Scottish Artist Profile: Simon Murphy

Festival Queen by Simon Murphy

The winner of this year’s photography Scottish Portrait Awards is an innovative artist who reinvents the way we look at portraiture.

The Scottish Portrait Awards (SPA) are an important part of Edinburgh’s, as well as Scotland’s, art scene especially in circles concerned with traditional artistic values.

This year’s winners reaffirms the importance of the award. Their work is powerful and unquestionably resonates with audiences of diverse backgrounds.

This year’s photography award was given to Simon Murphy, a Glaswegian professional photographer, who has recently decided to approach his vocation in an interesting way.

Simon started working for The Herald as a staff photographer 10 years ago. Through his work, he travelled a lot and also spent a lot of time in Edinburgh, observing the atmosphere and specific character of the city. While working in the media, Simon understood that the need for a connection with the internal world of the subject was something that was missing, or as least has been sanitised in the commercial world.

Murphy puts it like this: “You don’t get to move beyond a certain point with photographs for newspapers. You just need a cover of a spread, you don’t go a bit deeper. Now this is what I’m trying to do with my portraiture, get closer.”

The winning photograph is of Alan Tanner. Simon met him in a cafe, and initially noticed Tanner, because: “Whenever I decide on subjects, I’m always drawn to characters” and asked him if he could photograph him.

Alan Tanner by Simon Murphy, winning portrait

Ultimately their collaboration continued and evolved into the spontaneous, raw and evocative winning piece. The portrait lets us catch a glimpse of Alan’s essence while containing the integrity of his internal intimate world.

The photograph is then, according to Simon, not only about the way he wanted to compose the image, but also about Alan’s input into the creative process: “Sometimes in photography pieces, you learn more about the photographer than the subject, and I’m trying to avoid that and reveal the character of my subject.”

Danny by Simon Murphy

Simon Murphy’s latest project is a series of photographs from the neighbourhood where he grew up, and regards as his home, Govanhill. The pieces have an interesting collective political impact, since the area is perceived to be unsafe. The artist’s personal approach to his work correlates with his sense of community. The future of the project lays in a street-level exhibition, which would later on contribute to the development of a book.

You can see the SPA exhibition in The Scottish Arts Club.

Since the winners were announced, the fine art exhibition is open from 10:30am to noon, and photography: 10:30 to noon and 2 to 5pm.

The Scottish Arts Club is located at 24 Rutland Square, Edinburgh EH1 2BW.