Scottish photographer Dylan Nardini’s passion for the visual arts runs in the family; both his father and sister are creatives. Recently he spoke with Celtic Life International about his passion for his profession.
What are your own roots?
I was born in Scotland with roots in Italy through my Italian born Grandparents on my fathers’ side.
When and why did you first become interested in photography?
I was first introduced to photography when my older sister received a Praktica SLR for Christmas when I was around 11 years old. I loved to hold it and look through the viewfinder and from there I got my own Praktica camera in High School where I learned the basics of Black and White film photography and printing which when I experienced the full process of seeing light, capturing it, developing then witness the paper come alive with that scene in the printing process was what got me hooked on photography as a whole process.
Are they the same reasons that you continue to be involved today?
In an essence yes, the whole process of capturing beautiful light or form and then seeing it in a tactile print will always be the ultimate aim. There is nothing better than holding a large print of an image then seeing it presented beautifully in a mount and frame which is admired on the wall.
How has your work evolved over the years?
My work has evolved mainly in what I shoot. Originally, I shot bands, then some street and portraiture before settling on landscapes. Travelling through the Scottish landscape over a period of 20 odd years at all hours of the day as fulltime freight train driver, subconsciously highlighted its unique beauty which created my desire to direct my photography in that direction. So, for the last 8 years I’ve spent the majority of my time with the camera in the outdoors learning new ways to try and capture the glorious changing light that falls on this beautiful country.
What are the challenges of the vocation?
The main challenges are the time needed in the field to get the image I envisage of a certain area, in those special conditions that make it stand out from regular scenic landscape photography. This usually requires many visits to a specific scene at different times of the day and in various seasons, studying the weather forecast and then making the effort to get somewhere early enough to have the slight chance of being in the right place at the right time. Along with this is once you get there you need to find the ideal composition, clear of distractions and clutter. This usually becomes easier by having visited many times to know where to go and quickly set up if conditions are suddenly just right. The art of seeing a composition also comes from plenty of practice, going over my work and critiquing where I could do better in the future.
What are the rewards?
Ultimately being able to spend so much time in the outdoors is what it is all about and especially in winter in woodland or in the hills, when the only sound around me is soft falling snow. Getting that image I have imagined in my head after many visits is also a reward in itself but, if along the way someone also wants to hang a print of one of my images on their wall then that is for me one of the most satisfying feelings to come from photography.
What have been some career highlights to date?
There have been many highlights for me so far but none more so than my two competition wins of 2021, the British Photography Awards Landscape category win with ‘Enlightenment’ and the Overall Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year win with 3 images, ‘Arran Light’, ‘Submerged’ and ‘Vice Versa’. The latter in particular is a huge boost as it is a competition where the winner is chosen from their portfolio of work rather than a single photography.
Is your creative process more ‘inspirational’ or ‘perspirational’?
Personally, I need both. Well, I believe there is always an element of effort needed but sometimes I need some inspiration to make that effort. When I’m low on ideas then looking at others work even in different genres can be just the inspiration I need to get my mind working again. There are also times where I’m in the field with everything I need in front of me but just can’t get motivated to find a good composition, at this point I need to dig deep and push myself to find the desire. This may involve turning away and shooting in a different direction of working with a different subject for a while until it all starts to flow again. It doesn’t always work but as long as I’ve put in the perspiration then I’m happy with myself.
What makes your work unique?
I don’t go out my way to be unique, but I am attracted to unique views and subjects, and this may set my work apart from some others. What I shoot might be very ordinary in setting, a local woodland only a few 100 yards in length or fallen leaves on the local river bank but I tend to notice the little things around us that many others may pass by meaning when viewers look at my work it’s not always ‘wow, look at that amazing landscape’ but rather, ‘wow, I pass areas like that every day and I’ve never noticed how beautiful they can be’.
What makes a good photo?
A good photo is one that the viewer can spend time looking at. It usually has to be reasonably simple in terms of composition and have something just a little bit different, be it light, form, shape or perspective. There is no set formula though as like everything in the art world, each person’s opinion is completely subjective. When my kids ask me this question I often run through composition ‘rules’ etc for about 10 minutes then at the end I always finish with ‘but don’t stick to those rules, just shoot what feels right to you’.
What is it about the Scottish landscape that is so inspiring?
There are some absolutely glorious areas of the Scottish landscape with the diverse mountain ranges from the northwest coast to the Cairngorms, along with about 1100 miles of coastline on the mainline and Islands. But I believe it’s the weather that makes it all so inspiring. We as Scots talk about it all the time and joke about it changing every 15 minutes too. It is this changeable weather that can inspire me to get out and hope for one little moment of glorious light or unique conditions to help create a piece of work that keeps us going back for more.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the visual arts in Scotland?
I am far from an expect in this area and will only say in my experience it appears to be continually growing, with social media becoming a huge part of promoting the work of both new and established artists.
How can it be improved?
I believe there is a healthy growth of exhibitions of work in some very unique locations popping up around the country and I would like to see this continue with perhaps more local Art Festivals in towns to encourage more to be confident to share their work in public.
What’s on your creative agenda for the rest of 2021?
I am hoping to collate some of my local work where I have spent most of my time to create a good sizeable body of work that will fit well into a coffee table size book and accompanying exhibition of large prints. My aim is for this work to be presented in such a way the location will be incidental and could be recognisable to almost everyone’s local surroundings but where it will perhaps make them look a little closer the next time they walk through it.