Plate 28: Bank Lane, Stromness, Orkney, 2006
It is relatively easy to show the passage of time by photographing things that are centuries old. When I stand in front of a standing stone it is easy to recognize the passage of time and acknowledge how things have changed. These two phone booths stand as silent sentinels, witnesses to Orkney’s place in the modern world. And yet they are also rapidly becoming symbols of times past. Notice the signs that indicate one takes change as well as credit cards. In the few years since this image further changes have taken place and most of the pay phones on Orkney no longer take change. As more and more people use cell phones, the need for a local neighborhood pay phone dwindles. The iconic red phone booth of Scotland may soon disappear from the landscape altogether, not unlike the standing stones and the few that remain will be monoliths to another century.
Plate 29: Eday Ferry, Eday, Orkney, 2007
The island of Eday lies 15 miles north of Mainland Orkney and is the ninth largest island in the archipelago. My intention for visiting this island was to photograph the Stone of Setter (Eday’s major standing stone), the chambered Cairns of Vinquoy, Breaside and Huntersquoy as well as the beaches and landscape. Visiting a new island was always exciting for me because although I almost always had specific locations in mind, I never knew how I would relate to the island and its environment so the images I returned with were often a surprise. The islands are all reached by ferry, some an hour’s ride, others a full day’s, some on a daily schedule, while others were on a twice monthly one. Enjoying ferry travel and with an hour to Eday I decided to incorporate this ferry ride into the project. I thought a pinhole image might provide a different look and feel for my Orkney work and set the camera down on the bench in the corner of the cabin on the ferry. I let the exposure go for the entire trip to Eday and it turned out to be a good exposure, with people moving in and out of the cabin and leaving only a ghostly vision. The tilt of the table provides the feeling of a sea going adventure, and by using the pinhole I was able to make a photograph that is completely different than one I would have made with a lens camera.
Plate 30: Betty Corrigall’s Grave, Hoy, Orkney, 2005
This has been called the loneliest grave in Britain. On the boundary of Hoy and North Walls parishes on the island of Hoy (second largest island in Orkney) lays the grave of Betty Corrigall. Corrigall was a young woman living at Greenairs Cottage who fell in love and became pregnant. The young man left for sea leaving Betty alone and, like Hester Prynne, shunned by her neighbors. Twice she tried to kill herself, succeeding in hanging herself on the second attempt. Because she committed suicide she was denied burial in consecrated ground in any of the local churchyards and so was buried in unconsecrated ground on the border between the two parishes. She lay in an unmarked grave from the 1770’s until 1933 when two men digging peat dug up her coffin. Curious, they opened the coffin and discovered that the acid from the peat had preserved her corpse. They reburied the coffin and forgot about her, but during World War II her coffin was again discovered by soldiers digging peat and again she was reinterred. Unfortunately, word spread and repeated exhumations by curious visitors caused her remains to begin to deteriorate rapidly. Finally the local police took steps to stop the practice and she was reburied with a concrete slab placed over the coffin. The grave remained unmarked until 1976 when Mr. Henry Berry erected a small fiberglass headstone during a belated burial service.
On each visit to Hoy I stopped to photograph this lonely grave. Its quiet hillside isolation spoke to me. On several occasions the wind howled and the camera was nearly blown off the tripod but I was finally able to capture an image the carried the sense of isolation I felt standing there and looking at this grave. Over the years a small fence has been erected around the grave and a wooden walkway leads visitors to the gravesite. What is it about our society that we will shun someone who makes a mistake but years or decades later forgive the sin and revere the person who was cast out? There her grave stands on the border between two parishes on Hoy, with a white stone and white fence protecting her dignity. I see it as a constant reminder to our imperfect humanity.
Plate 31: A964, Stenness, Orkney, 2005
Two icons of the British Nation stand side by side on the road in Stenness, a mail drop box built into a stonewall and a red phone booth. These red phone booths are leaving the British as well as the Orkney landscape. During my travels around Scotland I noticed that many of the traditional red Royal Post mailboxes are decorated with a coat of arms. Curious, I sought out the meaning and this tradition began during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was decided to place mailboxes at locations other than the post office and several designs were created, among them the free-standing mail box column and the type built into a wall. Queen Victoria insisted that her royal crest be included in the design. Each successive monarch continued the trend, placing new mailboxes around the countryside. Because of this tradition, it is possible to date the placement of the mailbox by the royal crest found on the face of the mailbox. This one in Stenness was put in place during the reign of King George V. I wonder how long it will be before these local community mailboxes become symbols of bygone times, unusual curiosities like the standing stones in the landscape.