A photography graduate searching for a striking subject for his final degree show found exactly what he was looking for when he drove through Methil last year.
“I was with a friend from Fife who was showing me some of the villages and we had to drive through Methil,” said Gregor Schmatz. “I knew pretty immediately I could shoot here.”
Now working as a freelance photographer since finishing his photography degree at Edinburgh Napier University, Gregor was determined not to play up to any preconceived ideas about Methil or settle for stereotypical images of the town.
“I was told about its reputation but when I looked around I knew there were a lot of places worse than Methil,” he said.
“However, while some of my pictures may be negative, they are not negative about the people.”
Originally from Germany, Gregor grew up in Luxembourg then spent a year in Australia before coming to Scotland to do his degree.
While some of my pictures may be negative, they are not negative about the people
Speaking about his Methil work in an interview the Document Scotland collective of photographers, he said: “I knew that there was a lot to explore visually, just interesting photos to be found. But I also liked the project because it is of contemporary interest on a national and UK-wide basis, I could sell this project in different ways.
“But the subject matter was different from what I had done before, so I also had to adjust and think things through a bit more. Plus after four years in Edinburgh I am very happy I ended the course with a particularly Scottish project.”
Gregor says he shoots his pictures instinctively and when it came to Methil he wanted to focus on the everyday and not on the extreme.
In his introduction to the show he describes Methil an overlooked Scottish town.
Explaining the description, Gregor said it was simply that most people had not heard of Methil, or if they did, it was something bad.
He said there were many places like Methil, “unknown towns, which actually have a huge history but lost their industry and slowly became increasingly desolate.”
As far as he knows only a few people from the town have seen his pictures and he does not have contact for others that are featured.
“They liked the images, but they were also surprised at some of the images,” he said.
“I think it was just a bit strange for them to see a series of images about their town, places they see everyday.”
Gregor got into photography when he bought an SLR camera before setting off on his travels and his first serious project, Amerikanare, was exhibited in Boston and published in magazines.
And he does not see his Methil project as ended - he plans to expand the series to the wider Levenmouth area.
To see Gregor’s work go to www.gregorschmatz.co.uk