In the north of Britain lies the highlands: a wildly beautiful landscape defined by impressive green mountains, stretches of dense pine forest and dramatic coastal cliffs. “We were both attracted to something about the expanses of Scotland,” the photographer said Sophie Wedgwood and stylist Christina Firpo tell AnOther about their collaborative project, which documents both the area and the seaside resort of St Andrews on the east coast of Scotland.
A former recipient of the prestigious Magnum Photos Emerging Artist Award, Wedgwood’s photography is rooted in the documentary style with a focus on the subtle beauty found in everyday life. Whether it’s London parks in barricades or the lively streets of Havana where her husband grew up, Wedgwood has an ability to capture the easily missed magic in the imperceptible. For this, and also the project in the highlands, spontaneity is the key. “I’m a big supporter of taking creative risks where possible,” Wedgwood says. “Over-planning can sometimes prevent the surprising from getting through.”
When they arrived in Scotland, Wedgwood and Firpo teamed up with street casting director Lisa Dymph Megens. “The people were strangers, street-cast by Lisa Dymph Megens, so there was an element of chance at stake,” the cameraman recalls. “People were so kind to trust us, which was an important part of it. When Lisa and I work together, we are both interested in the whole person… I think that good portraits are often in the interest of human character and emotions. ”
Composed with sublime images of Scotland’s natural landscapes and ancient ruins, the portraits in the series capture the locals, simply posed in front of traditional rock walls. For the styling, Firpo wanted to stick to the area’s heritage and fall season. “I was influenced by traditional Scottish fabrics and prints, mainly focusing on knitwear, by using a mix of vintage and young designers to incorporate these themes in a more modern way,” she says. “I wanted the clothes to be rich in textures and the colors of the clothes to match the autumnal surroundings.” For both Firpo and Wedgwood, a sense of authenticity was important. “It feels as if the clothes belong to those who are wearing them, and in that way it takes on the person’s identity,” says the photographer.
Although much of the process was experimental, Wedgwood was partly inspired by the concept of repetitive structures in art, giving the series a lyrical feel in its presentation of people and place. “I had recently seen a documentary that had mentioned how repeated tones in Bach’s classical music had inspired repetitions in the way Hemingway writes,” she explains. “How he made connection through the repetition of a word or phrase in his novels. I found it interesting, and it made me consider repetition in art forms, like Rothko’s paintings, or how Rodin made several copies of his work. So this idea of repeated structures were in the back of our minds when we went to Scotland. “
Looking back on the project, the couple sees the series as both a love letter to Scotland’s wild natural landscapes and as a visual exploration of “collective identity”. “In these images, it feels like the rocks, the trees, the rivers, the people are finally mixing together to create a landscape where each is a part of the whole,” Wedgwood says. “It’s interesting to think about how the landscape can shape people’s habits and their appearance.” Firpo adds that they “hope to continue the series over time, either going back to Scotland or focusing on other parts of the UK with similar terrain.”