Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming, January 31st 2024

The latest meeting of Keswick Photographic Society was a first for the club in that the speakers Morag Paterson and Ted Leeming were presenting by zoom from northern Italy’s Liguria region. They treated us to their uniquely creative approaches to landscape photography where they focus on engagement with the environment rather than simply recording views. They are passionate about pursuing a low carbon profile to the extent that in 2016 they abandoned their successful business leading overseas photographic workshops which involved air travel. They embarked on their first low impact photography project in 2009 with a “zero footprint” study of the landscape – viewed from a single point on the patio of their eco-house overlooking the Galloway hills in Scotland. It was remarkable what a variety of emotive images they produced, including panoramic and intimate perspectives as well as more abstract creative interpretations. The 5-year timeline of the initial project also revealed how the landscape can change dramatically over time and resulted in a book of the images.

Ted described two trans-European expeditions he undertook, where he used photographs to connect with the environment in both geographical and anthropological terms. In northern Italy he came across many post-war abandoned houses where families had departed suddenly leaving behind belongings and other evidence of their lives. On other trips he cycled from ex-Soviet era countries, with housing and infrastructure still redolent of those times, to highly industrialised and modern Westernised countries. His photographs evoked a striking social documentary of life in Europe. He then took us on a much more local adventure into their garden in Scotland where he adopted the persona of an ant at soil level, producing often quite abstract images.

Morag then introduced us to some alternative imaging processes, including solargraphs where the photographic paper is sealed inside a tin can with a single pinhole in its side and then left outside for months before developing and printing the result. Other imaging techniques included cyanotypes, anthotypes and chromatography of tree and plant extracts. A striking blue cyanotype of the hydrology of the waterways in their local area showed how hydroelectric development has impacted the local landscape. It is now on permanent display in Galloway.

Ted finished the evening with a description of their recent residency exploring the diminishing habitat of the migratory nightjar in a lowlands peatbog area southwest of Dumfries. The resulting exhibition in Dumfries in November 2023 featured photographic interpretations and alternative imaging processes and installations. This project truly encapsulated the passionate engagement that Ted and Morag have with the environment and how they employ their photographic activity and skill to that end.

Members were intrigued and amazed by the imaginative approaches which our speakers brought to their photography and registered their approval with enthusiastic applause.

Keith Snell