The Seven Celtic Nations Project:
Part One - Scotland"
By J.W. Mahoney
Art Editor The Washington Review
June/July, 2000 ; Volume XXVI, number one
"Reprinted with permission from the Washington Review and J.W. Mahoney"
There's an obscure passage in the New Testament, in St. John, that summarizes, poetically, what Catriona Fraser's photographs seem to be about: "If thine eye be single, thy body will be full of light." The single eye of Catriona Fraser's camera has been directed toward the timeless world of her Celtic ancestors for many years now, and, even as the infrared film she uses is expressively sensitive to heat, the quality of the light in all her pictures saturates the spaces she photographs with an unforgettably intense aura of the holy.
She photographs old things -- a set of Paleolithic standing stones in Scotland in bright long grass, a row of trees behind, or Balmoral Castle, Victoria's retreat, but set far away in its landscape, its tower no more radiant than its surrounding fields, or a rushing river, whose rounded rocks speak of centuries of flow. Her intention is sacramental, the aesthetic recording of the numinous qualities of places that have not only nourished and sheltered the human tribe with which she identifies, but have also drawn them toward an inherent magic.
The photographer's eye is always human, and leaves as specific mark on a photograph as a painter's hand weaves a very personalized pattern of brushstrokes. These picturesque Scottish scenes are photographically attractive, but when the photographer is not looking for forms but for invisible nuances, as Catriona is, the challenge is much stronger, and far more instinctive. Using the film as she does, she cannot know what her camera has seen until she develops and prints her images. What Catriona Fraser does know, and knows well, are the secret rhythms of her places, and her sensitivities to what is bred in her bones, in effect, translates directly into photographs that bear witness to lands that bear both human histories and transhuman presences.
© 2000 The Washington Review