I was recently put in touch with one Rachel Frost of @thecraftybeggars She is a maker of all things fine and crafted, primarily hats, often for the world of historic re-enactment. She also likes to work on some rather more adventurous fine art projects and we thought we could both work on a project.
This eventually culminated in a shoot of some wonderful Skekler outfits she had created for a workshop she was running in Edinburgh. There’s not much known about the Skeklers or ‘straw men’ but it’s thought to derive from a tradition based in Shetland during Halloween and other celebration periods. There’s a great piece on them in a Document Scotland page that gives a bit more background and showcases a project initiated by Glasgow photographer Gemma Ovens.
Myself and Rachel took her outfits to Yellowcraigs beach as it was a suitable canvas to show something as otherworldly as the Skeklers outfits. My artist friend Hazel Terry and Rachels friend and dancer Sara were up for playing the part.
As well as a grand day with them both I later went with my wife Krista to a darker forest where we created a rather more sinister version around burnt trees. While there a man passed with a Harris Hawk sitting on his arm, it fitted the moment perfectly.
Sometimes when you’re given a brief your heart just sinks. Sometimes it beats faster. This was definitely a case of the latter.
I’ve long loved shooting theatre projects and this production was no different. The brief was clear, based on an earlier pre production illustration created by Edinburgh Agency, Do, create a poster image for the Edinburgh Lyceum / Citizens Theatre co-production show showing the principal actor Kirsty Stuart as The Duchess, standing in a pool of blood that’s soaking into her dress.
There was a lot of talk about the best way to do this and I quickly decided that we had to do it for real as far as we could with a natural reflection of her in the blood. You’ll be glad to hear I drew the line at a visit to the butchers. Fortunately Allan Ramsay from the Lyceum turned up at my studio replete with 5 litres of the red stuff, so convincing it was hard to tear your eyes away from it once it spilled out onto the ground. I was relieved it just smelled of sugar, being made of no more than corn syrup and colouring. Before it was poured out I did all the lighting and composition tests so we could focus on getting the blood element right.
It took some time to spread around, Kirsty stoically not moving an inch, so when we were finally ready we couldn’t hang about. Kirsty channeled her Duchess perfectly so it didn’t take long to capture the right image. I then just had to shoot the wider edges of the pool of blood and piece it all together.
The cleanup was almost as dramatic as the shoot. I hauled the sheet covered in drying blood outside where I could clean it off into the drain. If you’ve not seen it, my car park area is surrounded by the backs of housing, literally hundreds of windows looking down at this. I half expected a visit from the men in blue.
The Duchess sounds pretty epic. It’s a 17th century play, although it’s a new version by Zinnie Harris after John Websterby. Check out the Lyceum info here.
More Hebridean adventures, with tea from a 128 year old…..
Here’s a few fun images from my recent jaunt to Harris Distillery on the Outer Hebrides. This year my wife Krista came along for a ‘holiday’ and to maybe help out ‘just a wee bit’. Didn’t quite happen that way. She was with me for most of the trip dangling lights off boats, running away from monster waves and hauling gear around warehouses. Still it’s always a pleasure to meet up with the Hearachs again and introduce Krista. It may be a job but I’m meeting with folk that are more friends than clients. Myself and Krista had some fine adventures with even a bit of time at the end for a trip down to Rodel and then over to Skye for a few days.
So, much as I should, I never seem to get around to exhibiting my work, it just ends up Facebook and Instagram or my website and thats it. Well I challenged that and submitted a couple of favourite Mythoslogos images into the RSA Open Exhibition 2018 which is held every year their beautiful centrepiece gallery on the Mound in Edinburgh. I’m pleased that both got accepted and I even managed to sell a couple on the same day. It’s really a wonderful exhibition of very diverse and skilled work from a huge pool of artists so I was delighted to be involved. It fairly got my thoughts turning and I’m determined to do more exhibiting.
It’s on until the 25th of July 2018 so do get along and catch it before it’s over, it’s free to enter and has a damn fine cafe and shop to boot..
