Swapping Summerhall for Sierra Leone

This month, I’ve swapped my studio in Summerhall for the altogether warmer climes of Sierra Leone. I first went in 2014 with a Scottish architecture / construction charity, OrkidStudio, to take some photos of a new girls school they were building in Kenema. I instantly fell in love with Sierra Leone, but shortly after I returned to Scotland, was devastated to hear about the Ebola outbreak in the region I was just in. When I looked at my photos I would wonder how my new friends there were coping with this tragic pandemic, and feel helpless to their fight.

Swawou pupil in the new school

One of the Swawou School girls in her new classroom.


George Pitcher

Today is George Pitcher’s funeral. 

In 2013 I photographed him for my Southsiders project.  He was a man who was always on a mission, in a time when the Church of England are saying that voting is a moral issue, he was the embodiment of what I think they are getting at.  Its not that everyone should vote, its that politically everybody should engage and this is exactly what he did.  On a local level he saw the wrongs in life and fought hard to right them, he saw that he could make a difference rather than waiting for someone to come and do it for him.  He ruffled feathers, he probably was wrong about things at times but what he did was do it, he put him self out there and stood for something he believed in. 

Thank you George for everything, you inspired me.

George Pitcher, Community Activist  Southsiders: Portrait of a Community is an artistic project by Peter Dibdin using both photography and audio, in print and online to celebrate and explore perceptions around the identity of the Southside community of Edinburgh, Scotland.  All 32 portraits and their audio narratives can be viewed at http://www.edinburghsouthsiders.co.uk   Thirty-eight people who live, work or have a connection to the city's Southside area have generously given their time to be photographed by Edinburgh based photographer Peter Dibdin in locations holding a special significance for them.  Each participant has also recorded the audio story behind their portrait to uncover the moving, inspirational and significant contribution the Southside makes to the history and heritage of Edinburgh.

George Pitcher

EMPOWERMENT – Social change through building

Empowerment is Orkidstudio’s exhibition at the Lighthouse in Glasgow.  Orkid commissioned me to take a series of portraits during their build of a new school for the Swawou School Foundation in Kenema, Sierra Leone.  I photographed and interviewed a whole cross section of people who were affected by the build, from pupils at the school, workers on site and architecture student volunteers  there to help with the build and exchange skills with the local tradesmen.  Some of the resulting portraits and also my documentation of the build form part of Orkid’s new exhibition “Empowerment – Social change through building” at the Lighthouse in Glasgow along side many of Orkidstudios other projects.

I took 47 portraits in total, all of them can be viewed at the front of my website with the invaluable help from Musa Konneh, one of the kindest gentlemen you could find.

4 days after we left the 4 bodies of people who had sadly died of Ebola, where bought in to Kenema hospital and the pandemic exploded.  It closed all the schools in the country and halted the build for the school, which is now looking slightly overgrown, but Orkid will get back there and finish the job off.  My thoughts are with all these people who are suffering great hardship under the threat of Ebola.

Swawou School provide free quality education in a child-friendly learning environment to disadvantaged girls from the Swawou community of Kenema town, eastern Sierra Leone.

Orkidstudio is dedicated to exploring and developing the connection between architecture and humanitarian aid.

Musa Jaward

Belong. National Theatre of Scotland 2015 season launch

I was commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland to create a series of portraits of communities throughout Scotland to help illustrate their 2015 season.  They realised that each of their plays next year hinges on an idea of community apart from one, Muriel Sparks The Drivers Seat which has a distinct lack of one.  Each portrait represents the community portrayed in the play.

BELONG is a unique photographic essay created to accompany the announcement of the National Theatre of Scotland’s January to June 2015 Season. Working with the distinguished photographer Peter Dibdin, we met members of some of Scotland’s diverse communities. In seeking out the community members, we looked for synergies with the productions in our 2015 Season. While they were being photographed, we asked the subjects of the portraits to tell us a little about what it’s like to be part of a community.

“Tribes, families, clans and gangs have their joys and their challenges; we’ve taken that as our touchstone for our 2015 season of work,” says Artistic Director, Laurie Sansom. “In this diverse season we meet families ferociously fighting for survival, witness national loyalties challenged, confront cultural  customs and observe a woman with no ties, recreating herself before our eyes. These are stories of communities under pressure from within, friends and family rallying round, and people making incredible journeys to escape and invent new identities. This year we hope you will join us to explore what it means to feel part of gang, or out there on your own…”

Assistant credits: Cat Thomson and Alice Myers.

