Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’
Finally I’m going to begin sharing some pictures with you from the great adventure we had a couple of weeks ago. We were following these majestic horses on their ride through the highlands, retracing the route of a chase that took place 200 years ago. The chase to recover a stolen horse, tracked by way of a broken horse shoe.
We may not have been able to quite emulated the sense and atmosphere of that original trek in some places, with our high visibility vests and uber-flashing magnetic sirens, when forced by necessity off the old drovers routes and onto the main arterial roads though the highlands.
But it was there at other times, the quiet times, with just horses, riders, mountains flanking on all sides, dramatic and menacing skies above. In the solidity of these beautiful animals. It was there in the kindness and generosity we received a long the way. In the hospitality of strangers who found beds for us all – horses, riders, support crew – and cooked us a breakfast for Kings (and Queens with healthy appetites) each morning. It was there in the rowdy beer filled bars, in racing across Rannoch Moor to meet the horses coming the other way. It was there in the relentless rain. And in spite of the relentless rain.
And watch out for more photos of it here.
I asked this Inverary gentleman if I could take his photo and he very kindly agreed. This was the first morning of the horse trek for us so, once the riders were in the saddle and off across the boggy moorland, we spent our morning drinking lattes in Inverary and buying gorgeous deli things. You can take the girls out the city but well…you know the rest.
There’s an exhibition of photos by August Sander at the Dean Gallery at the moment. Sander’s once said:
“Nothing is more abhorrent to me than sugary-sweet photography, full of pretense, poses and gimmickry. For this reason, I have allowed myself to tell the truth about our times and people in a sincere manner.”
I totally see where he’s coming from on the ‘sugary-sweet photography’ and given that he said this during the first half of the last century, I can’t imagine what he would think of photography nowadays. But it’s still quite a statement; to declare yourself a truth teller. I’m not sure whether it’s at all achieveable either, unless you were to append the words ‘as I see it’ to the end. Surely, ‘truth’ is just perspective driven by conviction.
What I found interesting about the exhibition though was that there was something very egalitarian about the way a lot of the portraits are posed and presented. With a 21st Century eye, I couldn’t immediately tell the class or profession of a lot of the subjects and relied on the labels ‘Gentleman Farmer’, ‘Philosopher’, ‘Writer’ or my particular favourite ‘The Woman of Progressive Intellect’ (was there only one??) for explanation.
So here’s my 21st Century equivalent. ‘Drunk Man’. I’m open to debate here, and I’m thinking of going along to the Still’s Democratic Camera Club on Thursday which will discuss this very subject, but without the title, could you tell that this picture was taken recently? Even with the title, is this truthful and sincere? I’m saying he was drunk but bottles of White Stripe cider and tenants lager cans aside, I never breathalyzed the guy so can’t say for sure. Even if he was, is it a fair summary to label him such. I wonder if Sander’s ‘The Cretin’ might feel equally short changed.
With the Filmhouse exhibition now sadly over, it’s time to think about what’s next. One upcoming project is the epic horse ride through the Scottish highlands with John Nelson and team in May, which I will hopefully be documenting in photographs. The photo in this post was taken while out feeding the sheep on the Nelson family farm near Crossmichael, Castle Douglas on Christmas Day.
John discovered an interesting story in the family archives about a grey mare stolen from an ancestor’s farm which was then tracked through a large chunk of west coast Scotland and eventually recovered by way of a missing half horseshoe and the distinctive tracks this left. The thief in question was the last man hanged in Scotland for horse stealing and in May, John will recreate this epic ride with a team of elegant heavy horses, including a stunning Clydesdale, beginning at the foot of Loch Lomond, travelling up through Glencoe and finally ending in Inverary, and the jail in which the thief was finally imprisoned.
My inspiration for this project will be the incredible photographer, Ragnar Axelsson, who documented the dramatic relationship between man and landscape in his photos from the wilds of Iceland and Greenland. The stark black and white images are extraordinarily powerful; the landscape, hostile and awe-inspiring, the life, arduous and heroic. This will be my top tier of inspiration and aspiration for this project.