The other day I found a box of beautiful stones I’d taken off the beach 20 years ago. I decided to finally let them go, so left them them outside at the foot of a tree in the field by the house. Just a few days later quite by chance I found myself joining in at a stone stacking championships at the beach in Dunbar. I’d occasionally liked to create Andy Goldsworthy style pieces with stones but never put much thought into it. Watching the competitors on the first day make some amazing artworks, I thought what the hell! It looks too much like fun and I saw that there were several other total novices that were having a go. So the next day I found myself along with about 25 others, trying to see how many stones I could stack in 20 minutes. As soon as I started I realised it’s totally addictive. I had our dog with me so couldn’t join in the 2 hour artistic creation part but come hell or high water I will have a go next year.
It was all very low key, just in it’s third year and organised by one James Craig Page, a Dunbar artist and stone stacker himself. Check out the event website… The overall winner Pedro Duran, who also won last year and wins a flight to the world championships in Texas. It seemed all the winners are old friends but it was good to see some locals also get placed. Very inspired by John Earnshaw who drove up from Lancashire to compete despite being a total novice. He, like me, just wanted to have a go. I loved that it was such a friendly event. The artworks seemed to invite folk to chat with strangers around them and I met so many nice people.
It’s not very widely advertised and it needs proper publicity so I hope this might encourage a few more folk to come along next year. Now I’m just heading out to find my pile of beautiful stones and take them back in the house. Got to get practicing!
I recently visited the Gallery of Modern Art in Edinburgh, a regular haunt. They are currently showing some incredible work by the acclaimed Scottish artist, Jenny Saville I remember her work when she first gained wide recognition over 20 years ago but hadn’t seen much for years. I was totally blown away and would recommend a visit. You really need to see the images in their larger than life scale to appreciate them. The wild textural style seems at odds with the subtlety of the overall final painting from a distance.
While there I saw some of the Francis Bacon images they hold in their permanent collection. I’ve always loved the abstraction in his work and like Saville I’m so impressed that brush strokes so seemingly wild can result in art so nuanced. I’ve always felt a little frustrated that those contradictory qualities are harder to capture in photography. I have been playing around with light from a projector and I calculated I could use it’s qualities to allow more unpredictability and abstraction into my work . I’ve never seen anyone else using light in quite this way and was unsure if my late night pondering on the technique would come to anything.
I first tried lighting a moving model during a long exposure in the studio and liked the outcome, especially the lack of control over what the final image would look like. I then tried shooting a self portrait, largely for the want of a suitable (slightly!) craggy face that would work well for this approach. All rather hard to do while holding the camera at the same time! All this from a man who can’t abide ‘the selfie’. The self portrait has a look of something highly edited but I love that this image is straight from the camera unedited other than a crop. The rather wild look of the image is captured raw in both senses! A couple of days later I was shooting a theatre image for my friend Matthew Zajac and managed to sneak in another projector portrait of him at the end of our shoot.
I’m not sure where all this might lead, I’m always inclined to jump around stylistically but I really enjoyed the lack of control inherent within the process which I think allows more to come from the sitters in that moment. Anything that challenges your normal practices, especially after 30 tears of shooting is very welcome. I also just love to play!
A good while back I saw a couple of amazing paintings at the RSA in Edinburgh. A friend of mine introduced me to the artist, one Kirsty Whiten. She specialises in powerful surreal images, ritualistic, symbolic paintings I felt strongly drawn to. We ended up meeting and got along. I persuaded her to appear in one of my photographs. Loving her work I wanted to reference it in my own image somehow. She invited me up to her amazing home studio in Fife then on for a traipse around some local spots Kirsty thought might be a good location for a picture. Eventually we ended up in an amazing forest that was full of sink holes and mini caves in Blebo woods. This seemed like the perfect location to capture something otherworldly. The elemental quality of the location made me decide to use fire in the image. We took a couple of test shots in a shallow cave and headed home.
