As many of you will know, my image making is focused on the tiny Loch Cill Chriosd on the road from Broadford to Elgol on the Isle of Skye.
“The north wind was chill, and on the upper slopes of Beinn na Cailliche we found little shelter from it. Upon Loch Cille Chriosd, in Strath Suardal, immediately beneath us, the breath of the breeze could be seen to stir the waters, and dark flurries hurried southward in unending succession across the loch.” (Gordon 1929:12).
The Ephemeral Hiddenness of Skye is a personal exploration of my life story through being in and photographing aspects of the landscape which allows me to reflect on my own inner life: confronting the chaos of death and destruction during my time as a police photographer; the remnants and vulnerability of my youth and the solitude of adulthood when parents are gone. I find myself drawn back to this special Island time and again and in particular Loch Cill Chriosd – a tiny, reed-filled patch of water on the road from Broadford to Elgol.
I am seeking to capture those fleeting, transitory moments that reveal the essence, rather than a simple visual or literal representation of the Island. Whilst many will see the sea, lochs, mountains and moors – the sensible properties of Skye, it is not these I am seeking but those that transcend individual experience. I am looking to capture the ‘otherness’ of its geography, the vulnerability of its ecology and its ephemeral hiddenness. Those glimpses are when Skye reveals itself to me: its mystery, fragility and resilience. However, it is more than this – I see the Island as a metaphor for me – while being very quiet, solitary and contemplative as a photographer and as an individual, I believe I am also resilient and strong in the face of the challenges life deals me.
Seeking and finding the ephemeral hiddenness of Skye, through my imagery, is an ongoing life’s work and this Final Major Project forms only a brief staging post in my quest. My current work is submitted through a number of outputs including my images in this portfolio, two exhibitions on Skye, a film about me and my work, and a newly-designed and integrated website and blog.
“All that we see dissipates, moves on. Nature is always the same, but nothing of her remains, nothing of what appears before us. Our art must provide some fleeting sense of her permanence, with the essence, the appearance of her changeability.” (Cezanne in Spira 2017: 48).
These images, a new body of work created almost exclusively during FMP, are the result of many hours spent in contemplation, observing the natural world and writing in my Journal. The Loch reveals different shapes, patterns and forms and as I gaze across and into the surface of the Loch, the real Skye emerges for a moment and then is gone.
I have chosen to present my work in black and white to simplify and reduce the distraction in my images and to better represent the depth and luminosity under the Loch’s surface. Colour can be an overwhelming visual element that dominates perception and obscures the reality of Skye.
In most of my images I have chosen a square format. The square format lends itself to a simple approach – my photographic practice of spending many hours in the landscape, allows me to think carefully about the simplicity of each composition. I want the viewer to be guided around the image, to attend to those aspects that resonate with them and to spend time contemplating the reality revealed in the photograph. The square format is contained and allows the photographer to capture the viewer and encourage them to linger. Excessive space in any direction may allow the eye to wander away from the subject and become lost in ‘dead’ space or move out of the image altogether. And finally, I believe that square format black and white photographs form a beautiful combination. A photograph that relies on tonal contrast for impact, and emphasises visual elements such as line, shape and form is, I believe, a classic and stunning realisation of the black and white image.
The sequencing of my images is designed to take the viewer on a journey through the light and shade of the Loch, through both calm and turbulent waters, and through static and dynamic movement into a visual space that is both memorable and timeless.
My work represents fragments of a waking dream and my aesthetic and shooting choices reflect this. The images capture those fleeting moments, when the heart of the Island and the Loch, offer up a glimpse of the essence of Skye.
CEZANNE, P. in SPIRA, Rupert. 2017. The Transparency of Things. Contemplating the Nature of Experience. Oakland: New Harbinger.
GORDON, Seton. 1929. The Charm of Skye: the Winged Isle. London: Cassell and Company Ltd.