Lara Platman: Harris Tweed

Lara Platman, photographer and author, spent seven months on the Isles of Harris and Lewis in Scotland working on the publication “Harris Tweed: From Land to Street” (Frances Lincoln Publishing). Here she allows us to take a look into her diary hidden behind her photographs.

It is one thing producing a book about the world’s most celebrated fabric, Harris Tweed, it is another actually living the life of a photographer, who tends to delve right in and live where she shoots. I have often wondered if all photographers do this – actually reside on the job at hand?  Sleep in the field where the best view is to be had so that a morning sunrise shot can be caught, or tolerate snow when everyone else seems to be lighting a fire and reading a book? All of which is endured on one’s own, because, well, it is my project after all. Despite the loneliness of working on such a feat, looking back on this diary I have such fond memories and am ever so pleased I made a note of them. Meanwhile, here are some extracts from my diary, from one of my visits, which I published weekly on my blog throughout my journey around the Outer Hebrides.

Snow: April 8th

Surviving the white stuff, (not sure how, as logistically the snow was intense, the worst I hear in thirty years and traitorously demanding for the road vehicle and its driver), I arrived on the Isle of Skye ready to skip across to the Outer Hebrides.

The Isles of Harris and Lewis surely has to be one this country’s best kept secrets. Yes there are slight tourist brochures and some vague television adverts about the islands, but to be honest, nothing that actually depicts the sheer beauty of the people and the awe inspiring landscape, something that only personally witnessing the place will suffice.

I did just that, I found myself feeling euphoric whilst standing at Luskentyre on one of the many beaches on Harris and Lewis, allowing the wind to sweep over my skin, watching the pale blue waters and sandy ground. If ever there was an overture to be composed it would be here. The unbroken violins of the wind, the melancholic sounds of the cello as the whispy clouds move across the sky. Mendelssohn had a palette of emotions available here to be able compose his overture and rightly naming it the Hebrides.

The Blue Pig: July 10th

Today I woke up with a tremendous need to run and have a hot bath, the wind had kept me awake until 3 a.m. when I eventually got dozy, but needed to leave my tent to run to the lavatory; however, it was raining cheetahs and lions I decided to wait … right up until 8 a.m. This camping lark is really getting to me and luckily I see from my bank account that I can book myself into a hotel. Don’t get me wrong, I like camping, actually I love camping. Sleeping on the ground close to mother-nature I do, in fact, like it very much, but day after day when there is rain, I simply cannot take any more of it on this visit here.

So wonderfully, I am staying for two nights in a wee little shed at the Blue Pig Gallery over in Carloway. Run by Jane and Peter Barker, this gallery has local arts and crafts, gifts, workshops and has a small fridge and mini shop, which I have found to be a godsend. They stock the simple tinned tuna and raspberry jam, some fruit and, when the chickens wish to, some eggs. On passing there this evening after my day in the Harris Tweed Textiles mill, I realised that I might have some eggs for my breakfast so I popped in to find that there were no eggs, but there was indeed a little shed for me to lay my head, so immediately I kissed her and booked two nights!

[…]

The Outer Hebrides, the Highlands and Borders (my three main pit stops) are the most remarkable locations that the British Isles has to offer come rain or shine and with a well-equipped tent, camera kit and vehicle, any terrain in any weather ought to provide for some expressive or atmospheric imagery.

The Outer Hebrides is an extraordinary place, with landscapes that will haunt me for days and possibly years to come. I can survive the rain and lacklustre skies offered to me, I can survive the solitude, but forgive me if you will, I need the light. I think I will have to have another fling up there to see what else the weather can provide me, I know it was hiding in the gods.

I did indeed return to continue with my book and continue with my diary.

-Lara Platman

Harris Tweed: From Land to Street” is published by Frances Lincoln and is on sale now. More of Lara’s diary can be found on her blog, whereflowerspickthemselves.wordpress.com and you can view more of her images on her site, www.photofeature.co.uk.