Capturing Our Spirit

Capturing the spirit of Harris is no easy matter, just ask our distillers. But sometimes the essence of the island can be distilled in a moment, a fraction of a second in time, caught by the camera of an artist with flair and the keenest of eye. We’ve had the great fortune to work with talented photographer Laurence Winram over the last year and have been in awe of the results of his work and skill, embodied finally in a hardbound book now available as part of our 1,916 endeavour.

We caught up with Laurence to talk about his work (and his thoughts on our own) in part one of this two part interview….

  

So, just who is Laurence Winram?

“I’m a photographer. I was raised in Aberdeen but I now live in Edinburgh although work takes me all over the world, from Cuba to Harris! I studied in Salisbury and moved to Edinburgh straight after and began assisting. I didn’t do that for too long as I began to pick up my own clients. I shot using my bedroom as a studio for a while but soon started renting a studio. 4 studios later I bought my own studio space in Leith. The majority of my work is on location but I love having the studio space, especially for my personal projects which often involve props which are gradually filling up my studio! My clients are highly varied, the more creative a project the better."

How did you come to work with the disitllery team here in Harris?

“It’s quite a curious series of events. I had been to Harris a number of times in the past on holiday and totally fallen in love with the place. Then, by chance I was asked to fly to London to shoot a portrait of one Burr Bakewell for a solicitors firm I’ve worked for for a number of years. I was told that he was instrumental in founding a new distillery on Harris. I was a little anxious about meeting this rather serious sounding figure, yet when I met him I was pleasantly surprised to find a very amiable and thoughtful Hearach. We really got on and chatted at length about Harris. At Burr's request I sent him some of the images I’d taken in the outer Hebrides in the past. The next thing I know Simon Erlanger is on the phone requesting me to come to a meeting to discuss what has gone on to become one of my all time favourite jobs."

We tasked you with capturing the people of Harris for The 1,916 endeavour, how did you do it?

“This was both a great challenge and very clear. The easy part was that I knew what I wanted to capture in the images, the richness and diversity of characters in Harris.  However, by its nature these things take time to find and draw out. I have a style of images I produce and the subject matter was perfectly suited for this I just had to be able to achieve the results but in a limited time frame.

I arrived in Tarbert and had a day or so of trying to find my feet in a community that didn’t know me. Some opportunities fell at my feet, like when I heard word of a 13 year old boy who kept his own ducks. How could I not photograph him? That shoot was enormous fun, Cameron was a real character and the ducks performed on cue. I also got to meet Peter his father, a fine man destined to work at the distillery and be photographed in my next visit to Harris.

What really then made all the difference to the project was Simon's idea to connect me up with Hearach Kenny Maclean, who at the time was between jobs and available to help. Kenny as anyone who knows him will testify is a lively character who seemed to know just about everyone in Harris. There were many phone calls to many people to find the right characters that wouldn’t mind me shooting their portrait.

There is a decided balance between chaos and symmetry trying to organise and schedule all that we intended to do with the bias towards the chaos! We’d find ourselves charging down towards Rodel to meet someone when I’d see men working on a boat on the shores of Luskentyre and the next moment we’d be bumping over the dunes in Kenny’s 4x4 so I could take their portrait. I felt a little conflicted as I really wanted to spend longer with each person and let the images evolve, yet we hoped to have quite a library of portraits to review. “

 

Part two of our interview follows next week, meantime explore more of Laurence's work via www.lwinram.com

 

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