Photographs of residents of small Scottish island set for national collection

A candid and deeply personal set of images taken of islanders on Eigg are set to make their way into the national collection.

Photographer Danny North immersed himself in island life to document people and place for his series As I Found Her.

He first travelled to Eigg in 2016 after seeing the island from a distance on a day’s sailing trip from Skye. He arrived six months later with an “overwhelming desire” to use photography to explore the community, which bought out their island in 1997.

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North is now in discussions with Scottish National Galleries about the acquisition of his images for an exhibition to reflect Scotland’s 2021 Census.

Brother and sisters on bikes on Eigg. Photographer Danny North immersed himself in island life for his series As I Found Her with a number of photographs set to be acquired by Scottish National Portrait Gallery. PIC: Danny North.

He said: “It’s the greatest honour. I don’t think it gets any better than that.

"I was 15 when I left school, I had three GCSE’s and dyslexia. I didn’t read a book until I was 24, nobody noticed that and neither did I. I came from that kind of background, so it’s an extraordinary achievement.”

North arrived on Eigg the same day the EU referendum result was announced and recalled feeling “isolated, alone and nervous”.

He already had approval from islanders for the project, but took further advice from resident Maggie Flynn once there.

Photographer Danny North said his time on Eigg had a profound effect on his own life and has since moved to a small community in Cornwall. PIC: Danny North.

“Maggie said ‘there’s one place you can buy a drink on this island – the tearoom. It’s Friday night, most of the island will be there’,” he recalled.

North got a beer and made an introduction to the 30-odd people who had gathered.

“Everybody just looked at me, it went dead silent,” he said. “[Then] everyone looked at one another and then carried on.”

One resident, George, beckoned him over in time.

Danny North was welcomed into the community and often spent hours chatting to his subjects before a single shot was taken. PIC: Danny North.

"That was at three in the afternoon,” North said. “I got back to my bed and breakfast at three in the morning.”

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Over the next few days he got to know who was who on the island with an OS map marked up with names and other essential information with The Howlin’ Fling music festival the ultimate icebreaker.

He added: “I went back at Christmas and people were so warm and kind. Someone said to me ‘I’m away to visit my parents, we will leave the door open for you. Stay as long as you want’.”

As he documented the islanders, often speaking for hours before a single shot was taken, North found himself on his own journey,

He said: “I was living in London, I was going through a divorce, I had lost my father to leukaemia. Britain was doing away with Europe, it was a huge transitionary period for me.

"I was working in the music business. I was always looking for a place to belong and my job on the road was at odds with what I wanted.

"Then I went to Eigg and experienced people living and working within a few miles square and the community that builds up around that. It’s hard to forget and it had a profound effect on me.”

When North returned to England, he moved to Cornwall with his now wife.

He said: "The things I experienced in Eigg I now find on my doorstep. I built a business and now I work and live within a few square miles. The experience on Eigg was the foundation of how I am living now.”

Danny North said he felt a sense of "great achievement" that his work was set to be acquired by Scottish National Portrait Gallery. PIC: Danny North.

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