Edinburgh Old Town from Waverley
By Stephen Lawson

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Year
1985
Media
Photography
Subject Matter
Landscape - Urban and Architectural
Reg. Number
L94
Size
43 x 94 cm

This is a photographic view of the Old Town of Edinburgh, seen from the top of the Waverley Market. The artist's technique of time-lapse photography gives a fresh perspective to a familiar scene.

Stephen's handwritten description underneath the work, explains how he put together this 180 degree view from 60 photographic strips. The segments were photographed in sequence from dawn to dark over a ten and a half hour period in early November.

The work has an unusual shape; "It is twice as long as it is high" and this helps us to understand the changes in light in the photograph, as well as the changes in physical view point. Our eyes follow from the North Bridge at dawn on the left through to the Scott Monument at dusk and the evening lights of Princes Street at the right. The lines of the individual strips of photograph remain visible and remind us of the movement through space and time.

The centre of the photograph is dominated by curves: the elaborate iron railing in the foreground, and the less regular curve of the Old Town buildings in the background. Under the railings is a curve of green grass, one of the few pieces of colour in the work. The individual buildings of the old town can be clearly identified by the old town tenements towards the left, the spire of St Giles, the dome of the Bank of Scotland, the Assembly Hall and the more distant Edinburgh Castle towards the right.
As befits a wintry scene, the photograph is predominantly black, grey and white, with the green at the bottom and the gold of dawn on the left the main patches of colour.

Stephen Lawson was born in Glasgow and studied sculpture at Edinburgh School of Art, graduating in 1967. He took a postgraduate degree at the University of Colorado, and then lectured in sculpture in Ohio, before moving to West Virginia in 1976. He still lives there and continues to specialise in the time lapse photographic work of which this is an example.

On his webpage he writes about what he tries to achieve in this medium. "The day-long works could be thought of as bringing a concentrated gaze; the brief, dynamic shots read as a glance in the turn of a head, as the eye itself sees, before the mind edits this to a visual memory, often as a still. The images could be thought of as movies presented as stills." He also describes his construction of the unique cameras which he uses for his work. One of the works displayed on the website is another interesting Scottish photograph, the Callanish Stones on Lewis.

With thanks to the Lumiere Gallery for artist information