Moved by a strong relationship with his homeland, passion and continued curiosity for it, Richard Gaston illustrates and documents the lands of Scotland where he lives. Through the use of composition, he captures landscapes, the mountain culture within and the peaceful combination of nature and man.
I aim to photograph in varied styles; capturing wide vistas, documentary, portraiture but most importantly my primary style. This is in order to build archive imagery and use these images across various platforms for future projects and commissions.
What is your first photographic memory?
I was obsessed with gadgets that came in micro form so having my young hands on a tiny camera (about the size of a box of matches) was extremely stimulating. Abroad with my parents I would photograph our travels. I can’t promise that these images were of any quality, but more importantly I feel that had some factor into my current passion for photography.
Could you describe yourself with a book and a movie?
Book: “The Living Mountain” by Nan Shepherd.
Documentary: “Bill Cunningham New York”.
Which of your pictures would you choose to introduce yourself?
A day of winter hiking through white out conditions in the Southern Highlands of Scotland. Approaching the summit of Ben Lawers I had little visual knowledge of my surroundings because of the foggy conditions. Within the space of a minute the clouds sparse and light shone through the clouds onto the peak of the neighbouring mountain isolating it from its landscape, a beautifully brief moment I will remember forever and an image I feel accurately represents my approach to photography.
A place you would like to go and portray.
Svalbard, in the Arctic Circle. It compliments my views on photography; peaceful isolation, natural elements, untouched landscape and complimented with an abundance of wildlife. When I visit new locations – in new countries more specifically – I aim to photograph in varied styles; capturing wide vistas, documentary, portraiture but most importantly my primary style. This is in order to build archive imagery and use these images across various platforms for future projects and commissions.
A famous picture you would have liked to take.
Marcin Ryczek’s photograph of ‘A Man Feeding Swans in the Snow.’ Personally, it depicts the fundamental aspects of photography, especially in composition and contrast. Perfectly evaluating the ideology of that once-in-a-lifetime shot.
Throughout your photography you reveal hidden inspiring places in the wilds and wonderlands of Scotland, your homeland. The wild Scottish countryside, its hidden beaches and secret glens are both the main subject and the background of most of your art. How is your relationship with your land?
I learnt the majority of my photography skill in the Highlands of Scotland photographing landscapes and the mountain culture within. Through years of exploring the remotest areas of the country I have built a firm respect and knowledge for the land. Understanding the boundary of danger and with the hope of something magical happening in natures elements. With that said, my land continues to surprise me offering unique experiences each time I explore new and familiar locations. To sum up my relationship, I hold a bond of respect, passion and continued curiosity for my homeland.
In your series, you explore the themes of solitude, loneliness and secludedness. How do you feel when you are alone surrounded only by nature?
To say I feel totally at ease and content would be lying, I do feel a certain wave of fear and panic. Like where am I? What am I doing? I’m aware I will experience these emotions prior to heading out, building anticipation and excitement. The most enjoyable part for me personally is on reflection when I am driving home from a trip. It then all makes sense as to why I put myself in those scenarios. The feeling of perspective (of problems) and importance (of experiencing these situations).
As a person, I tend to be a bit of a loner. I prefer my own company. Doing things by myself. So, my photography style reflects me as a person; calm, peaceful and similar to the aforementioned point, being alone with that sense of isolation.
You say to favourite natural light and colours. Through them you document the natural landscape as it is; pure as it is. How long does it take you to take a picture? Do you do it all of a sudden? Or do you usually prefer to wait for the right natural conditions to shoot?
More of a purist in that sense. My images capture the essence of an expedition in a minute period – time is limited and there is a pressure to push on before sun down. Therefore, I do not have the luxury of time to wait for that glimpse of magic or set up a camera awaiting ideal conditions. It’s all about the singular, magical moment that cannot be replicated.
Your photographs recreate quiet and peaceful natural atmospheres. Here, everything is composed. No men are present. On the contrary, the human presence can be denoted by the human passage in the solitary and sporadic bothies you portray, in so revealing human habits and customs of those faraway places. Is this made on purpose? Why?
As a whole that sums up what I am trying to achieve in photography; the peaceful combination of nature and man. Set in a vast sense of overwhelming beautiful landscape surrounding the micro aspect of our kind, conveying just how insignificant we are on this planet. As a person, I tend to be a bit of a loner. I prefer my own company. Doing things by myself. So, my photography style reflects me as a person; calm, peaceful and similar to the aforementioned point, being alone with that sense of isolation.
You document your land through an analytic firm eye. There’s no aim of celebrating it; just the simple, easy act of observation, standing at the wild nature and waiting for a sign, a movement, an answer. What are you searching for while looking through your lens?
I aim to capture a sense of solitude through the use of composition. That beam of sunlight isolating a minuet figure or the tip of the mountain top. That one wild animal that has left its pack straying on a lonesome path with a feeling of peace. All of which I think illustrates the feeling of being alone and at ease with that feeling. This doesn’t necessarily convey how I feel at that moment when it is captured. I can feel alone and uneasy at this time due to being out in the extreme wilds.
Staring at your wild natural landscapes, never-ending fields and snow-whitened mountains tops we seem to breathe easier, as after a deep gasp of fresh air and oxygen. How do you reach this effect?
I’d like to think that people feel a sense of escapism. Relating to the image in a way that makes them wish to be there. I wouldn’t want to convey the massive amount of effort that is put in to get the image as it is not at all easy going. But instead I like to channel that short-lived moment that makes the arduous hike all worthwhile into my photograph.
All of which I think illustrates the feeling of being alone and at ease with that feeling. This doesn’t necessarily convey how I feel at that moment when it is captured.
What does travel mean to you?
Ultimately, travel has developed my career as a photographer. I never could have imagined that from what I spent my time doing at the weekends for enjoyment has progressed into a career. Veering away from my university degree I have somewhat disregarded my years in education and pursued what I truly love to do, travel and photography.
While taking pictures, you transform into a careful reporter of wild lands in Highland, Iceland, St Kilda, Whiteland. You tell secret stories of remote places and evocative landscapes. Which place has inspired you the most, so far?
My home country. It is the place I have learned everything to do with what I am passionate about. I have been though some exhilarating experiences and some life-threatening situations. There is still so much I’ve yet to visit accomplish in the Highlands of Scotland.
Your next project.
I’m in the midst of a travel guide to Scotland’s wildest parts, titled Wild Guide Scotland. A travel compendium, split into various chapters depending on their geographical locations each recommending the best places to wild camp, hike, wild swim, for viewpoints etc. We’re currently writing up the final pieces and have just returned from out last trip. We have visited almost every corner of the country, including every island. Every image in the book is our own as well as every word. Due to be released in May 2017.
Your main flaw and quality.
Indecisive & passionate.
Make a wish.
To photograph Polar Bears in the Arctic.
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