Show Us Colonsay, by Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert

A week anywhere taking photographs is always to be savoured, but a week on a Scottish island in the best of weather always sets a high bar. And so it was in the week of our Show Us Colonsay project.

I knew little about Colonsay before I went, it wasn’t one of the islands I’d been to previously in my career, and I had no connection with the island or the islanders. I was going to be entering into our Show Us Colonsay project with a blank slate, free of ideas.

But like anyplace, and any photo assignment, it is the people that make a place and make the photos. Sure I can marvel at the landscapes of where I am, and always marvel at the light, but I’m drawn to photographing people and hearing their stories, getting glimpses into their lives. On the island, during our week there, I was fortunate to meet so many, and offered hospitality with people generous with their time in allowing me to photograph. The following images are a small selection of those meetings, and forgive me if not everyone I met appears.

Setting up the hybrid in-person and online Zoom for the Church of Scotland Sunday morning service, on isle of Colonsay, Scotland, 8 May 2022. The online service started during the pandemic lockdowns and has continued ever since, with an audience spread across islands and mainland.

It was heartening to have so many from the community interested to take part on our Creative Scotland and Street Level Photoworks supported and funded project, whether that meant be photographed themselves, or taking their own photographs and showing us their Colonsay. Many islanders already use Instagram as a way of marketing their businesses and this meant the idea of our project, that of showing us their life on their island was already underway.

I spent time photographing with Sarah Hobhouse in Balnahard farm, interested to hear more of her Colonsay Wool Growers business, and see the processes used in that, but in doing so it became obvious that Sarah was more than adept herself at showing us through photography her farm, her processes and island life. Sarah’s Instagram accounts for her Balnahard wool business and Seapink Gallery are a joy to see on a daily basis from back here in Glasgow.

Same with Matt Green, perhaps with a little less regularity I’m sure he admits but showing on his Instagram his Port Mor Pork business of rearing free range pigs, and his work as a fencer on the island. And if only my wife would let me buy her jewellery I’d immediately head over to Hazel’s Sea Jewellery on Instagram where Hazel, whom I met briefly as she helped set up the local election’s polling station, shares images of the beautiful work she makes in her workshop using found sea glass from the coast line of the island – small still life photographs but none the less a different depiction of contemporary island life through photography.

Early one dull blustery morning I met up with Trini, who invited me along on her daily swim. Some of those daily swims end up as images, again as glimpses of contemporary Colonsay life, along with images of her collecting shells for her arts and crafts business on her Instagram account for the Old Waiting Room Gallery which she runs down by the harbour.

Trini, wild swimming in Loch Fada, on isle of Colonsay, Scotland, 5 May 2022. Trini spends 6-months each summer on the island and is now owning and running The Old Waiting Room Gallery.

So it was heartening for me to see photography being used in such ways, and it made our week long community interaction project a joy to partake in (see more photographs taken by those who collaborated in our project here). It may have been my first visit to Colonsay, but I expect I’ll be back again at some point, but until then I can enjoy the photography and moments of island life as shown and shared by those living there. That is really the definition of Show Us Colonsay.

Thanks for reading,

Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert.

All images ©Jeremy Sutton-Hibbert 2022.

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