The forthcoming shoot was in my mind to the extent I ended up dreaming about it. In my dream the location was different, in a much deeper cave with a lower cave within the main cave that was full of people that we had to negotiate with before being able to take the photograph. When we arrived back at the location for the shoot Kirsty mentioned that there was a second cave nearby if I wanted to see it. We ended up heading over and as soon as I stepped inside I was surprised to see the cave you see, one with a deeper lower cave at the back, just like in my dream. Naturally we ended up taking the images in there.
The smell and atmosphere in the cave made it one of the most otherworldly and intense places I’ve ever shot in, even more so when we began to light up the balls of fire. It’s a tricky process all about subtle timing but that intensity helped in a way. As well as Kirsty portrayed as Tatwari, ‘a god of fire and shaman of ancient times,’ I took a couple of other images of her as well as the cave alone which is the one I keep getting drawn back to.
Now it’s been officially released I can let you have a peek at an extremely fun shoot I was commissioned to do for the Royal National Theatre’s production of Common back in January. It stars Anne-Marie Duff as Marianne and is set around 1800. They wanted to portray it in period and on location. Logistically it was decided to shoot it in London so I had an assistant recce a few spots that would give us that wilderness look without an epic amount of travel. So thats how I ended up getting the sleeper down from Edinburgh to be picked up by assistant Keir then off to Chingford Plain on a chilly morning in the first week of January.
There I met up with Liam Relph and Ollie Wisner the creative team at NT. We stomped about and found the right location before Anthony turned up with his mighty fine crows fresh from a stint with Doctor Who. After a good while for costume, hair and make-up I got to meet Anne-Marie out in the field. Straight away it was apparent she’s very down to earth and great to work with. We took shots in a couple of locations , which took a while as I had to cater for the dread, ‘side of a bus’ and ‘drop banner’ crops, every photographers nightmare!. That’s why the shot below is a stitch of about 6 shots to cater for the huge crops.
Apart from the laptop dying of cold half way through we had no mishaps. The crows performed right on cue every time which helped reduce much need to photoshop elements after. Anthony even had a choice of crow if we wanted one to fly, flap wings or just sit still. I made the shoot much less stressful than I anticipated. I think thats ‘Flamingo’ on her arm.
Been busy with commercial work in the second half of last year and got a bit frustrated at a lack of personal projects being ready to go. Especially over the Christmas holiday with so much free time. So I decided to do a few more in my nudes series as it’s so quick to put together and still a highly creative process. I planned a shoot with a model who shall remain nameless, who decided to bow out late the night before. Then totally by chance another model announced she was free, in Edinburgh the next day and would I like to shoot? Curious that her model name is ‘Angel’.
I had always planned to try out more experiments with projecting images. It’s tricky as even with a fancy powerful projector the light level is remarkably low requiring high iso and wide aperture, not the usual favourite of photographers unless you’re looking for that. Regardless I like the results and will continue the series some more. I’d love to be able to use flash with projected images but I’ve never heard of a system that allows it. Anyone?
So I’ve been shooting an ongoing project for several months. A lovely commission to shoot many award winning apprentices for Skills Development Scotland. This recently involved a road trip up to Inverness then onto Aberdeen and then a hop over to Shetland. I’m not long back and can’t yet share any of the images from that shoot as the campaign isn’t up and running yet. However, I did manage to have a few hours spare at the end of the Shetland shoot before flying home. I asked some locals where the most dramatic bit of coastline was within an hours drive. They pointed me in the direction of Eshaness in the north so thats where I headed with my camera.
I realise now I never quite arrived there, after 50 minutes of driving across a beautiful barren landscape of deserted homes and sporadic colourful villages I turned a corner and found the bay overlooking Hillswick from Urafirth. It was so beautiful and dramatic looking into the light that I was happy to stop there, get out and explore. To be honest I didn’t at the time know if this was Eshaness or not, what with no mobile reception and scant road signs. With the wild remoteness of it all it seemed fitting not to know quite where I was.
