Inside this issue
Michael Faint lives on the island of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides where he divides his time between his photography practice and running SkyDancer Coffee Roasters with his wife Sarah.
In 2012 I paused by my local river and everything changed. I’ve moved away from what many expect photographs to be: my images deconstruct the literal and reimagine the subjective, reflecting the curiosity that water has inspired in my practice. Water has been my conduit: it has sharpened my vision, given me permission to experiment and continues to introduce me to new ways of seeing.
It’s all too easy for photographers to effectively romanticise any landscape, even if it isn’t a conscious decision, and at times it can feel like it’s open season in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides – all those shell sand beaches and azure waters that lend themselves to reproduction and interpretation. Although Michael photographs in both colour and black and white, it’s the latter that drew me to his work and from which we have selected images for this feature. Digging a little deeper, it becomes apparent that these aren’t empty landscapes – we can never really separate ‘land’ from ‘people’. We talk about growing roots, repetition as a creative tool, unexpected opportunities and creative collaborations, storytelling and drawing people in.
In view of Michael’s experience of birding and wildlife photography, it also seemed a good opportunity to ask him to say a little about avian flu and how we can all tread a little more lightly on our travels.
Would you like to start by telling readers a little about yourself – where you grew up, what your early interests were, and what that led you to do?
I was born in Ayrshire but have moved around the UK with spells in London, Norfolk, Lancashire and Essex, amongst others.
From an early age, I was interested in and fascinated by birds, and this was my main preoccupation when growing up. As this pursuit developed, I began to focus more on what is referred to as ‘Patch Birding’: continued and repeated visits to the same place over days, weeks, seasons and years, filling notebooks with details and incidental information. This repetition brings a deeper understanding of the place that you visit, the seasonal changes, the yearly changes, the habitat, and the wildlife populations; the repetition is a means of discovery. Visiting a place once or twice only gives a snapshot of what it looks like, a superficial view. Continued visits allow you to notice and explore subtle changes and nuances in a place. This idea of ‘patch’ has stayed with me, and as I changed jobs and locations, I would always look to carve out a new patch within walking distance of where I was based, whether this was a beach or the depths of West London.
The ideas around the notion of a patch/place feed my photography to this day. As much as I seek the new, for me, there are clear creative benefits to continuing to visit the same place again and again and again. Repetition is a constant creative tool for me.