Amy Liptrot meets photographer Premysl Fojtu
Premysl Fojtu is working on a project to travel to and photograph a different Orkney island each month. The seven places (Rousay, Hunda, Glimps Holm, Lambholm, Egilsay, Flotta and Eynhallow) he has documented so far tend to be the smaller uninhabited or sparsely populated islands, and his pictures show abandoned buildings, World War II structures, open landscapes and seascapes, and seldom-disturbed birds. His project appeals to a desire for exploration and a sense of solitude in the people who await each new set of photos on his Facebook page.
Can you explain the idea behind the ‘island a month’ project?
The project was originally created just for myself as a motivation to go out more with my camera and to explore Orkney a wee bit deeper, but as I posted my first two islands on Facebook, people started to follow and comment on photos. Eight months later, I have a relatively wide audience for every set of photos I publish on my page.
I like that you have visited some often-overlooked islands. Can you explain more about your choice of places like 'linked island' Glimps Holm, which you say “most people just drive through”?
During my travels through Orkney I have always found myself looking at these small pieces of land in the sea. There wasn't much to be seen on them from the Mainland, but I would always find them on maps and then try to find out more information. They have always made me curious, more than the big islands everybody goes to, more than all the places I have seen in travel brochures and leaflets. And as I visit these places, I find them just as interesting and full of character and history.
I have the advantage of visiting them at my own pace, without having to push through crowds of other visitors. Every one of the islands that I have visited holds its own unique story and special features. Even though I only spend a day or a overnight stay on the islands, I use this time wisely to capture a mere fraction of the beauty they hold, knowing that I will only have a great desire to return.
How long have you lived in Orkney and what are your favourite things to photograph here?
I came to Orkney in summer 2009 to find a summer season job, and had moved to Scotland in 2005 from the Czech Republic. It didn't take long before Orkney made its way to my heart and naturally became a home to me. As you can see from my photographs I have developed an interest in both the nature of Orkney and its heritage. My inspiration comes to me through the things that I lack knowledge of. Capturing the things that are still unknown to me only gives me a greater urge to find the story behind the image.
I still long to capture pufflings [puffin chicks], the northern lights and a decent photograph of a really rough sea.
Tell me about your trip to Eynhallow.
The abandoned islands come to me more as I know that there will be more hidden beauty not captured by many people. Many times when I drove on the road through Evie I wondered about the small piece of land in the rough waters of Eynhallow sound. I asked my girlfriend whether it was possible to get there and she said it would be possible with a small fishing boat but nobody in their right mind would want to go to a haunted island. Having heard that I researched more information about Eynhallow. The stories I read made me even more determined to visit and make it an overnight stay.
So I simply went to Tingwall pier and spoke to the local fishermen. Within ten minutes I had my transport arranged and I only had to wait for the right time with decent weather conditions. I wanted to make the journey one that would be unforgettable and relate to the stories of Eynhallow and intended to stay up through the night to take night images, hoping to enhance the "genius loci" of the mysterious island. But due to the unpredictable temper of Orkney weather, with dusk the fog settled in and closed Eynhallow with dense walls leaving all the treasures of the night skies and the anticipation of my mind invisible to me. I stayed up for most of the night, keeping warm by burning dried seaweed, absorbing the eerie sounds of howling seals and the occasional calls of the nearby colony of arctic terns.
Amy Liptrot's writing can be found here.