Inside this issue
Attempting to make unfamiliar pictures of familiar subjects
Arguably, one of the hardest tricks in photography is to make genuinely different, interesting photographs of extremely well-known – iconic (for want of a better word) – places. An important question now that the world according to Instagram has only served to amplify the popularity of popular subjects.
But isn’t it rather tedious to shoot well-known places? I recall telling friends many years ago that I would never photograph Eilean Donan castle in Scotland because it was mercilessly exploited by shortbread manufacturers, jigsaw puzzle makers and every industry looking for a quick and easy commodification of Scotland’s history and landscape identity. It was – is – an icon.
Perhaps I was frightened that I’d be unable to do something different with it. But then I was commissioned by VisitBritain to photograph it, and while I might like to think I am principled, I am not principled enough, yet, to turn down genuine employment as a working photographer!
I swallowed my anti-commercial pride and shot the castle over the course of a long winter morning. I did have to rise around 4.30am in order to drive there from Glen Coe and still be ready to scout before sunrise. And having made pictures from a slightly elevated position of the moon setting behind the castle it occurred to me that an alternative perspective might be provided by the steep sides of Creag Reidh Raineach directly behind me. It’s still Eilean Donan. Just seen differently.
It is, arguably, the problem-solving nature of seeking out the new, or ‘original’ view on a much-loved, familiar and over-photographed subject that makes the endeavour still fun, and worthwhile.