• Philadelphia Corporate Photographers

Scotland (Na h-Eileanan)

As a Philadelphia editorial and commercial photographer, I’m often photographing in orchestrated environments.  As a fine art photographer, I’m usually thinking of my concepts when I’m producing work.

My mother’s family immigrated from Scotland in the mid-1800’s from a small village two hours southwest of Glasgow.  There has always been a sort of familial pull for me toward the country for this reason.  In 2012, I made my first trip to Scotland.  I traveled by myself, spending two weeks in the country.  Through a lengthy series of bus transfers, I made my way to the same small village my family left 150 years ago.

Several years later, I returned to Scotland with my girlfriend, Philadelphia photographer Tracie Van Auken.  We spent one month in the country.  Three weeks of that were on the remote Isle of Lewis and Harris in the Outer Hebrides.  The Hebrides are one of the few places left on Earth where Scottish Gaelic can be heard conversationally on the streets.  While Lewis and Harris is by far the most populated of the Hebridean Islands, it’s population still hovers at just a little over 20,000, with more than half of that number residing in the main settlement on the island, Stornoway.

The Outer Hebrides are extremely isolated, with large areas devoid of human habitation.  The land is quiet.  The weather is unpredictable and changes quickly.  In a five minute span, sun becomes rain, which becomes hail, which becomes sun again.  The soil is quite poor.  Covered in peat and boulders, the landscape supports few trees.  With little in the way of shelter to break the wind, sustained wind speeds often top 40mph.

My first trip was focused on my own personal history.  For my return trip I went with the intention of producing a body of work centered around night and the landscape.  We were there in February, which meant about six hours of daylight.  I would typically scout during the day, then return alone to the sites I had chosen shortly before nightfall to make images.  This body of work is entitled ‘Na h-Eileanan’, which in Scottish Gaelic means ‘The Isles’.

-Matt