From the age of three, I have been lucky enough to live in the beautiful district of Atholl, Scotland; in Glen Tilt until 2008 and at Old Blair since then. I, like many others, have been truly charmed by the area of Atholl and its outstanding natural beauty. Upon reflection, it occurred to me that the beauty of Atholl is not only in its landscapes and nature – but also in its people and their stories. Now, at twenty-four, I am bringing together my passion for Atholl and skills learned at art school to capture the lives of its people and their fascinating stories.
‘From Home‘ is an upcoming book which documents the rich social history of Atholl and beyond, through interviews with its residents; be they true stalwarts who have been born and bred here, or people who have come to make Atholl their home, from even as far as Israel. There are over twenty narratives of life in Atholl, from Pitlochry to Struan. The first conversations tell memoirs of life in the 1930s, and the book comes to a close with stories from the early 2000s.
Since November 2019, I have had the pleasure of putting together such a book, from writing, to photographing, to designing. Interviews began over coffee in many peoples’ welcoming homes, and were recorded on a little dictaphone, to be transcribed later for an article to be written around each person’s experience. Following the introduction of social distancing in March, and with interviews still to be conducted, the project had to diversify – phone-calls, emails and carefully written letters became the main method of passing on stories. Despite the lack of conversations over coffee, I was lucky to receive many interesting letters filled with memories, ensuring that I had plenty to be working on and plenty of conversations being had. After each piece had been written, they were printed, stapled and bundled up into envelopes (alongside more carefully written letters) and sent to each contributor, for them to enjoy and approve before publishing. Next, came the photography.
Photography has always been a passion of mine, and so it has been wonderful to have a purpose to the photographs I have been taking, be it in the swooping hills of Glen Tilt, looking down on winding valleys from Struan Point or in a stained glass artist’s studio. Still, I continue to take photographs to fill the book with colour and a visual cue to each story and narrator. The book shows Atholl in all its seasons; from the splendour of Hercules Garden dusted with snow, to beaming sunshine over Tirinie Farm. Such a variety of stories in different locations has prompted me to expand my horizons when it comes to finding places to photograph, a refreshing change. As well as this, I have learned to love to walk for miles and miles, accompanied by two cameras and a multitude of lenses.
The layout and design of the book has taken inspiration from a range of publications which I admire for reasons much further than their excellent design. The layout is purposefully minimal, leaving the readers attention to be focused in on the text that they are reading, which takes cues from the colours of Atholl; pink from the granite and marble stones of Glen Tilt; brown from the heathers of the hills; soft blue from the rushing rivers; and finally gentle grey from the bark of silver birch and other towering trees. In terms of reading, the book is ordered chronologically, with each interview given its own few pages and photographs, across over two-hundred pages, to be printed and bound in Glasgow by Bell & Bain printers; a firm established in the 1830s, who deal with printing, binding, covering and foil blocking all in-house. Working with as local a printing house as possible was extremely important for me on this project. All too often I have read wonderful books and been impressed by the paper stocks and binding, only to find in small print that printing and binding has been undertaken abroad, and on paper stocks that are not FSC approved. Supporting Scottish businesses and using as ethically sourced paper and production methods as possible was at the top of my priority list. ‘From Home‘ will be proudly written, designed, printed and bound in Scotland.
The next few weeks will bring extensive proofreading, last minute touches, and the bringing together of all of the elements of ‘From Home‘, before being sent to print and launched in Autumn. Watch this space for information on a launch date and how to support this project. Thank you.