on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Pathos on Shetland

Neil McCoubrey

Neil McCoubrey

I am a PhD student researching into the creative practices of a landscape photographer at Edinburgh Napier University. I am trying to understand why a landscape photographer chooses a particular location, particular subjects and then arranges the final composition. How does the photographer recognise the opportunity for making a photograph?


This set of images, from my current researches, were taken on a trip to Shetland, in March this year. They are examples of where my motivation for taking the image is that I have perceived pathos, isolation, a feeling of being left behind in such human constructions. In doing so, I am endowing these buildings and objects with personalities and emotions of their own, as if they can feel pathos as we do. In my mind, these are not dereliction photographs, where evidence of former human presence and activity is the key motivation. Instead, these are buildings and constructions themselves demonstrating a stoicism, despite being abandoned, overlooked and apparently, no longer of value.

This concept of banal human constructions having anthropomorphic qualities shows up in many of my images. Other such qualities I have so far identified include Confrontation, Survival and Exclusion. Hopefully, by the end of the researches, I will understand what draws me to take photographs of such scenes and in the desaturated, flat lit ways that I do so.

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