I wandered down past a abandoned house complete with a very creepy pair of children shoes left at the end of the road, like something out of an Edgar Allen Poe story. I wondered if it was something thats done to mark an abandoned home, then realised I was being too dramatic and it was probably just a forgotten pair of shoes. Spooky and poignant all the same.
I walked along the clifftops for an hour or so with a wild wind forcing foam and rain up the wall of the cliff into my face and lens, then the clouds would part and it would be perfect sunshine for a minute before returning to a torrent of rain again, then back to sun again, over and over. I found my eyes constantly being drawn to the Jagged rocks breaking the surface of the sea in the distance, the light changing the same view dramatically every few minutes.
I had a two hour drive back to Sumburgh for my flight and managed to check my bags, just allowing time to take the hire car down to visit the coastline by the monumental lighthouse nearby. Despite being the most notable spots to visit I saw not another soul out walking, the only tourist about I was aware of was me.
Definitely have to go back and spend more time exploring. It’s bleak and barren quality is weirdly compelling and Lerwick has some beautiful wee corners. The whole island is a photographers dream.
I just added a few of my remaining Shadow double exposure portraits to my website so I just thought Id mention it on my blog. I haven’t really done more work on this in quite a while but there are a few that haven’t been added to the site and every now and then I think of an idea and will often return to the basic portraits and try to combine them with something different. That produced the shot of Anaa-Lena with the feather Head dress. I felt it suited a much more muted tone too, sometimes I feel my images are too literal and I just can’t stop experimenting. I know that can mean it’s hard to maintain a single consistent style but for me that comes second to the pure creative process. If it feels right to me it goes in.
See the whole series on the website here http://commercial.lwinram.com/personal-projects/shadow/BLUE8854-3-Mihaela-as-Cerynitis/
Prints of many are available on Artfinder or contact me by email
I took shots for the Lyceum Theatre’s production of the Iliad a while back and Ben asked if I’d take a few shots of him when I had time and he was still up here. We managed to squeeze in a quick session at the end of the run of the play. I knew he’d be a good subject after our rushed poster shoot, he’s an intense person and thats how I like them!
I shot him with dramatic lighting and a harsh process, rather in a similar style to the great Anton Corbin. It gives a Lith printing feel to the shots.
I was recently contacted by Roarie, a free spirited world wandering model and creative muse. She would be in the UK and did I want to work with her? She herself picks the people she wants to work with and her motivation is first and foremost the creative process and will readily turn down a photographer if she isn’t inspired by their work. I’ve never worked with a model quite like her before but loved the edgy energy she brought to the shoot. She’s constantly on the move and is full of ideas and where I find I’m often trying to create a certain edge in images, with Roarie it was more like trying to contain her intensity.
I’m all too aware that shooting nudes can be a bit of a cliche but the process of working on this theme has been one of the most creatively satisfying projects I’ve worked on. I love that there’s nothing to clutter the image, just form and light, it feels like when I used to do life drawing with a huge piece of charcoal and work really fast. I love the speed and freedom. No clients, no brief, just pure creativity and beauty.
I had the pleasure of shooting a wonderful Glasgow based model, the eclectic Miranda. Amount other things she’s a fine art student and a life model. This really helps me when I’m exploring slightly offbeat themes. She was as enthusiastic as me about what we were trying to achieve and brought her own form of creativity to the shoot. I thought she had the perfect expression to capture that certain mythical, feral look I had imagined. To be honest I based the shoot on her look. I’m hoping we can shoot together more in the future.
I recently shot these images for The Royal Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh’s production of Homers The Iliad. It’s Mark Thomson’s Final show as artistic director there and quite the epic to end on.
