Frances Scott

Photographer, designer and Orkney native Frances Scott's affinity for wild places fuels her image- and book-based explorations of landscape and literature...

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A9, 2014

Describe your work in three words...
Stark, subtle, solitary.
How did your studies in Communication Design at Glasgow School of Art inform the nature of your practice, and in particular the dual focus on graphic design and photography?
Spending the first two years moving between graphic design, illustration and photography left me open to and informed by other disciplines. I learned as much from my classmates as I did from our tutors and technicians. The course catalysed my interest in book design and book binding, making sure each stage of my work (photo-editing, typography, book design) reinforces the aesthetic of the landscape itself.

Your photographic work has often focused on wild and remote places, and in particular the landscapes of your home in Orkney. How has your time living on the island inspired you and your work?
Growing up, I thought Orkney was somewhere to move on from and was keen to get to the city. After graduating I moved home for a few months, which turned into a couple of years. I recently read The Outrun by Amy Liptrot, who writes about the inevitable push and pull these islands have on those who grew up here—she’s distilled my own ambivalent feelings about Orkney into honest and beautiful prose. Being from the very north of Scotland, I have an affinity with remote or wild places, and I seek them out. My work is often described as ‘bleak’—but places can be grim and beautiful at the same time.
What are your tools of the trade?
I make most of my images with film, using my Nikon FE (35mm) when I want something fairly portable, but I favour my Mamiya 645 (medium format). Though it is relatively cumbersome - it’s tricky replacing a roll of film with frozen hands every 15 exposures—I love it for its intense detail. Its limitations make you pause before exposing the film. Darkroom working is great for the solitude and headspace you get into, but can be hard to access and find time for, so I scan, edit and print digitally: spending days sat in the artificial glow of photoshop and indesign.
Although I specialised in photography, I don’t want to feel confined by cameras. Occasionally I will draw or make collages to work through a block. It’s important to have a notebook with me—sometimes I include reflective writing alongside my images in print, but more often I use my notes to keep the experience of an environment fresh. Recently I have become inseparable from my iPhone, so I can track my walks and document my surroundings free from heavy equipment.

Tell us about a favourite project you've worked on recently...
Over the last year I’ve been walking the coastline of the Orkney mainland. I’ve covered 144 miles, with just a few small gaps and a couple of tidal islands to complete. I take photographs, annotate maps and write, in an attempt to encapsulate the experience of each individual walk; dissecting the coastline into small sections of time. I turn to books for a lot of my research, in this case Orkney: The Magnetic North by J. Gunn, written in the 1930s. I had a bit of a gap from making personal work after I graduated and this is my way of slowly returning, looking at it out of the corner of my eye. My previous projects have always started with a brief and ended with a deadline, instilled with art school values. This one is mine, and it’s a slow burner. If anyone feels trapped by the confines of their environment, I would encourage him or her to explore the edges, test the limits, you’ll be surprised with what you find.

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Lili Truemner-Caron, 2013

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Lili Truemner-Caron, 2013

What would be your dream project?
I began a photographic study of Toronto’s ravines four years ago when I was on exchange in Canada, initially inspired by the writing of Margaret Atwood. The project was the focus of my honours essay, so I’ve spent a lot of time analysing the ideas behind my work without a chance to go back and follow through. The ravines seem to crop up a lot within Canadian literature, often used to reflect the dark, repressed nature of the human psyche. I feel like my previous images only scratched the surface, and so it would be gratifying to return to and resolve my Ravine project, and a luxury to spend months or even years on the series.

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Ísland, 2013

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Ísland, 2013

What are you working on right now, and what's next for you?
I’ve just held an exhibition with the newly-founded MÓTI collective, a group of recent art and design graduates based in Orkney. I showed a work-in-progress selection of my Orkney coastline project. When I finish walking the coastline—I’d estimate I’ve got a good fifty miles left—I’m planning on making a book, which will be my main project over the coming months. I’ve just moved to Glasgow where I’m taking up a position as an assistant photo technician, something I’m really excited about.

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Orkney, 2014

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Orkney, 2014