Hilary Seatter is a Scottish artist living and working in the Shetland Islands. I was born in Edinburgh and my Grandfather was from the Orkney Isles where I brought up my children in the glorious fresh air and delightful surroundings that inspire my work today.
Outline of a pinhole photography project and development story:
I spend a lot of time walking and cycling around my local countryside. My Island isolation helps to provoke ideas and triggers a non-stop flow of imaginative thoughts and stories in my mind. As an artist I enjoy telling these stories through imagery and I am always experimenting with different ways to do this from photography to textiles, animation to screen-printing. I love working outside in the field, and I do actually mean ‘in the field!’.
My small mobile coffee business which provides me with an income also provided me with the idea for trying pinhole photography. After a busy season I had lots of empty hot chocolate pots and a pending design brief for my degree work. In my spare time I was cycling around my area and I began to see series of objects appearing in front of me: water hydrants, stones, birds, different terrains, weather patterns, light moods and such like. It grew in my head that I should make some cameras and play around with these objects and the light as I cycled around.
On my return to the University for my final year in Contemporary Textiles I took with me a beautiful collection of my first pinhole photographs (which worked out perfectly first time thanks to an article featured on your site showing a step by step guide to making and using the Oatmeal camera).
With an added stroke of luck our first brief was to represent the celebration year of bio-diversity, 2010. The grouping together of images in my mind from my summer outings began to form into a series of work exploring six different habitats; the land, the birds and the plants etc that live within them. I set out with my six chocolate pot cameras and began gathering images and information for my project.
After much consideration and experimentation I began to work with these images in the darkroom. Using a mixture of the traditional photography through to digital, drawings, paintings, airbrushing and screen-printing I created a series of screen printed collages which ultimately became the master prints for my collection of interior fabrics designed at bringing the outside environment inside the home.
As my final degree project approached I found that my fascination with darkroom work and the understanding of how to use light for ‘drawing’ was intensifying. I was surrounded in a colourful environment with beautiful yarns, people knitting and weaving yet all I wanted to do was go into the dark, be alone and play with light. I experimented for weeks with pinhole images, acetates, projectors and then one morning as I passed a coffee machines in my work room, stripped down to the chassis for repair, I saw exactly what I was looking for. The motor, the pump, the casing, the pipes, the boiler – all the different parts that bring a machine to life; this was to become the new narrative for my story, Vyeshch – an object with soul.
As my understanding of light and photographic processes strengthened and with a new set of images to play with I hit lucky whilst experimenting with printing - suddenly there in front of me was the most beautiful delicate silk hologram.
Exploiting the moiré effect appearing between layers of silk fabric I began to created my final collection – huge silk holograms featuring giant photographic representations of machine parts. The work was granted a solo exhibition, awarded a distinction and given the overall prize for achievement.
After leaving the University I found myself still craving to further my interest in pinhole photography. Again this fascination with collections of the things surrounding me became heightened. I began to ask questions about the huge stones I had noticed placed intermittently along our roadsides in Shetland. There are twelve stones and they have plaques upon them. I began to stop the car and take photographs of the stones; I was amazed at the size of them when standing close up. The atmospherics were moving and changing around the stones so quickly that I realized the long exposure pinhole lens was the way to capture this. Cloud movement, mist, gentle winter light began to make me hungry for big dramatic representations of what I was seeing in front of me. This is when it struck me to upsize my cameras and paper and I began working out how i might solve this. The materials were going to be expensive and the results unknown, however, Shetland Arts agency had put a call out for artists to apply for grants to develop in their work. I applied, they liked the idea, granted me some funding and so I began to work on the Shetland Road Stones project. So this is where you find me today, clambering up the hills, over fences, hauling huge buckets around trying to catch little bursts of the Shetland light as it returns for the summer.
