Danny North’s series, As I Found Her, explores one of the most isolated communities in the UK
We are expanding the exhibition space for OpenWalls Arles 2020. As part of this second open call, we are highlighting photographers whose work relates to the theme: Daily Life. Calls open on Tuesday 10 September 2019 at 2pm (UK time).
The Hebridean Isle of Eigg is a ferry ride away from the Scottish mainland. Owned by the people living there, the community of Eigg was one of the first to buy its home from a rogue Laird. Last year, the community celebrated the 20th anniversary of its £1.5 million buyout of the island. As a result, self-sufficiency and independence are intrinsic to the community. “Life on the island is deeply rooted in friendships and the sharing of burdens,” explains photographer Danny North. “There are no police, no crime, and everything works perfectly.”
North began photographing the people of Eigg after feeling lost living in Deptford, South London. On a previous holiday in Skye, a skipper had told him about an island with a population of less than 100. “I was going through great personal turmoil,” he explains, “and without knowing why, I needed to create and experience something that could give me an understanding of my place in the world.” He was drawn to the tales the skipper had told him about Eigg — their self-governance and energy efficiency, but mostly the spirit of community, which sounded almost mythical.
North’s photographs celebrate this sense of community and the people of Eigg’s unique way of life. “I arrived feeling desperately lonely,” he says, “and I finished the year-long project knowing I would always have Eigg.” However, leaving sprawling Deptford for remote Eigg, on a journey that required 13 hours of driving and a ferry trip, made the island feel extremely isolated to North. “At times, sat on Laig beach staring out over the stormy sea to the isle of Rum, it felt like I’d reached the end of the world or a place where people would go not to be found,” he explains.
The resulting images reflect on the peace and tranquility of daily life on the island. North pictures his subjects animatedly, and often alone, roaming the wild countryside with farm animals in tow. There is both a playfulness and quaintness to each still; in one photograph, a young girl perches on a chair in a polytunnel among overgrown vegetable patches. “It is hard to put the experience into words,” gushes North, “I can’t describe how the rush of love, of contentment, and of friendships, flow through me when I think of Eigg.”
North held the very first exhibition of As I Found Her on Eigg last year, as part of the community’s celebrations to mark the 20th anniversary of their ownership of the land.