It gives us great pleasure to present some of the work which has been made by the participants on our photography courses over the last four years. The work we showcase here was produced participants on our Develop your Narrative course in September, 2019.
We welcomed Kevin Holmes, a keen amateur photographer from Yorkshire, to our Develop your Narrative course in summer 2019, and he produced a body of work which had us thinking and reflecting about things beyond photography.
Kevin brought with him his Buddhist beliefs, and made work around many of the key themes, ideas – and even words – which underpin that faith. Easdale seemed to be the perfect location to make a piece of reflective work, and by using the richness and diversity of the local environment, Kevin was able to illustrate his ideas with subtlety and skill. As well as picking out small details, Kevin also brought the subject to life by looking towards the horizon and including some interesting and original landscapes within the piece he produced.
It is often difficult to communicate ambient ideas into visual meaning, but Kevin succeeded in his mission. We were able to talk him through methods we suggest to help participants thread together their stories. Carefully crafting an edit of the images so that each photograph complements the previous and next ones allows a story to flow and breathe is key to that process. Kevin’s strong themes made his photos illustrative without being didactic and allow the viewer to make their own interpretation of what the work was alluding to.
Kevin was kind enough to share some of his impressions of the course with us: “Easdale is a complex little outpost in the Hebrides, lots of industrial history from the slate trade visible all around and very photogenic, sea, slate and deep watery quarries, and now a rural idyll with whitewashed cottages and a fiercely independent community. The course was three immersive days focused not around technique per se although I, as a novice, learnt a lot, but rather about how the image tells a story to the viewer whoever he or she may be….”
THE WHEEL OF LIFE
We were delighted to welcome back Sue MacDougall to Easdale island last year. Sue had been one of our participants on our original course back in 2016 and in the meantime had been developing her practice, which is mainly built around beautiful landscapes taken around Argyll, where she lives.
For the Develop you Narrative course, Sue chose to focus her attention on islander Mike MacKenzie, a long-time resident of Easdale and his woodworking business which he runs on the island. Here, Sue takes up the story:
“I invested in my first Nikon DSLR camera four years ago, and with a view to learning more about my camera and making the transition from automatic to manual, I signed up for one of the first residential courses Colin and Adam ran in 2016. With their supportive tuition I successfully made the transition and used the knowledge I had acquired about composition, rule of thirds, leading lines, and making portraits to move my photography on to a different level.
With the intention of challenging myself and developing my photography further, I signed up for the course in September last year. My initial plan had been to do a project about the wild flowers growing on Easdale particularly the ones growing in unusual places like the slate and derelict buildings whilst finding a way to incorporate landscapes, the area of photography I feel comfortable with.
However, Colin introduced me to one of Easdale residents, Mike MacKenzie. I was immediately struck by what an interesting face Mike had. I spontaneously asked Mike if I could photograph him! Mike agreed and I took some shots at his home and then at his workshop. The photos from Mike’s workshop formed my project, MacKenzie at Work.
Photographing Mike took me way out of my comfort zone. However, I thought about previous discussions with Colin and Adam about how to approach photographing people. The importance of being able to put the person at ease, engaging in conversation whilst simultaneously assessing how to take the best shot. I found the lighting challenging but took my time experimenting with my camera settings and taking my time to compose shots whilst engaging Mike in conversation and checking with him if he was still comfortable with me being there. Having the opportunity to photograph Mike, although challenging, was inspiring and fun! It was very satisfying to create a body of work about a specific person. It was a steep but fascinating learning curve.
During both the courses I have attended with Colin and Adam I have absorbed so much about photography and my approach and understanding of the photographic process has deepened. I have drawn on and continue use to draw on their knowledge of documentary photography and their own fascinating personal work projects.”
MACKENZIE AT WORK
Jill Jennings is a professional photographer based in the north west of England. She joined us on the course as she wanted to get away and work on something creative which was not rooted in her commercial practice. Over the two days, she produced this lyrical and poetic piece. Here she explains the thinking and inspiration behind the work.
“Driving south from Oban I reach the coast, nothing in the weather up until now had prepared me for the wildness of the waves pounding into the shoreline fuelled by the wind and scrawling showers. I stopped the car, on the horizon an island lay with its point out to sea, – it must be Easdale. I took my first photo though the rain splattered windscreen. It seemed like a huge leap of faith that I was to spend the next three days in such a place.
A day later and I’m looking from shore towards Mull and the mainland. The crashing waves and wind are unrelenting, signs of erosion all around, e.g. the the pier that was washed away, the slate mines that were flooded and stopped production 100+ years ago leading to the decline of the industry that once thrived on this tiny island.
Meanwhile the slate lays everywhere, black, glistening and forboding. There are symbols everywhere you look – triangles, abandoned roofs, quarries, angles, corners, warning signs, there’s human traces, and nature reclaiming an industrial past . There are whitewashed cottages, islanders going about their everyday and even sunshine.
Something magical about being on the island liberates my mind from everyday stresses and routines and I’m free to create. I’m encouraged though the structure of the course to find visual narratives. So I wander in this landscape open to interpretation and respond to it according to how I feel inside, thinking in part of my sons’ leaving home to pursue their lives and how that will impact, but also aware of the power of nature – am I looking out or looking in?
On the last day we are asked to make a slide presentation. I call it Power Surge.
I find a poem in the Island Museum called Aftermath written by Wendy Blakey, an islander, about the ending of a storm, and read this out along with my work. ”