Part two: Matilda Brown; composer, explorer.
It’s a draughty and dreary Saturday in November 2010, and I’m in a flat in the south side of Glasgow; I am accustomed to working with the flat’s resident, but this will be the first time I’ve made her portrait; every other picture of her up to this point has been incidental, a by-product of exploring and photographing the mountains of Scotland with her.
Matilda Brown is a composer first and foremost – her pieces often fuse classical and jazz music with influences from as far afield as Scots and European traditional music, trip-hop and ‘prog’ rock.
Her works are composed in, and of, the solitude, drama and haunting spirituality of the mountains in which she walks, runs and climbs, and it’s in this capacity – as a mountain guide – that I normally work with her.
She knows where to stop, where to camp, where the views are best and, as a photographer, I value that knowledge. She has been invaluable to the development of my landscape work and, as a result we often co-create pieces for orchestras and walls…
However, camping and larking about in the wilderness is one thing; sitting for the camera is quite another. More people are scared of this than being lost up a mountain. True fact. Matilda was no exception.
For this shoot, I wanted to give her a sort of ethereal, magical look, portraying her as an Oread but, without massively expensive and inauthentic GCI (I didn’t have the budget Peter Jackson had for the Lord of The Rings trilogy) , I had to rely on lighting and a little post-production in Lightroom.
I asked her to stare me down, unafraid of me as she would be of any mountain; what came across wasn’t just power and confidence but – I think – a little magic too.
Four and-a-bit years later, it’s still one of the portraits of which I’m proudest.