Moments from a Scottish Island
For his second profile, "Bliposse" writer Alan Woodley has been talking to Picturemull. He chose her because he's always been impressed by her “Japanese” abstract reed pictures as shown above. These are her responses to the questions he sent her. The picture selections are his.
Who are you?
I’m Sarah Darling (aka Picturemull) and live on the Isle of Mull off the west coast of Scotland. I moved here about 16 years ago with my husband and young daughter, after a pretty nomadic, rootless sort of life. The longest my family or I ever stayed anywhere was seven years. You could say we’re settled now, although the daughter is away studying in Glasgow.
Like many people here, we do a mix of jobs, including seasonal tourist type work.
Mull has had a huge influence on the way our lives have been shaped. Exposure to the environment, both physical and cultural, has played a big part in that and I'm very grateful for it. I do sometimes wonder what I'd be doing photographically (and indeed otherwise) if we hadn't moved here.
How did you get started with photography?
To be honest I can’t remember. I had a simple camera from an early age, and then in my twenties discovered the joys of SLR cameras and darkrooms. For many years, I had a box room or a bathroom rigged up for black and white photography wherever I was living. But when we moved here I gave my kit away because we didn’t have space for a darkroom, and I bought one of the first Fuji digital cameras.
In 2007, after years of camera envy and influenced by an overseas guest who was into photography, I purchased a Canon 30d and a Sigma lens from a website in the US. When it arrived it was accompanied by an unexpected and hefty import duty bill. I was so annoyed at myself for not realising this would happen that I decided I would make the camera earn the money back. So I started making fridge magnets and keyrings from some of my images. It sort of took off as no one was doing this here at the time. I still sell them in a number of outlets and it is quite satisfying to know that there are my images on fridges across the globe, all made on top of our kitchen chest freezer.
I then started to get asked by other people to photograph different things. This included artists’ work, dance, drama and music performances and workshops. I love photographing people completely absorbed in something they feel passionate about. I don’t do staged photographs. In fact I strongly dislike being told to take a certain shot. I am more of a hunter-gatherer, foraging for that special shot.
How about the stuff you photograph for yourself?
For my own work, influenced by a very dear friend, I am completely uninterested in a purist approach to image making. I get most enjoyment, and possibly the results I like best, when I have one of those ‘I wonder what would happen if I do x, y or z?’ And that goes for the actual taking of the photograph and the processing of it too. The more abstract the results the better.
Over the years, as a dog owner, I’ve walked regularly at Aros Park that has a small loch. I nearly always have a camera with me and have taken many photographs of the water, plant life and dilapidated structures that are scattered throughout the old estate (now owned by the Forestry Commission).
Water is a great draw for people; it has such therapeutic qualities (as does photography). And it never stays the same. I’m fascinated by the fact that this body of water has been, and will be, walked around by people in varying states of mind over the centuries, offering respite and pleasure.
I’ve finally pulled some images together to create an exhibition that will be in the much-loved An Tobar Arts Centre in Tobermory. It opens on 9thJune in the small gallery. The main exhibition is Dugald MacInnes, a wonderful artist who creates slate mosaics (Visit http://www.comar.co.uk for more details).
I now have my own photography website which is also called Picturemull.
How did you get into Blipfoto?
An easy question – from fellow blipper, Treshnish. I was inspired by her fabulous photographs.
What themes do you pursue?
I’m not sure I have a strong theme for the photographs I take. I’ve more of an eclectic, magpie approach. I see something that makes me go ‘aha’. Unfortunately those ‘aha’ moments don’t happen every day.
It might be a sky, a view, my camera-shy daughter, another shot of Tobermory or just something that catches my eye.
What are the challenges?
My boredom threshold isn’t very high! I am also a bit of a Luddite when it comes to new equipment. But my hands now get painful from holding a heavy DSLR so I am trying to get used to my new “mirrorless” Fuji X-t2. I do struggle with it because it tries to pre-empt me and churn out a ready-made image. I’m not interested in that. A lot of what I’ve been doing so far is trying to switch things off as I just want it to give me RAW data and I’ll decide.
What advice would you offer to blippers thinking of doing what you’re doing?
Just look and really see what’s around you. Enjoy the detail as well as the bigger picture. Produce images that you like and don’t worry about what others will think or expect.
What’s the best thing about Blipfoto?
I do like the community aspect of Blipfoto. You see tremendous support, especially when people are going through very difficult times. You can see people blossom photographically and confidence-wise. And I do like the window on the wider world that Blipfoto offers. Perhaps this is particularly important to me as I live on a small island.
But on a purely selfish basis, I like that it motivates me to take at least one photograph a day and, because I want my image to be beautiful or at least interesting in some way, it makes me look for or make something beautiful or interesting every day. Surely this has to be good for the soul? Also, my memory isn’t to be trusted, so if I didn’t pick up a camera everyday then I would lose my automatic pilot for dials and buttons that is so necessary to give me the head space to look and really see.
The written word is not my forte I am much more comfortable with images. And so Blipfoto gives me a visual diary. I now have records going back many years. I can look back through a lot of my blips and, from the image alone, remember something about that day.
As told to Alan Woodley (woodleywise and gabion)
Cover picture by Picturemull: Reeds of Aros