Floortje tells Islands’ story
The hazy light of the early evening and the mist tumbling off the cliffs. Rediscovering home has been an intriguing experience for photographer Floortje Robertson.
After setting sail for Glasgow, 32-year-old Floortje returned to the isles two years ago. Now she has the first exhibition of her work, Islands, on show at the Peerie Shop Cafe, capturing landscapes seascapes and characterful images from Shetland, the Western Isles and Fuerteventura.
“I moved back home and had a lot of time on my hands. I was a bit disenchanted with living in the city and I was recharging – spending a lot of time walking, and visiting friends and just re-seeing places I thought I knew really well.”
It’s been a project that has been 18 months in the making and for Floortje, who lives and grew up on Shetland’s West Side.
She speaks fondly of the Shetland landscape, and even her commute into Lerwick is a gift with its stunning panoramas.
“I think I still feel lucky to be here and I feel lucky to be able to travel to other places like the Western Isles and Fuerteventura,” she says.
“I know when I have the camera that part of my brain is aware of when there’s a picture, so it really slows me down and makes me see more.
“Holding the camera in my hand I was ready without realising, I was suddenly taking landscapes and seascapes and something I never really enjoyed taking pictures of.
“I think that I have definitely slowed down since moving home. I’ve continued to try and make that part of my daily routine; that slowing down in terms of noticing things around me.”
Though Floortje admits she did not start taking the photos with ideas in mind.
She and fiancé, sound engineer and musician Tim Matthew, have also spent time with his family in Mull and Fuerteventura over the past two years.
While the link between the islands is to some extent through circumstance, there is a connection running deeper through the photos.
“It has gone the other way around, I’ve collected photos that have come from the same process in different places, but I realise they have the same narrative running through them; of noticing the space.”
In the pictures, she speaks of edges being indistinct, where solid masses emerge, where the sea merges into the sky.
“The reason it ended up being islands was because I felt similar impulses to take photographs in Fuerteventura and the Westerns Isles.”
Though she is wary of being prescriptive of the meanings of her photographs, she says: “I want people to be able to put their own stories and interpretations onto them.”
Earlier this month she held a well-attended launch event the cafe.
“It was lovely to see so many people and I’ve had some really nice comments from folk, which is really nice because it’s quite daunting to put your work out there, all together in one solid, tangible context.”
She said she is used to putting photos online, but she admits there is “a distance there even though there’s people online, you don’t know them on the street or in the Co-op.”
She has also received funding from Shetland Arts and Creative Scotland for her project Haa – a photographic documentary of Walls and Skeld halls over the space of 12 months.
“I wanted to do it over a year so I can document as many of the diverse happenings that take place in a local hall over the year,” she says.
Community halls, “play such a special part in our lives and I think the people that make things happen in them should be celebrated”.
As well as landscapes Floortje has an interest in portraits. She has captured musicians Inge Thomson and Kris Drever and has also taken shots for Shetland Jewellery.
Taking portraits is “revisiting an old challenge,” she says.
“It’s about learning quite a lot about a person in a very small amount of time.”
“I want to find a moment in them that’s quite truthful,” she adds.
“I don’t want to show anybody as anything other than what they are. I think people are fascinating.”
• Islands will be in the Peerie Shop Café until 31st May.