This is another collaboration with Robert Burden who wrote and spoke a poem to my photograph of Soldier´s Rock on Islay, Scotland.
For this Remembrance Sunday I´ve posted two pictures. They were taken 5 years apart, in two different countries, in completely different environments, the styles and lighting are completely different, but non the less they share the same reason for being. The first one, taken in 2008, is of German Great War graves in the municipal cemetery in Landshut. They are in a quiet corner and rather low-key. The second is of an unknown sailor of the Great War taken this year at the Kilnaughton Military Cemetery on the Island of Islay. This very small cemetery, only holds about 12 graves and stands close to the shores of Kilnaughton Bay with the graves facing out to sea. As is clear, both photographs are of graves from the Great War, the war to end all wars, but they are of enemies. I find it appropriate to show the dead of both sides because I now stand with a foot in each of these countries, my family is from both sides of that once deadly divide and illustrates, for me at least, the appalling waste of such wars – any wars, in fact.
This is another seascape taken at Loch a Chnuic. I keep coming back to this series taken on a wet afternoon on Islay. For me they have a feeling of surreal peace.
I´m not sure how the Loch would have looked in the time of the Lord of the Isles, maybe it´s banks would have been well-tended and the water clear of water plants. But somehow I think that they would have left the water lilies in peace, allowing them to push up through the waters and to spread their plate like leaves and delicate flowers on the surface.
As I wrote in my last post, the area around Loch Finlaggan has been settled since pre-history. This standing stone bears witness to this. It´s looked down on the bowl enclosing the Loch for thousands of years; it´s witnessed countless generations, their births, their triumphs, defeats and their deaths. I think that I am no different to the nameless ones who erected this stone here – I am still moved by this construction, by it´s position and by the effect it has on the surrounding landscape. I feel it observing me and, like a child being watched by an impassive adult, it makes me slightly uneasy. When I approach these stones, where-ever they are, I do so with head bowed, with reverence.
Finlaggan was the centre of the Lordship of the Isles and appears to have had a settlement there for as long as people have lived on Islay. It´s political importance waxed out over most of Scotland for many centuries. As well as the buildings it´s banks, two fortified man-made isles called Crannogs, were built out on the Loch, which gave the Lord and his retainers added security in times of unrest – of which there were plenty. In 1493 James IV of Scotland effectively put an end to the power of the Lords and had the buildings demolished, the only one left standing being the chapel. Even when one leaves out the roll England has played, the history of Scotland is an incredibly complicated business. A few months ago I watched the BBC series “A History Of Scotland” presented by Neil Oliver – to my mind an excellent series and well worth looking at.
I´ve no idea if this rusting metal post has or had a purpose here, maybe it was just dug into the beach by some holiday maker, but it´s colour and the shadow it cast caught my eye. It looks like a sort of sundial measuring the time of the tides. Sanaig Bay lies at the end of a narrow single track road, past that telephone box. Surprisingly there is an excellent art gallery here – not surprisingly called Outback Art, the owner of which, Petra Pearce, brews a fine pot of tea too! We bought a seascape painted on a block of oak by Fiona Charis Carswell
I took this late afternoon, it was in between heavy rain showers. This small sandy bay, Loch a´Chnuic, was sheltered and the sea was very calm, everything just seemed to hang there in space and was very surreal. I´ve played around a bit in the processing of this image to increase this sense of the surreal – my personal take on the place, the time of day and the feeling.
Just past the Carriag Fhada Lighthouse , heading out west along the coast, are some wonderful rock formations standing amongst large boulders and small sandy beaches.
Islay, on the edge of the ocean, but also on the edge of the continent. Loch Gruinart at the north end of the island is a wonderful reserve managed by the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds). The Brits are quite potty about birds and bird watching and with over a million members, the RSPB reflects this avian passion. Good so, because without them fighting tooth and claw (or should that be beak and claw?) to retain and protect natural wildlife habitats, areas of tidal marsh and sand dunes like Loch Gruinart may well be lost to developers or over farming. There is a working farm here, but in balance with the natural needs of the fauna. This low landscape, looking west towards the island of Jura offers some of the most wonderfully BIG skies imaginable!