Climbing on board the tiny ferry to cross the narrow, fast-flowing channel between Seil Island and Easdale I felt a pang of excitement and a niggle of trepidation.
I have been on assignment amongst Scottish island communities before and I know that living in a place like this is not for the faint hearted.
A warm, bright, summer day in July is hardly the norm and if you have chosen a life on Easdale you will be tough, resilient and unlikely to suffer fools gladly.
It’s a small tight community where everyone depends on each other and trust is earned. The locals would have every right to be highly suspicious of an unfamiliar man wandering around with a camera expecting to take pictures of people going about their daily lives.
However, my trepidation was completely unfounded and I soon realised that the people of Easdale were open, friendly and ready to chat. Hearing about their lives in this demanding environment was totally fascinating and I soon began to build a series of portraits and documentary images that offer a small glimpse of island life.
I had come to Easdale as part of a wonderful documentary photography programme run by Colin McPherson and Adam Lee. The plan was to step back from my usual merry-go-round of corporate, commercial and wedding photography to reconnect with the fundamentals of why I became a photographer in the first place. It certainly didn’t disappoint!
Easdale community pulling together
By chance I was on the island for “Coal Day”. It’s an annual event when the community all pull together to distribute their coal supplies for the entire year. It’s heavy work but with no roads or cars on the island, using wheel barrows and muscle power is the only way to get the coal to people’s door and everyone does their bit.
Slate islands history
The island is one of the Slate Islands. They were at the centre of the slate industry until a storm flooded all the quarries on Easdale in 1881. The impact of that industrial heritage has left a distinctive footprint on the island and there is evidence of quarries and slate everywhere you turn. In recent years the island has become famous for the World Stone Skimming Championships which uses the flooded quarries and slate stones to attract competitors from all over the world.
Unfortunately, I only had a couple of days on the island. There was so much more I didn’t get a chance to photograph that I’ll definitely be back…. maybe to skim a few more stones and go for some more early morning swims in the silky waters of the flooded quarries.