Photographer Margaret Soroya finds inspiration in the remote islands of Scotland. Recently we spoke with her about her career and her love of the landscape.
What are your own roots?
I grew up in Manchester in the city centre. I never felt at home there and longed for the coast from a very early age. With my grandma living by the coast in Holland, I spent my early childhood summers there and believe that my connection with the coast and the sea was formed early on. I left Manchester for the north of Scotland aged 20 and have never returned.
When and why did you first become interested in photography?
I bought my first camera aged 17 when I was interested in going out into the countryside to take pictures to paint from. This developed as I moved away from painting and being content with the image making process. As I went onto university on the coast of Wales, I discovered surfing and my projects were based around being in the sea with my cameras. After university I stopped photographing for 10 years and got married and had 2 children. As my youngest was born, I picked up my cameras again and started a wedding photography business for some income. This grew into a solid business which is still going today. About 10 years ago I realised I needed to return to my true passion of seascape photography and began working towards it. I know find a happy mix of the two where I photograph elopements on the beautiful beaches of the Outer Hebrides as well my main landscape business.
Are they the same reasons that you continue to be involved today?
I do believe they are. My love of the coast and the way in which I express how I feel around water has always been at the core of my photography. It was the same subject that I painted before becoming a photographer as well. And I think that will always be the case. I simply want to iterate and develop and evolve now.
How has your work evolved over the years?
As I have become more confident in myself, I have naturally become more focused on the style of work I always wanted to create. I have refined my photographic practice and developed skills through simply practising photography as this is fundamental to getting better. As I have spent more time out in the landscape my realisation of what I want to achieve has grown stronger and more solid. My work is becoming more like paintings and more abstract in nature as I print on fine art papers to enhance this.
What are the challenges of the vocation?
The challenges are that as a business owner I need to work continually to keep things going. The content creation to keep my social media account on the radar, the websites and technical challenges I find particularly difficult. But in everything I find a way to overcome these whether that is to learn myself or to find someone who can assist. Landscape photography is particularly hard to make a living from and it is necessary to keep up with the changing market and adapting.
What are the rewards?
The rewards far outweigh the challenges in my opinion. I adore my lifestyle and the fact that I make a living with my real passion in life. My goal is to live a fulfilled and meaningful life and I am doing so. I have the freedom to make my own decisions about what I take on, what workshops I create and what time I block out for my own creative pursuits.
What have been some career highlights to date?
The highlights have been successfully launching my Quiet landscapes workshops and retreats and for them to continually sell out. I enjoy the process of evolving and developing these retreats and finding new places to take people to. I have also loved creating my podcast and finding a new platform to share my thoughts and ethos as well as connecting with like minded artists. Another big milestone was a solo exhibition at the Bosham gallery in 2019 which was pivotal in my career. This was entitled ” Quiet” and was based around my seascapes from the Outer Hebrides.
Is your creative process more ‘inspirational’ or ‘perspirational’?
I always allow my intuition to lead my creative process. Inspiration only really comes from a place within your heart. When you have a deep connection or love of something, it will find its way into your art if you let it. The issue with most people is that they have spent many years unlearning hearing this intuition. Through society’s demands, other people’s opinions, a desire to please, to fit in and be accepted, many people have lost their own intuition quite understandably. But when you start to unravel that and work on self awareness then it comes back to you, creativity flows naturally and easily.
What makes your work unique?
I think that simply because I keep going back to the subject that I am most drawn to – waves and seascapes, it has taken on new meaning now. Alongside the thoughts behind the work there is a consistently and cohesiveness behind the work which others respond to. Also, the fact that I go out to shoot in the stormiest of conditions and am happy spending time alone in these remote places in stormy and cold weather, I am creating images that others are unlikely to.
What makes a good photo?
To me, a good photo is one that creates an emotive response, one that goes further than a descriptive recording of a scene or subject matter. Although hard to quantify, it is something that people tend to find easy to identify. Whether a piece of work moves you in some way is the primary goal, because art, at the end of the day, is a form of expression. The technicalities are irrelevant, as are whether the image is sharp or adheres to the photographic rules.
What is it about the Scottish landscape that is so inspiring?
The vastness of the landscape in the remote areas as well as the variety of landscapes – from mountain ranges to sweeping beaches. In Scotland you can always find somewhere that is very far from anyone else. There are the usual key locations that are well known and are busy, but if you hike for 10 minutes in another direction you can find yourself completely alone in a vast landscape. I have only touched the surface of what Scotland has to offer. I am truly excited to keep exploring and getting to know more of it. There are still many islands that i have not visited yet and I feel no real desire to travel or to photograph any other countries. I spent a few years as a travel photographer being sent around Europe to document trips, but now have realised that my true interest lies in Scotland. The quiet and solitude forms much of that attraction.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the visual arts in Scotland?
Personally, I would like to see more women showing work within the arts in Scotland. There are so many incredibly talented women who tend not to come forwards for fears which have got caught up in beliefs that images have to be technically correct. So, I believe we have a lot of hidden talent that goes unnoticed. I have a podcast (Quiet Landscapes with Margaret Soraya) where my aim is to showcase some of these artists.
How can it be improved?
I think we need to listen more to the quieter ones. An appreciation for quietness and an acceptance in society for introversion and quiet people would go far to help the creative industry showcase the best talent in Scotland.
What’s on your creative agenda for the rest of 2021?
2021 is a time of getting back to leading photography workshops, as well as a pivot which sees me begin to run my wild swim and creative retreats. Looking towards well being through photography combined with my love of cold-water dipping. I believe that we are at a time where well being and healing are essential both mentally and physically and I want to hold space for those in need of this. I think that creativity is a huge contributor to well being. I also intend to travel as much as possible round the islands in the winter months which are my favourite time to travel. The islands are quiet, and the weather is dramatic and changeable which is perfect for seascape photography. My personal project will run alongside my seascapes which will be ongoing for as long as I am a photographer. I am intrigued by shooting under the shoreline in the clear waters of the coast of Scotland and have been experimenting for some time already with this. I would love to dedicate some time to this project.