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Recapturing Sixties Shetland

by Alastair Hamilton -

An exhibition of photographs from the 1960s, currently showing at the Bonhoga Gallery, in Weisdale, is proving very popular.

The collection of photographs is by Dennis Coutts, who has been practising as a photographer in Shetland since 1959. All the photographs in the show have been laboriously hand-printed in the darkroom by John Coutts, Dennis" son, resulting in a beautiful body of work, with over 50 striking images of life in pre-oil era Shetland. All the photographs are for sale, mounted and signed by Dennis. As part of the public opening of the exhibition on 18 January, Dennis gave an informal talk about his work. It was, as always, laced with wonderful anecdotes and drew on Dennis" encyclopaedic knowledge of Shetland.

On establishing his studio in the heart of Lerwick, Dennis worked as a commercial photographer, combining press photography with family portraiture, social reportage and his own interests in natural history and the landscape. His remarkable talent for composition is evident in all the work on show.

This exhibition marks the start of a busy year at Bonhoga, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the gallery, and the celebrations both begin and end with photography, because the last exhibition in 2014 will feature the work of Don McCullin, arguably the greatest war photographer of all time.

The Bonhoga Gallery presents exhibitions of every kind of visual and multi-media art by artists from Shetland and beyond. There are usually two shows at any one time, one of them in the main gallery and the other in the café, which – with its conservatory overlooking the stream – is also a very pleasant place to enjoy a light lunch or afternoon tea. There's also a small shop stocking an eclectic range of books, cards and art work. Not surprisingly, the gallery makes a very popular outing for local people and visitors to Shetland.

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