This called project: "Haystack Heroes" is written by Tommaso Carrara, all credits go to him.
It has been ages since my last trip outside Europe, and the pandemic did not really help either. Due to the evolving travel restrictions in place, my girlfriend and I decided to visit the Northern Isles of Scotland, between Scotland and Norway: namely Orkney and Shetland.
We are suckers for almost inhabited landscapes, that may have uninviting weather conditions, but that 99% of the time payback with stunning views and peaceful experiences. As we did not want to leave the UK, we thought this would probably be the best option, considering Scotland never disappoints.
As such, we took a train from London to Aberdeen and then boarded a Northlink Ferry to Kirkwall, located in Orkney mainland. Amongst the many places we had the opportunity to visit, we also took the time to spend a couple of off-days and one night in Westray, which is one of the northernmost islands of the archipelago, and one of the smallest. Top to bottom it takes a mere 15 minutes by car, approximately a quarter of the time it takes for me to get into central London from where I live. Anyway, once we got there (Westray) we began browsing the small island, and immediately stumbled upon something remarkable. A seemingly human scarecrow at the end of the road, next to a “shop” sign. In the beginning, I thought it was someone standing there posing for a photo to be taken, but it clearly was not.
It is then that I realized I had to make a portrait of this character: this scarecrow was so accurately crafted, with proper clothes and accessories, a work of art really!
Next, I grabbed my light meter, composed with my camera, wait for the wind to calm down a little, and shot. As I was using a Kodak Portra 800
, I could stop down the aperture and use a relatively fast shutter speed as I was handholding the camera. I had a tripod, but the high ISO allowed me not to spend time setting everything up and, instead, take advantage of the sun which was perfectly brightening up the scene. Once done we get back to the car and after a few hundred meters, another scarecrow: dressed completely differently but of the same high level of detail. What followed was another portrait, using the same procedure as above. At the end of the day, we saw sixteen different scarecrows, and the fun part was that it became almost a treasure hunt. During dinner, we thought we would google what these scarecrows could mean, as they seemed to follow a pattern: it is then that we realized they were part of a fundraising initiative. Little did I know they had been created by families across the island with the aim to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. For those who do not know, the RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea (powered primarily by kind donations, their search and rescue service has been saving lives for nearly 200 years).
This is how I produced my very first photographic project. Not as extensive as I would have liked to and probably not as polished as most are, but for sure something that I had fun doing. I develop the film myself, digitized using my full-frame camera, and worked on the printing.
“Haystack Heroes” is a collection of the sixteen scarecrows I met on my way while traveling all over the island of Westray. Part of the proceeds of this photo project will be donated to the RNLI.