take ‘straight shots‘ oferosion at Lurcher‘s (iully have spin—offs in the chance sighting of ‘more artistically interesting‘ landscapes.
It takes only fifty minutes to fly from Edinburgh into the (‘airngorms. but planning a trip is a hit-and-miss affair. 'l'he weather is crucial. for both pilot and photographer. At a thousand feet from her subject. glimpsed between the wing and wheel of the plane. Macdonald needs plenty of light. She recalls circling over frigid Loch Leven. waiting for ‘a Divine spotlight’ ofsun to pluck the prison tower from the surrounding gloom. Eventually it wavered over and made the picture.
With the focus taped at infinity and the camera strapped round my neck — ‘In case it kills someone on Princes Street‘ - I opened the window.
Fumbling to frame a shot against buffeting wind and natural incompetence. l narrowed my unselective eye and clicked. while 'Angus Macdonald spiralled sympathetically over the shapes that caught my attention. ‘lfl were taking photographs I'd be waving Angus round. telling him where to go': the Macdonalds are a team. They talk always of‘our work‘. ‘our photographs‘. 'l'hey complement each other: Angus the compact efficient pilot; Patricia tall and talkative. Angus Macdonald has written the text of their book about the landscape of and around Edinburgh. Accompanying Patricia‘s photographs are poems by Norman MacCaig. and an introduction by Neal Ascherson. "I‘hey are people whose work we greatly admire'. 'I‘hey hope it is
‘more than a pretty picture book‘. ‘Sometimes it's a useful tool. You can see everything all at once. At other times it just doesn't work'. Photographing over Harris. the Macdonalds discovered they could see the (‘learances laid out like a history lesson below them. The gentle slopes of the west coast. etched by the crofters into interlocking strips. now abandoned; and the east coast. a moonscape of uninhabitable rock where the evicted population scraped a living. Such a landscape is a godsend. but at other times. says Macdonald. the subjects which catch her eye have a less immediate significance. Back at ground-level. many of her photographs still have an air of mystery. a continuing dialogue. Stepping onto the tussocky terra firma ofthe airfield. is like entering a
foggy dreamworld. coming off a high. ‘It is not just a feeling of power. because you have to come down again. 'I’here is also a feeling of powerlessness‘. 'l‘he indulgence of ﬂoating above daily concerns is balanced by the knowledge of the scale ofone‘s impotence. The trick is to get them both in the picture.
An exhibition ofl’atrieia
Macdonald 's‘ photographs~ is at Portfolio Gallery. lz'dinburgh until M ay 2 7 . then touring to Smith A rt Gallery. Stirling. JQJuly—27Aug and venues in ling/and.
Shadow ( )f I [eaten by Patricia .Wai‘donald, whieh ll1('lll(1(’.8‘(llll/2(’ photographs from the exhibition.
will be published in the autumn by
A urum Press.
Above [Edinburgh And .S'outh-lias‘t Scotland will be published by
M ainstream this~ summer.
The List 1‘) May~ 1 June 19897