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Zero Footprint Páramo

In 2008-2009 we built a low-carbon house on a Galloway hillside, previously grazed for many years by sheep. From the outset we wanted to make the build as environmentally friendly as possible using low-carbon materials sourced locally where available. After two years plus of being immersed in researching techniques and materials, Ted came up with the idea of trying to translate some of the same principles to a photographic project.

The Project

Without much forethought we picked a spot, roughly one metre square outside the French doors between our kitchen and patio and decided we wouldn’t move away from that – hence literally a “zero” footprint. We didn’t know where the project would lead us but we quickly found out that – while the view itself is spectacular – it didn’t lend itself to a photographically pleasing composition. We therefore for the most part had to take advantage of the weather and atmospheric curiosities to create interesting compositions for us. Being a couple of hundred feet up a South westerly facing hillside, weather is something we get plenty of. A large proportion of the work therefore ended up being shot on the occasions when we had day-long mists rolling up and down the valley, reminiscent of a tide going in and out, multiple times per day. This combined with diffused winter light created subtle and atmospheric images, and because the light was in constant flux even shots taken only 20 minutes apart could have a completely different look and feel. Living at the location where we are, undertaking the project is a huge bonus, although sometimes tea can be a bit late getting to the table – I’ve lost count of the times when I’ve had to down tools mid onion chop to try and get the camera out in time to capture something. Often during the winter – when we get the best light – the cameras are set up just inside the door ready to be deployed quickly. The fact that it’s right outside our door hasn’t meant we can do without our outdoor gear though, our Páramo jackets and trousers are regularly in a pile next to the tripod ready to be slung on (sometimes elegantly coupled with sheepskin slippers) for an extended shoot in sub zero windchill. Although the project is ongoing we’ve marked its progress along the way with exhibitions including at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. After five years we also decided to make a book featuring a selection of the work to date. The book launched officially at both the Joe Cornish Gallery and the Wigtown Book Festival, to our knowledge the first photography book featured at what is traditionally a literary festival. In recognition that printing a book creates a carbon footprint in itself, we have pledged to plant a native tree for every copy printed, on our land where the project was born. Of course we need to be careful of the view…

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