Yer Granny

Yer Granny

Scottish Ensemble new season Photography

Earlier in the year I worked on the photography for the Scottish Ensemble’s new season with O Street.  I was given a brief to create some images that would have a fashion edge to the portraits, I really enjoyed trying to get the performers to give me some attitude and get them to posture for the lens.  I had to stitch two coloramas together to get a cove big enough to shoot groups in.  A great company to work with in the studio and then after they let me on stage during a rehearsal at the Queen’s Hall with Chris, my assistant following me round with a flash on a stick to get the latter images.  The resulting images in the brochure look fantastic, lovely design by Andy at O Street.

Make up: Charlotte Condliffe

Assistant: Chris Gillies

Jonathan Morton Artistic Director and Leader of the Scottish Ensemble

Jonathan Morton Artistic Director and Leader of the Scottish Ensemble

Sierra Leone portraits part 1

Recently I traveled to Sierra Leone with my wife Becky and daughter Suki to photograph for two charities in the third largest city, Kenema. The first was Swawou School Foundation who provide free quality education in a child friendly learning environment to disadvantaged girls from the Swawou community of Kenema town, eastern Sierra Leone.  The second Orkidstudio is dedicated to exploring and developing the connection between architecture and humanitarian aid. Their projects seek to help young people and communities worldwide, inspiring a sense of pride and ambition, through innovative and sustainable design. They work on a voluntary basis taking groups of architecture students to work along side locally based tradesmen. This makes for an amazing catalyst for a cross cultural exchange of ideas and building techniques.

Orkid Studio are currently building a new school for Swawou, with a solid roof and brick walls on a beautiful, peaceful site which will be a huge change from the temporary structure, next to a busy market, built from sticks and woven palm leaves that the school is currently housed in.

I did not ask anyone to pose for these images letting them stand at will and lit them with a couple of speed lights and home made light shapers created on location.

Swawou School student Hawa Soyoh

Hawa Soyoh one of the Swawou School students infront of her home.


Wyckham Porteous

I Photographed Wyckham Porteous earlier this week.  Wyckham is over here in Edinburgh creating a musical interpretation of George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  We shot some publicity photographs for him here in Summerhall at the small animal hospital.  Here is the information about the production in his own words:

Songs of Orwell Farm
         (an homage)
Written in the shadows of the Royal Dick, this adaptation of Animal Farm is opera in idea and a bit rock n roll in execution.
Real it’s about tyranny, the kind that shows itself in everyday living.
The promise that is broken and the deals that get struck by those that can.
We are all beasts in nature and each of us serves a master.
Wyckham Porteous shot by Peter Dibdin Photographer.

David Ward Portrait

David Ward Portrait

I have just started a new project photographing English immigrants in Scotland, I am interested in what it means to be Scottish from their perspective.  I am following the same principle as the Edinburgh Southsiders project I am recording a short interview with the sitter.  I am trying to keep away from the yes/no debate and concentrate on a more holistic idea of identity.  I hope it will shine light on the identity of the largest group of immigrants in Scotland and also create an interesting perspective of Scottish identity in this year of a referendum.  My initial portrait is of David Ward, Rector at Hutchesons’ Grammar School and is the current Convener of the Saltire Society.  I am very luck to be working with Mark Vernon, Sound Artist and Audio producer who is recording and co-conducting the interviews.  We will be creating a website with all the portraits and interviews as well in the near future.

If you would like to get involved or know anyone who would be good, please get in touch.

David Ward Portrait, Convener of The Saltire Society for a new portrait project by Edinburgh photographer Peter Dibdin on English immigrants in Scotland


Portrait of Jerry Gretzinger

This morning I had a great pleasure of taking Jerry Gretzinger‘s portrait with his amazing map artwork.  What an amazing and inspirational 79 year old.  If you’re in Edinburgh from the 6th of December 2013 to the 24th of January 2014 come along to Summerhall to see it, you won’t be disappointed.


Portrait of Jerry Gretzinger at Summerhall with his map, by Peter Dibdin Photographer based at Summerhall in Edinburgh Scotland

Jerry Gretzinger at Summerhall with his map, by Peter Dibdin Photographer based at Summerhall in Edinburgh Scotland