Croft houses / Timespan Artists Flat
Two week photography research trip in Helmdale (August 2012).
During my stay at Timespan my main objective was to find and photograph ‘back plate’ interiors for my Realm project. I visited many abandoned croft houses in the Helmsdale area. I was always fascinated to see what remained within the dwelling. The last structure surviving in most houses was the hearth or fireplace. I could imagine families gathering around the fire to hear local stories of ghosts, fairies, selpies and kelpies, all passed down through the generations by gifted storytellers. These homes were long abandoned when families wanted more comfortable housing, which had electricity and running water. I had an illuminating discussion with Lorna Jappy, manager of the Bridge Hotel, Helmsdale resident and storyteller, where we mourned the loss of these fireside gatherings. Most families now gather around a new storyteller, the television. In a way I would like the derelict interiors photographed for my work to be brought alive again with a narrative, just as the room may once of done, by the flickering and crackling fire side. My use of double exposure is intended to add another or ‘other-worldly’ realm to an everyday home, or a route in a fantasy world.
I’m indebted to the generosity of the staff, volunteers and friends of Timespan, many of whom went out of their way to make me feel welcome and find properties for me to visit. My two weeks at the Artist’s Flat were restorative and inspiring, a world away from my busy life in London. In enjoyed driving on single-track roads along awesome glens, by lochs and along coastal routes. The scattered passing places, novel for a Londoner, allowed time to stop and absorb the landscape (and of course take a photograph). The north Highlands are sometimes referred to as the ‘Empty Lands’ and this was palpable when driving for 20 minutes, or more, and not passing another sole.
Read more about my two week stay on the Timespan blog.
Click here for a Storify photo diary of my time there.