, mostly based around Loch Ness with others on the north-west coast and in Cairngorms National Park, are eco-friendly with recycling facilities, a compost heap and green cleaning materials and detergents. Almost all the cottages are pet-friendly and the owners, who have five labradors, encourage guests to bring their dogs with them.

For information about wild camping, check out thehappycampers.co.uk

Details about the retreats are at Samyeling.org and dhanakosa.com

The survival course website is outdoor-extreme.co.uk

The eco-friendly self-catering is Wildernesscottages.co.uk

Information about the Ossian eco-friendly youth hostel is at syha.org.uk