John Macpherson lives and works in Fort
William, a small town in the West Highlands of Scotland. A self-taught
photographer, he has traveled in Europe, Africa and the United States,
and has explored the corners of his own country extensively. He has
supported himself as a welder, carpenter, and most recently he balances
working two days a week as a social worker with his career as a professional
stock, nature and landscape photographer. As a social worker at a
center for adults with learning disabilites, he has undertaken projects
in which he has taught photography to his clients; the resulting work
has won numerous awards.
John may be contacted via email at:
On his Web site: http://www.john-macpherson-photography.com,
he displays a large portfolio of his work.
1. What kind of time goes into producing
images? When you find a promising scene, how long do you spend watching
the light? Have you ever made note of a particular scene, then come
back at a different time or time of year?
2. Why do you shoot landscapes? Is it
simply to try to capture beauty, or do you have environmental concerns?
3. You say that you are a self-educated photographer. Are there any
photographers who influenced you in your work? How did you technically
and visually get to the level of sophistication you now possess?
Macpherson responds >
I like to think
that many of the images I make are not simply landscapes.
I would prefer to call them lightscapes. For me, the term
landscape ties an image too closely to the land
, a psychological weighting of the work that draws the mind towards
what we know, what we can feel. Earth.
Lightscapes are an attempt to capture that space above earth, the void
between land and sky where light is transient and evocative. Surfaces
that reflect attract me also - their ability to distort and reflect
light to create wonderful abstract patterns. Or to simply reflect the
ordinary, but in a way that gives depth to their flat and anchored surfaces,
and, perhaps, forces the viewer to question the reality of what they
My pictures are an attempt to capture some of these magical effects.
I watch light. I think about light a great deal. And occasionally I
am able to capture it.
I have often mused over the inspiration that moved prehistoric man to
erect the enigmatic monoliths that are scattered around my relatively
small country. Orkney, Lewis, and many other corners can boast lone
standing stones, or complex groups of stones, their purpose long forgotten
and now pondered over by modern minds. But I have a suspicion that their
erectors realised something fundamental, something in their collective
unconscious that drove them to try to bridge the gap between earth and
sky, between soil and sun.
At the edges of the day, at Brodgar on Orkney, or Callanish on Lewis,
as the sun sinks towards the low western horizon, elemental light takes
over. Shadows lengthen, creeping across the ground, touching earth,
other stones, touching people. In my pictures of stones I have tried
to show something of that connection between stones and
the physical environment that defines them.
There seems some primitive need to erect stones, as I discovered on
the Applecross Peninsula, near a spot frequented by visitors, where
a stunning view of land and water induces gasps from those who stop
and look. Where the sheer enormity of the land and water scape is overwhelmed
only by the overarching vastness of the sky. People, moved by the scene,
have marked their presence by erecting a stone. I have stood there on
many occasions, some bright and vivid others stormy, but on this clear
late evening, as the sun dipped over the horizon spilling warm light
across the scene, I think I glimpsed a fraction of their motivation.
elusive. Thats their attraction. Many factors must conspire to
produce the ideal conditions. Imagine a day of scudding cloud and patches
of clear sky, where the light lances down, isolating details with dramatic
effect. It requires very little perceptual ability but lots of activity.........clouds
race, gaps form, light spills through and the limiting factors are your
agility and mastery of exposure.
But there are other days, of softer light, and more relaxed pace. There
is a particular effect possible on such bright overcast
days, the cloud cover diffusing the sunlight, where I can only describe
the light as appearing to come from below. The effect is sublime. Shadows
disappear, colours are vibrant, and the scene appears almost to be illuminated
from within, from the earth. Reflective surfaces, water if it is calm,
become mirrors of sky, or any detail that you choose to play with. This
is a more considered approach, the lighting stays constant and even,
and agility of mind, and a willingness to explore a scene,
becomes more important than any physical ability.
Northern peoples consider light in a particular way. The disappearing
sun in winter marks a period of mood swing and change for many individuals.
Recognised now as seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.) it fundamentally
changes the way one thinks and acts. Light, or rather its absence, subtly
but surely leaves its mark on our psyche, in ways we often do not realise.
This is very much a work in progress; as I learn more about light, the
work will change and grow. I hope this brief glimpse of my feelings
towards my small but often beautifully illuminated country moves you
to respond to your land and elemental light.