Natural Light II is a book of photographic portraits of Scottish writers by Angela Caitlin. I acquired it because I was attracted to the cover image of an unnamed person (I think Alasdair Grey) and also because I read endlessly and voraciously. I am Scottish by habit (although not by birth) and much of the poetry, crime and other novels I read is by Scottish authors, so it seemed a sensible acquisition.
The images are all taken by natural light, across the world and vary from close up portraits such as the ones of Jackie Kay and William Boyd to ones where the person is almost hidden, Christopher Brookmyre and Ronald Frame. The combination of the image and the written text, a piece by the subject, a poem or a short extract of fiction was fascinating. The person’s portrait often did not give any clues as to the type of writing, other than some wild men from the north with their Gaelic poems! I spent as much time reading as looking – and have been seduced into enlarging my collection of both poetry and fiction.
My favourite image is one of Al Kennedy, shown outside, smiling, under blossom – contrasted with a rather scary piece of work about a girl (she feels young) being overwhelmed with the expectations of her lover. I look back and forward between the writing and the image and think – how do they fit together – but why should they? Why should someone’s looks mandate how or what they write about? Why should I be so naïve to assume they should?
Very few of the images show the subject looking at the camera, most are staring into the distance, or looking slyly sidewards. What are they thinking about? Are they imagining their next poem? These are the dreamers of our life and we would be poorer without them.
Catlin, A. (2015). Natural Light II: photographic portraits of Scottish writers. Glasgow: Cargo.