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Matinee: 'The Broken Land' Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

20 June 2020

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 258th in our series of Saturday matinees today: The Broken Land (An Tìr Briste).

In this 3:21 slide show with music written by composer Giles Lamb, landscape photographer Alex Boyd presents a series of quite unusual images made with a camera whose lens was "broken" in a drop.

Boyd tells the story:

In 2013 I was the Royal Scottish Academy Artist in Residence at Sabhal Mo[!]r Ostaig on the Isle of Skye. These images were made that year using a broken camera, its lens damaged in a fall while exploring the Quirang, a strange geological feature in the north of the island. Instead of replacing or repairing the camera it joined me on several trips. It's strange out of focus way of seeing the world mirroring my own vision, as a photographer who suffers from amblyopia. I later took the camera with me to St. Kilda and several images from that trip feature here.

Amblyopia is commonly known as lazy eye. It describes a condition in which the nerve pathway from the retina at the back of the eye to the brain deteriorates causing the brain to gradually favor the other eye. In turn that weakens the otherwise normal eye whose signals the brain doesn't receive. Consequently suffering from muscle weakness, the unused eye tends to wander. Poor depth perception is a leading symptom.

Boyd is a landscape and documentary photographer, printmaker and writer whose work focuses on the Scottish landscape. As a photographer he has examined the role of early Scottish landscape photographers using antique processes like the wet-plate collodion process with antique cameras in the mountains.

In 2019 he was awarded a Daiwa Foundation Scholarship to photograph the Japan Alps near Mount Yari. He was named Mountain Photographer of the Year at the Kendal Mountain Festival in 2013. His work on the Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye as the Royal Scottish Academy’s artist in Residence is in several National Collections. Widely exhibited internationally, he has had solo exhibitions at the Scottish Parliament, and group exhibitions at the Royal Academy, Royal Ulster Academy and the Royal Scottish Academy.

But here he is with a broken camera taking photos of a dramatic seascape in black and white. Undeterred, one might say.

And the results may at first make you think, here and there, of miniaturization techniques or lomography.

But beyond that initial impression, you find a world not unlike Claude Monet's late paintings, undertaken when he was suffering from cataracts. Or Beethoven composing music despite his deafness. Conditions, that is, which turned the obvious craft of the art on its head, revealing a different dimension.

A photographer only needs one good eye, of course, and Boyd's other work proves his photography doesn't suffer from his condition. It was the camera that was broken.

And yet these images give us a chance to think beyond the formal qualities of focus and sharpness to something else the camera can capture.

Even -- or especially -- a broken one.

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