Our January winner for the STV Appeal 2014 Calendar has a sense of a bold step forward into the New Year. And who bolder than David Stirling, the founder of the SAS, whose memorial statue, designed in bronze by Angela Conner, is featured here.
As it turned out, our winner, Graham Harris Graham, took the unusual view from behind partly to get exactly that sense of striding forward into a new dawn. The statue was erected as recently as 2002 on the Stirling family’s old estate of Keir (now owned by Mahdi Al Tajir, the UAE businessman who owns Highland Spring bottled water and 15,000 acres of Perthshire).
But to get that sense of dynamism, Graham Harris had to lie down in the snow surrounding the statue’s plinth to get the camera position he wanted. It makes the statue look even larger than the life-size it is (Stirling was 6’6” anyway) and it also eliminates a lot of not terribly interesting foreground, leaving the unobstructed view to the hills in the west just catching the morning light.
“I wanted to do him justice” Graham Harris explains, and he wasn’t finished yet. On an exposure of just over a second, he set off four flashes which enabled him to capture all that frosty detail on the bronze. You can almost feel the biting cold in the early morning. Somehow, those extremes seem all of a piece with Stirling’s own larger-than-life life story, even though many of his most famous exploits, with the Long Range Desert group in the early 1940s, took place in the burning heat of the deserts of Libya and Egypt.
Graham Harris is a latecomer to photography. Originally from Glasgow, where he trained as an engineer, he has worked all over the world as a manufacturing specialist. If you’ve ever seen those big white bags that Jewson or B&Q use to deliver aggregates – gravel, sand and so on – it’s likely that Graham Harris had a hand in producing them in his most recent job in Turkey. He delivered 12million of them.
At the age of 47, he’s stopped all that now. At the behest of his US-born wife, he bought two large format photographs in an art dealership in Las Vegas in 2005 and found himself thinking “How hard could it be?” He describes it as a “Damascene” moment. He changed his life around, gave up the manufacturing, came back to Scotland, bought a house just outside Perth, bought some camera equipment and set about it building up a portfolio. “I have about 70 images I am proud to stand in front of now” he says on the phone from Tennessee, where he is currently preparing for a series of juried arts shows across the US.
But he adds: “I am blessed to have been born in Scotland. I have been all the way round the world and there is nowhere that is a lovelier little spot”.
Graham and the other winners, including those who are yet to be discovered, will be able to enjoy a day-out at STV studios later this year, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that they have made a contribution to the STV Appeal 2014.
Rob Woodward, the chief executive of STV and chair of the judging panel added: "We have been greatly impressed with the standard of entries for the photography competition so far and expect the final result to be an amazing calendar which will help to raise money for the STV Appeal and celebrate Scotland's natural beauty through the creative skills of our viewers. Everyone that enters is playing their part in raising awareness for this truly worthy cause, helping children and young people in Scotland affected by poverty."
January: David Stirling Memorial, Keir Estate, nr Dunblane, Perthshire
Graham Harris Graham
Canon 5D Mk 2
The STV Appeal 2014 Calendar will be available in November. If you would like to pre-order one, please email us at email@example.com