Inside this issue
Living by the shores of Loch Ness
Margaret Soraya is a professional landscape photographer based in the Highlands of Scotland. She has a passion for the coast and waves in particular and frequently travels solo around the Scottish islands in pursuit of the perfect wave.
Living almost on the shores of Loch Ness for the past six years has allowed me easy and constant access to the water. I wasn't travelling as much as I do now in the first few years of living here, so I decided to photograph the Loch every single day for one year. It pushed me to find locations, notice weather patterns, and produce imagery that I may not have done otherwise.
Loch Ness is one of the largest lochs in Scotland, and mostly, it is windy and often grey. But when conditions are good, there is no better place. Early mornings in the winter are generally when I find these incredible pockets of peace. The water is still and glassy, everyone else is sleeping, the mist of low before the wind picks up, and the sounds of nature are all you can hear. I have watched weather forecasts for many years and noticed patterns. If I can see a possible window of opportunity the following day. I will pack all my gear and get ready for an early start. Depending on sunrise, I can be out by 5 am and my day is done by 9 am.
The year project just continued past its end date. I stopped going out every single day as I found I was forcing myself out in conditions that just weren't right. It was time-consuming and not very helpful photographically. Instead, I have continued to photograph the Loch only during the moments that I find beautiful and peaceful.
I have wanted to make a book of these images for many years. In 2018 I sat down and grouped my images into chapters and came up with chapter names and a book name: Still Waters. I printed out possible images for each chapter using a cheap printer that returned a large bundle of 6x8 images. These were laid out all over my floor, and I began work on image selection.
Five years ago, I told myself the story that I was a photographer, and I couldn't write. But I have always thought that words and images work together to create a deeper understanding of any art form. It was during working towards an exhibition at the Bosham Gallery in 2019 and a deeper exploration of the meaning behind my work that I really learned that I could write. We should never put ourselves in boxes.
But back in 2017/18, I decided to ask for help from one of my dearest friends. Chloe, who went to Art college with me in Manchester. We also found we both loved the sea and quiet places, and over time, I felt she knew me best. Chloe was always a powerful writer and has since become a published author. I asked her to write the intro to the book.
There is a general idea that you need someone well-known to write your intro if your book is going to be any good. I felt that I needed someone who knew me really well.
Chloe wrote a beautiful intro, chapters, and words to match the images. This book is unusual in that two artists, not just one, create it.
I then asked my designer friend David McCreight if he could put it together for me. The design was beautiful, and I was happy. So the question is, why did I take four years to print this book?
At the end of 2018, Suddenly, life got busy. I started my new landscape workshop business and was already busy running my social photography business. I had spent some time figuring out how to make this book work. What sort of printing, what size, what would the cost be? I had approached a local printing company and went through paper choices and book types but felt swamped with options, and the price just didn't make it commercially viable. I researched sponsorship and funding options and spent a long time just trying to figure out how on earth anyone didn't just make a significant loss on books. I approach my landscape photography from a very business viewpoint. My livelihood depends on it, and I didn't have spare funds to finance the book at this time. So it had to be profitable. With no answers to my questions, I ended up just putting the project away on the shelf. It stayed there for many years.
In 2019 I had a solo exhibition at the Bosham Gallery, and the gallery produced a small book of my images and words about the works. This process was pivotal in my career as I learned how to write. It deepened my understanding of my work and made me see the value of vocalising the images' meaning. I battled through the writing slowly and steadily, guided at all times by Luke Whittaker, the gallery owner. He taught me how to articulate my thoughts and express them through the exhibition's writing. After the exhibition, I had several books leftover and continue to sell them online. They are simple but a beautiful representation of my Hebridean seascapes, and I am incredibly proud of this book.
Fast forward 4 years, and I was sitting on a rock in Harris looking through one of Sean Tuckers Collection of images books. It struck me that the concept was similar to my quiet book. The same simple production fitted into my camera back, which I had taken down to the beach with me. We are often drawn down paths because that is how things are supposed to be done. That is how a photographic book should be; A large hardback coffee table book, with many pages, a more expensive and polished affair.
I recalled watching a video by Sean Tucker on creating zines, and a few days later revisited it and was led to ExWhyZed printing. I watched all their videos and reached out to them. What if I could match the size of the Quiet book I already stocked to eventually produce a whole series of books that matched in style. I have been working on a new idea for some while, along the lines of writing my thoughts next to images of the Hebrides. So maybe I can simply get the Loch Ness into print to prove the quality and method first.
By the end of my week on the Hebrides, I had decided on paper, finish, size and design. I adapted the original design to allow for new work of loch ness to be included, and the printers had been exceptionally responsive and helpful. It was a very easy experience. The price meant I would see a profit after selling 70 copies, and I felt pretty sure I could do that. I have a very engaged and lovely community that follows me, and I felt that would do as a start. So as long as I wasn't losing, it was a great exercise.
The final book has just been delivered, and I am delighted with the quality and feel. I also had forgotten how incredibly proud you feel when you see a physical product of your art.
Still Waters - Loch Ness is available from Margaret's website for £16
You can follow Margaret on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/margaretsoraya/