Right from the start I pictured a form of multiple exposures to show the main characters in not overly dramatic poses but also showing the chaos they create by the use of blood. I could see it in my mind but I couldn’t show it to the client in advance. Fortunately, Ben Jeffries, Director of Communications at the theatre, was trusting enough to let me try this approach. This is hugely appreciated! It highlighted to me the lack of faith I feel there can be in photographers abilities to bring their own vision to bear on a creative project that all too often can be entirely art directed in advance of any communication with the photographer themselves. There are times I feel it would be more appropriate to don a white lab coat in the exercise of ‘now copy this,’ style of uncreative art direction. The best course is a balance, bringing the ideas of the art director at the early stages of a project to the photographer to see how their creativity together can help create something greater than the sum of the parts. Often a final photograph is the best idea of a non photographer. I wouldn’t dream of telling a designer how to layout their page, it’s not my speciality. So why does it happen the other way around!
Yay! Just opening tonight, (12th March 2016) is the New York Times Art for Tomorrow conference being held in Doha Qatar. Louise Hunter from Summerhouse media was kind enough to invite me to exhibit there alongside some world class artists. All the framed prints were collected the other day and shipped out.
I’m showing five of my Conemen images as well as The Watchers (from Mythoslogos). Sad not being able to attend but hope the work is well received.
Being a photographer you used to being asked to do some pretty daft things. But when I was called up by Jim Swan at the Leith Agency to discuss a shoot that involved a car blowing up on behalf of the Scottish Government I was a little surprised and well interested. When I saw the visuals I loved the environmental concept and the film poster style of the campaign, something that suited my more theatrical approach to photography.
I did start the process of researching literally blowing a car up, which no matter who you are, let’s admit it, we all want to do! However, the client wanting to use a £70,000 Mercedes lead us down the retouch route.
The shoots themselves were relatively straight forward, especially after getting my assistant Elliot and friend Mihaela to run through the actors rolls with banana and croissant in hand as well as getting Elliot swinging around in a harness. That meant I was all prepped for lighting and the crucial comping angles to match the backgrounds. Thanks to Sarah Lauder for her epic production skills!
These are shots of Donald and Peter, two of the new distillers at Harris Distillery. After taking shots of all the distillers in their work at the distillery I took shots of them going about their own lives.
Donald like most folk on Harris has a boat and does a bit of fishing so we took a wander down to the bay by his house. Like a lot of folk on Harris he was very laid back and perfectly at ease in front of the camera.
Peter is a coastguard so he can be got up at any hour of the day or night to deal with emergencies. He easily wins the award for the most enthusiastic member of staff, I couldn’t get him not smiling. I took shots of his stepson, Cameron with his ducks the last time I was over.
Shooting on Harris was the most rewarding job I’ve done last year, especially at the end with the amazing ceilidh with the band Skipinnish for the grand opening. As I had to meet and photograph so many people it felt like a big family get together with over half the population along for the night. I so hope they ask me back to take more images, it’s a job that feels like a holiday!
Get yourself a Movember portrait!
Send your Movember ‘tashe pals along to the studio (63 Brunswick Road Edinburgh EH7 5PD) on Friday 27th November between 5pm – 10pm for your very own Movember hi res Football card portrait wearing one of my provided vintage Toffs football tops.
Add yourself to the event; https://www.facebook.com/events/1529347844053681/
(please no beards! It’s a ‘tashe thing) Mo sistas welcome though, I have fake ‘tashes for them.
From a recent shoot in the studio. Still trying to explore nude photography. It’s hard not to repeat yourself and you need to be very organised in advance with what you want to do otherwise it’s easy to waste the time you have with a model.
I especially like the effect of the tilt shift lens, it lends a slightly more impressionistic slant to the shots.
Some of the images are for sale on Artfinder https://www.artfinder.com/product/emma-iv-130/
I have been shooting a few more nudes recently on the back of my Shadow project. Ayla Rose is the first professional nude model I’ve photographed. The shoot worked out very well, it made a real difference having a model who was so familiar with the process and who was so professional. I love the opportunity to be completely free with form and light. I’ve always felt more in tune with painters than most photographers and I feel photographing nudes for me is about as close as you can get to painting.