Over the next couple of months leading into a period of 24 hrs of daylight I will find and capture the stones as giant pinhole images. I will use raw light to ‘paint’ the story of the stones, and remind people of how they came to be erected as markers of progress. They represent the resourcefulness and development of the Shetland people, everything here is brought in by boat; the people are tough and inventive, independent and determined to succeed. I like this.
And so I hope that my story brings the stones back into conversation over a cup of tea and re-unites the people that remember the days of progress from 1974 to 1984 as new roads were built and the benefits of the oil rich North Sea brought wealth, stability and employment into the local Shetland economy.
It is a poignant story as Shetland again enters a new phase of energy provision through the highly controversial wind farm proposals. This time it is not oil and gas but wind power that threatens the people and their landscape. Again there will be new road systems and the challenge to an Island community in dealing with new things and the inevitable of progress and change.
-CK - I have to admit, I've been having some difficultly keeping the pinhole series alive and going well. So when I got a very nice email from Hilary one day, introducing me to her photos and story I was happy to hear it. I liked her romantic and inspiring approaches she was using to make her pinhole photos. How the art form found her in a way showing her these whole new dimensions she had never seen before. I also liked how art can change people in a good way. I can imagine Hilary sitting on a small boulder near one of her large black tub pinhole cameras, opening the pinhole and then waiting there while she watches and listens to the wind moving the clouds over the sky. A time to mediation and reflection about the moment and environment you are part of. This I feel is one of the interesting characteristics of making pinhole photos with photographic paper negative. The process requires you to wait and be patient while the light/image being created on the paper. Multiple moments in time all captured in one still image. I think to myself, how long has that big rock been sitting there and was it part of a bigger rock, if so, when and where?
I enjoy the fact that this series features artists from all over the world. How I can help share with you Hilary's pinhole story and how she uses it to create her art. So thank you Hilary for sharing your creative journey with us here.
And for those of you who have left comments and sent me emails about keeping the features coming… I appreciate that. Thank you. It's a labor of love so any positive words are always welcome. Cheers! -Chris
Silk holograms inspired by pinhole photography, darkroom work and a growing love and understanding of working with light.
Large scale silk hologram in red and green, motor 1mtr x 1mtr. Inspired by pinhole holograph projected by light.
New Designers, London 2010, display by Hilary Seatter, silk scarfs and small hologram inspired by pinhole photography.
Interior fabric development called River Estuary, collection of pinhole photographs, drawings and screenprinted designs.
Interior fabric development from the pinhole work. This fabric features pinhole picture planticrub, a traditional method
Interior fabric designed from the Auld Wife pinhole collection, walk taken in Skellister Shetland
A screenprinted combination work, the images are taken with my pinhole cameras, this work represents aquaculture in Shetland.
Planticrub, Skellister, Shetland summer light, 5x7" pinhole contact print
Pinhole picture 5x7" contact print , winter light Skellister Shetland
My first giant pinhole pictures taken at 40 seconds exposure from the bucket cameras. 20" x 24". Paper negative check by digital reversal.
Vidlin Road Stone 1984, one of the last stones erected.. Bucket camera pinhole negative, spring light. Paper 20 by 24 inches.
Vidlin Road Stone. This is a contact print which I have under exposed to create a dramatic effect. This is a granite and quartz.
The Auld Wife, Granite and Quartz, pinhole picture 5" x 7". Cloud movement visible, windy day.
Rocking fishing boat, pinhole paper negative 5" x 7", autumn light.
Pilot boats in harbour, pinhole paper negative 5" x 7"
Gathering supplies for bucket camera ready to start new project.
Setting up the shot, Girlsta, Shetland Road Stone project. Stone erected 1978. Paper loaded in camera 20" x 24".
In-home DIY Pinhole Darkroom with large developing trays for paper negatives
Hilary Seatter, self portrait taken in the garden mid morning, 20”x24” giant pinhole picture.
All Photos Copyright (C) 2012 Hilary Seatter and Reproduced by Permission