Stonehaven Guide
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General > Andy Hall Interview
Andy Hall Interview

Andy HallAndy Hall, photographer from Stonehaven who had great success with his book A Sense of Belonging to Scotland is launching the 2nd Volume in October 2005.

Andy took time out from his busy schedule to carry out an interview with the Stonehaven Guide,

How long have you lived in Stonehaven?

My family moved to the North Lodge, Ury from Maryculter when I was 12. Unfortunately, my dad died within a few months and eighteen months later, my mum and I moved to Woodcot Park in 1968.

You are a schoolteacher by profession. When did you first take an interest in photography?

I broke my leg playing football at the tender age of 35 and while recuperating, I decided to take up photography to fill the gap. My wife, Sylvia, is an art teacher and an artist and we have always had a shared interest. In the absence of my having her drawing skills, I decided that photography would be the best medium for me. A footballing comeback was not an option!

Have you taken many photos around Stonehaven area?

Ever since I began to take photograph seriously, Iíve found inspiration in and around Stonehaven, particularly the Harbour, Dunnottar Castle, the village of Cowie, Dunnottar Woods and the Pool. Slightly further afield, I love photographing the coastline around Catterline and the land around Arbuthnott. The crowning glory is St. Cyrus beach, photographically one of the best beaches in Scotland.

Do you have a particular favourite?

I have a lovely winter shot of Dunnottar Castle which I took last year. The relief and patterns of the rock are accentuated by fresh snow and it was beautiful late-afternoon light. Every time I look at it I think of Dunnottarís amazing history, particularly the saving of the Honours of Scotland.

Were you helped or inspired by any local organisations in Stonehaven

I attended Mearns Camera Club for 9 years. I learned a huge amount by entering competitions and listening to advice from judges and invited speakers.

Your book ďA Sense of BelongingĒ seems to have been a great success. Where did the idea come from?

To celebrate the Millennium, I published a modest book entitled ďThe Mearns at the MillenniumĒ. It was a super wee publication which highlighted the beauty spots of this lovely corner of Scotland. One way or another, copies reached all corners of the globe. I got many letters from people saying how much they missed the area. The thing that struck me was how beautifully everyone wrote about the places that were meaningful to them. I decided to extend the idea to ask Scottish personalities to name their favourite locations, I would photograph them and they would write about them.

How did you persuade so many famous personalities to take part?

I sent them all a copy of the Mearns at the Millennium to establish the quality and integrity of my work and a letter outlining the idea. I was greatly helped by having Ewan McGregor as my first recruit. A friend of mine put me in touch with Ewanís dad whom he knew in Crieff. It certainly helped to have Scotlandís brightest film star already on board!

There is some quite stunning photography in the book. What influenced you to specialise in landscape photography?

Probably the writing of Lewis Grassic Gibbon, the music of Dougie MacLean and the photography of Colin Prior. I have read Sunset Song many times and it always inspires me to go into the Mearns landscape and photograph it in all its diversity. Colin has become a friend over the years but when I saw his first book, Highland Wilderness, I felt I wanted to aspire to his inspirational and technically meticulous photography. Dougie is the most beautiful singer/songwriter in Scotland, in my opinion. I often listen to his songs to distil a mood in preparation for going out with the camera. Iím presently working on a project with Dougie where Iím photographing the places that have been inspirational in his songwriting. It is going to be fabulous when it is finished.

There is an interesting variety of favourite places in the book. Which area did you enjoy photographing the most?

I think the variety is the key and I enjoyed them all equally from Grangemouth Refinery at Night and the sign above the Oxford Bar in Edinburgh for Ian Rankin to the most wonderful experience of photographing Glencoe by Moonlight for Ally McCoist. I found that such diverse choices and trying to see them through other peopleís eyes presented me with a real photographic challenge but one, which I relished.

You must have travelled many miles to complete your assignments. How long did it take you to complete the book?

I drove 15,000 miles to take only 50 pictures, often returning three, four or five times to get the perfect shot. It took three years from conception to the Launch in Edinburgh in 2002.

You are now working on a follow up ďA Sense of Belonging to Scotland Ė Further Journeys. How many personalities have you persuaded this time?

This one has 55 including Colin Montgomerie, Dougray Scott, Emma Thompson, Marti Pellow, my hero Denis Law and ironically, Colin Prior, who chose St. Cyrus!

What have you learned from your experience in creating the first volume that has helped you on the new book?

The main thing is that there is no compromise on quality, no matter how many journeys are required or how long it takes. And there is always sunshine after the rain (if you wait long enough!)

If you were to include your own favourite place in Scotland, where would that be?

My own place of Tiroran on Mull where my mother was born and spent her childhood was in the first collection but now I would add Traigh Ban beach on the island of Iona and Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris. Heaven canít be far away from these beautiful locations.

When is the second volume being launched?

It will be launched at the Oran Mor in Glasgow on October the 18th 2005 but there will be a Stonehaven Launch at the Town Hall on Friday November 25th. It will be to raise funds for the Open Air Pool, the Stonehaven Folk Festival and Stonehaven Fatherland Burns Club. All three organisations mean a great deal to me and Iím delighted to be able to profile all three at the Stonehaven Launch. As well as a modest entry fee, there will be a raffle prize of the front cover shot of Lunan Bay, the favourite place of Ricky Ross, front man of Deacon Blue. It will be signed by Ricky and myself and will make a focus for the evening. Iím hoping for a great night and would be delighted if visitors to the site would like to come if they are around Stonehaven at the time. Please phone me on 07866762647 or e-mail on aahall@btopenworld.com for ticket details.

That is an ideal time for the Christmas Market. You will be hoping lots of Stonehaven residents will buy this to send to friends and relatives?

In all my photographic exploits, the people of Stonehaven and Kincardineshire have given me huge support. If I have produced something that they enjoy, it will mean a great deal to me. By way of thanks for the support and encouragement Iíve had, Iíd urge local people not to get a copy from a bookshop but to contact me on 07866762647 or aahall@btopenworld.com and Iíd be delighted to sign a copy for friends or family. I think it means so much more if I can personalise it with an apt inscription for someone at home or overseas. Please do not hesitate to contact me. It would be a privilege.

Andy, Stonehaven is proud of what you have achieved and this must be an inspiration to other amateur photographers. I am sure there are many budding photographers in Stonehaven that could learn from your experience. Do you have any plans to hold classes in Landscape Photography in the future?

I have taken several courses over the years and it is something Iím often asked about. If there were enough people interested, Iíd be delighted to run a course locally, perhaps over a couple of weekends. If anyone would like to put their name down, please contact me by the above methods. Once I know numbers, Iíll put an interesting course together using the local environment and pass on some of the things Iíve learned over the years.




Many thanks to Andy Hall for taking the time to carry out this interview and for his permission to use some of his photographs for this site.

You can visit Andyís website at www.andyhallphotography.com

 

 George McGillivray Ė Stonehaven Guide - 5th August 2005

 

 

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