Outtakes: Steve Messam, photographer, on his pursuit of fairies

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I do Christmas cards every year for my clients, and a couple of years ago I was tinkering with the idea of putting photographs of fairies on them. So I wandered out towards Loch Lomond, found a fairy, and stuck it in a jar to take it back - but I didn't put holes in the lid, so it died. And my idea, to stop it from falling apart, was to pickle it, so it ended up being a pickled fairy - very Damien Hirst.

I like what Damien Hirst's doing - the whole postmodern idea of looking back on stuff that has been done in the past with irony. Victorian photographers and painters, such as Joseph Noel Paton, used to do a lot of fairy stuff, and fairies are a pet subject of mine. But I'm putting a Nineties twist on it, which is why they're pickled or trapped or whatever. I've also got quite a sick sense of humour.

There are two kinds of fairy represented in my photos. In the pickle jars are oreads, which are hill- or ground-dwelling fairies. The rest are dryads, which are woodland fairies - but there might be a goblin in amongst them as well. There is a third order, nymphs, or water fairies, but I haven't found any of those.

Not many people see fairies, so they do get trapped, like any other thing that's roaming around the hills. Some of them have obviously got snarled up in a fishing line or something like that, and can't get out of it. Sometimes it may be something the goblins did - I don't know. Some of the other photos feature fairy road deaths - fairies splattered on car windscreens and things like that - because that happens to things that fly around, like insects, for instance. And if I'm feeling wound up on the day I'm photographing, I do tend to take it out on the fairies.

The current interest in fairies - there's a new film called Photographing Fairies, and an exhibition of Victorian fairy painting at the Royal Academy this month - is possibly a millennial thing. But then, Victorian stuff comes and goes, and pre-Raphaelite stuff comes and goes, so it may be just down to trends.