Professor Patrick Sutherland
Patrick Sutherland is a documentary photographer. He studied anthropology at Durham before undertaking the course in documentary photography in Newport with David Hurn and John Charity.
After Newport, he pursued a career as an independent photographer, working for editorial clients and developing his own personal documentary projects. His first book Wetland, with writer Adam Nicolson, resulted from two years living and working in the Somerset Levels. It received funding from the Welsh Arts Council and South West Arts, was exhibited at the National Museum of Photography, Film and Television in Bradford and then toured the country. The work was published in the Sunday Times Magazine and Granta and went on to win a small literary award. Numerous public documentary commissions followed. One project on modern agriculture, commissioned and exhibited by the Impressions Gallery in York, was published as the essay Farm Blight in the Independent Magazine and went on to win a World Press Photo Award. Patrick joined the University of the Arts in 1993 as course leader of the postgraduate diploma in photojournalism.
For nearly two decades Patrick has been working in and documenting the culturally Tibetan community of the Spiti Valley in North India. The project started as a photographic reportage, which eventually led to an international touring exhibition, the book Spiti the Forbidden Valley, with essay by the Tibetan filmmaker Tenzing Sonam and a dedication by Henri Cartier Bresson, magazine spreads and exhibition catalogues. The project received funding from LCC, the Arts Council and Cambridge University (Frederick Williamson Trust). More recently he has become interested in documenting Spiti sonically. A radio interview with LCC colleague Peter Cusack on Resonance FM and a broadcast of his early recordings led to funding from the British Library and an AHRC grant entitled The Spiti Sound Archive. The BBC World Service commissioned and broadcast a radio documentary called Breaking the Stone. Sound recording has also led Patrick to a more nuanced understanding of the social role of music and musicians in Spiti, which manifests in an interest in caste politics and the threatened community of lower caste performers. The archive of sound recordings is being deposited in the permanent collection of the British Library. Additionally the British Library has acquired a substantial collection of photographic prints and digital files.
A more recent and collaborative project on the Buchen, travelling lay religious theatrical performers unique to Spiti, was stimulated by their negative responses to his reportage photographs of them. One Buchen told him “Your photographs are so bad that when you leave, people tear them up and put them in the fire”. An AHRC grant led to fieldwork, an exhibition at the Pitt Rivers Museum, University of Oxford, and a book Disciples of a Crazy Saint, with Tashi Tsering, director of the Amnye Machen Research Institute in Dharamsala. (published by the Pitt Rivers Museum).
Patrick has recently been awarded a grant from the British Library / Arcadia funded Endangered Archives Project to survey the “narrative and ritual texts and narrative paintings of the Buchen of Pin Valley in Spiti”. This is the first of a two stage funding process and involved a fieldtrip in winter 2012, collaboration with the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in Dharamsala and the training and mentoring of researchers.
Patrick's work occupies a territory where documentary arts practice overlaps with anthropology. He has presented papers at anthropology conferences, lectures to various University anthropology courses and contributes regularly to the Visual Anthropology MA at Manchester.
As a result of a conference presentation to the International Association of Ladakh Studies in Rome, Patrick was invited to join a major multidisciplinary research fieldtrip to Western Tibet in 2010. The team included Dr Christian Jahoda (anthropologist and project leader from Austria), Prof Tsering Gyalpo (tibetologist from Tibet), Veronika Hein (linguist from Switzerland), Dr Christianne Papa Kalantari (art historian from Austria) and Dr. Hubert Feiglstorfer (architectural historian from Austria). The expedition was funded by the Austrian Academy of Science, Vienna, with grants from the Austrian Science Fund (FWF). Fieldwork permits and access were supported by the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences, Lhasa. A 292 page co-authored book on Khorchak monastery was published in China in early 2013 with Tibetan, Chinese and English texts. The book will also be published by the Austrian Academy of Sciences Press. A further fieldtrip to Western Tibet is planned for late 2013.
Patrick Sutherland is also directing The Elephant Vanishes, a long-term project documenting the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle. This project has involved the commissioning of acclaimed documentary photographer Paul Reas, several years of themed projects with LCC MA Photojournalism and Documentary Photography students, the production of exhibitions and several publications. Three exhibitions have been held at the Cuming Museum in Southwark. A trilogy of books entitled “Home”, “Community” and “Economy” has been edited from student outputs. Work from the project has been exhibited in numerous venues, from the now vanished subways of the south roundabout at the Elephant, and the infamous shopping centre to the Photographers Gallery and Tate Britain. Short films about the Elephant have been broadcast by Channel Four and the Guardian. The project has received major funding from Southwark Council, and additional support from Getty Images, LCC and the University of Wales, Newport. From A Distance, an extraordinary exhibition of photographs by Paul Reas was exhibited at LCC in October 2012, accompanied by a dedicated publication with commissioned essay by Giles Fraser, the Guardian’s “Loose Canon” columnist.
Future plans include extending this project to produce an exhibition of historical and contemporary photographic responses to the locality, bringing together the bodies of work taken by MAPJD students working on The Elephant Vanishes project and the commission by Paul Reas with other contemporary work, found photographs, photographs from the Blitz and historical images taken by Bert Hardy, Bill Brandt, Grace Robertson and others.
In May 2014, Patrick Sutherland was made a UAL Professor and an LCC Postgraduate Tutor.