Sound of Harris: Photographers Olivia Arthur and Philipp Ebeling capture the bleak beauty of the Scottish island

The duo visited the Scottish island to catch the essence of its shaggy hills, its hardy locals, and its harsh climate

John Walsh
Friday 04 December 2015 23:39 GMT
Comments
There is eloquent inventiveness in the caravan owner's employment of heavy rocks to stop his vehicle being blown away in storms
There is eloquent inventiveness in the caravan owner's employment of heavy rocks to stop his vehicle being blown away in storms (© Olivia Arthur and Philipp Ebeling/Magnum Photos)

Support truly
independent journalism

Our mission is to deliver unbiased, fact-based reporting that holds power to account and exposes the truth.

Whether $5 or $50, every contribution counts.

Support us to deliver journalism without an agenda.

Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

Editor

When WB Yeats sent John Synge to visit the Aran islands ("a most desolate, stony place") in 1898, his visits produced a phenomenal body of work, culminating in The Playboy of the Western World. When Gauguin visited the tiny Pacific island of Hiva Oa three years later, the resulting paintings ushered in the Synthetist style of modern art. These were just two of the myriad journeys made by creative artists into wild terrain in search of inspiration.

A century later, two photographers set out to capture the bleak beauty of the remote Scottish landscape. Olivia Arthur, a London-based Magnum photographer, and Philipp Ebeling, a photographer, publisher and owner of the Fishbar studio, went to the Sound of Harris – "sound" meaning the stretch of sea running south of the Outer Hebridean island – to catch the essence of its shaggy hills, its hardy locals, and its harsh climate. "We felt the influence of the weather, the power of the sea, and saw faces in the mountains and monster-like shapes emerge from the seaweed as the tide receded," Ms Arthur reported.

You'd think the weather itself was an artist in these photographs, or at least the spur to art. Look at the eloquent inventiveness in the caravan owner's employment of heavy rocks to stop his vehicle being blown away in storms. The bus-stop seat enclosed in windbreak glass resembles an exhibit in a vitrine. The seaweed is shaped in complex, beautiful whorls, as though by Andy Goldsworthy. The rocks have a sculpted, Easter Island quality.

The predominant note, though, is of ungovernable wildness. Male and female Hearachs, as the inhabitants are known, look dwarfed by the grassland, lost against the black, unwelcoming shore. No wonder Stanley Kubrick used Harris as the surface of Jupiter in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Sound of Harris by Olivia Arthur and Philipp Ebeling is at the Leica Studio, 27 Bruton Place, London W1J 6NQ, until 10 December.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in