Holidays – remember those? As we head back into a second lockdown, the thought of getting your team together, travelling to an unexplored destination and returning home with a camera full of memories seems like quite the distant dream. Which is why, when the images from Leica’s pre-Covid trip to Scotland came across our desks, we knew we had to share them.
“When Leica’s Jason Heward first approached me with the idea of putting together a small team of photographers to travel up to Perthshire and shoot, I was immediately intrigued,” says Chris Maas, one of the four photographers who undertook the expedition. “It meant I’d be able to combine my passion for Leica cameras with my love of whisky and the Scottish countryside.”
So Chris, who is also a session musician, set about getting together his photography A Team. First up, Mumford & Sons band member and fellow photographer Ted Dwane, who Maas credits with introducing him to the art of film photography when the pair toured together back in 2012. Next up, London-based portrait and reportage photographer (and Leica ambassador) Cat Garcia and, finally, filmmaker and Los Angeles native Marcus Haney.
“Being able to shoot alongside these photographers was a huge perk,” explains Chris. “As a photographer, it’s rare that you get to share an assignment with anyone else, let alone three close friends. It was fascinating to see how differently each one of us approached the shoot. No two photos were alike, which, to me, is proof that no two photographers are ever taking the same picture of a given subject. I learnt a lot just from watching Marcus, Cat and Ted in action. Where they positioned themselves, how they moved, how they used the light — each one had a definite, unique approach. Looking back at all the photos, this absolutely feels like a collaborative project, rather than four individual ones.”
But, with limitless rugged landscapes and centuries of history, choosing exactly where in Scotland to shoot must have been quite the challenge? Apparently not. “I’m a huge whisky fan. Especially Scotch,” says Chris. “It’s always been a dream of mine to visit a distillery and learn about the process of how it’s made.” The obvious choice, then, was Glenturret – rumoured to be Scotland’s oldest whisky distillery.
Perched on the banks of the river Turret, it has quite the history, beginning life as an illegal distillery operation in the early 18th century before the first official distillery was founded by a group of smugglers in 1775. Glenturret has also earned a place in the Guinness Book of World Records, having once been home to the now sadly deceased Towser; a cat who caught a world record-setting 23,899 mice in her 23 year life span. How’s that for creative inspiration?
The results are, accordingly, highly evocative. Each photographer was equipped with a camera from Leica’s signature M-System and, despite their differing aesthetics, unanimously chose to shoot almost entirely in black and white. “I try to embrace limitations rather than shying away from them. For instance, I use natural light whenever possible, which can be challenging, but such constraints push you to think outside the box,” explains Chris.
“I’ve always preferred shooting on black and white film which brings its own array of obstacles and advantages. For this particular project, the lighting conditions inside the distillery were challenging, but they made for a fantastic atmosphere, accenting the textures of the wooden barrels and chrome metal tanks. The whole environment had a crisp, rugged charm.”
For Chris, however, the real joy of the project was not in the beauty of the distillery or the landscape – but the people the team met while they were there. “The icing on the cake was meeting and spending time with the amazing people who make Glenturret,” he says. “Unlike my work as a musician, as a photographer, I get to be the artist, realising my own vision. I decide what to shoot, when to shoot and how to frame the subject. I tried to capture my subject’s passion and work ethic, as well as the sheer pride they take in their product. I hope my pictures celebrate and serve them in the same way my music does. In the end, they’re both just different ways of celebrating people.”
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