Lone Woman – photographer, Clare Archibald

DG: Tell us about your collaborative project, Lone Women. It’s very generous and ambitious.  You’ve been inviting women to explore aloneness, darkness & wilderness but also recently created an event that saw an academic skateboarding in a Salford car park at night

The project is fairly freeform, with the underlying foundation of exploring how women move through spaces and places. I’m interested in where and how women engage with their sense of ‘wilderness’, that might be climbing a mountain but equally it might be looking at weeds or indeed skateboarding in a car park. For me it intersects with ideas of nature, the built environment, the outdoors, psycho-geography and how such encounters are impacted by the themes.

Ideally, I’d like to move beyond just arts and culture towards events based on community engagement, especially with women who have perhaps not had an opportunity to consciously think or talk about place, the powers inherent in it and their particular relationship to it.  But that takes time and money to do properly! Largely, the project will be shaped by who gets involved.

‘Ritual’, Clare Archibald

DG: A number of your photographs are taken locally. We’re guessing you often use the tunnel to the beach – why is that picture called ‘Ritual’?

I live in Burntisland, across the water from Edinburgh, it’s pronounced as 2 words but is not an island. From the beach here you look out onto a now-uninhabited island so there is a real sense of island-ness for me. There’s an old volcanic plug covering the back of the town so it does feel quite self- contained although in reality you can be over the Forth Rail Bridge and in Edinburgh in 35 minutes. I love the contradictions and possibilities of feelings that come out of that. When the tide is out and I walk out alone that for me is wilderness even though I’m fully aware it’s not.

My titles always mean more than one thing to me but it’s down to the person considering it to work out their own relationship between the word and the image. I get a surprising amount of messages from people telling me what my titles mean or should mean or I what I should have called it.

DG: Yeah, we can see how that might happen. You publish these images on Social Media with thought-provoking titles and nothing else.  It feels like you’re inviting the viewer to respond. The greenish mass of the tree encountered on your evening walk in ‘Lurk’ seems to be breathing. How does walking at night affect the subjects that attract you?

I just love how everything takes on a different character at night. I generally take photographs of the same thing or particular place or detail as I’m interested in the wee changes in what I’m looking at and how I personally am looking at it and our connection.

‘Lurk’, Clare Archibald.

Night offers a lot of possibilities, both visually and in added layers of thinking, especially as a woman. I just take pictures on my phone and all I ever do is occasionally crop them so I like to see how the darkness, artificial light and me not knowing what I’m doing come together in different ways at different times.

DG: The way you give language to the landscape suggests a mingling of woman and natural object. How do you feel about the trend, in Nature writing and art, of humans trying to embody Nature? For example, whose experience is being expressed in ‘Unfade of Yearn’, in which we see trees growing precipitously, or the crimson, cracked puddle of ‘If We Heard The Bleeding’?

“Unfade of yearn,’ Clare Archibald.

I have a series of photos called ‘This is not embodiment’ and I’ve written about it in sections of my book where I write in very embodied ways so my feelings on it are complex I guess. Sometimes the titles that I give have nothing to do with the object/subject. I like the duality and the obliqueness of that. I think ‘who’ or ‘what’ is irrelevant. By using the same title, often in very different pictures, I’m exploring a specific idea or trying to capture a feeling.

‘If we heard the bleeding”, Clare Archibald.

DG: In ‘Delve’, taken from your window, the sea and horizon appear to blend ethereally. The title suggests that humans might experience a similar communion with Nature. Has culture trained women to have a Romantic relationship with something called Nature, separated from the realities of rural living? Do you think women and men should resist this expectation?

We are conditioned to think hierarchically with humans as separate and superior, which I don’t think is the case. In order to continue to exist, that expectation has to be resisted, yes, because we are killing the planet that we are part of. I don’t agree with equating nature with rural or being prescriptive in the words we use to describe it. The Lone Women project is about offering opportunities to increase that connection by actively thinking or doing in relation to place and our relationship to it wherever we are.

‘Delve’, Clare Archibald.



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