For Shore: How We See the See, Invisible Dust commissioned new work by the filmmakers Margaret Salmon and Ed Webb-Ingall exploring coastal and island communities’ responses to the Scottish Marine Protected Areas.
'Cladach' by Margaret Salmon
40 mins / 35mm / Scotland / 2018
The Wester Ross region of North West Scotland provides grounds to film and explore indigenous habitats and species, as well as human interactions with the sea, and local and tourist culture. Filming revolved around a single community, in Ullapool, existing along the shoreline of a the Wester Ross MPA. Town life and activities filmed provide an entrance into the rhythm of the local, and a space to allow different attitudes and ideas around costal life to emerge.
A humanist, observational approach creates an open, simple expression throughout. Much like The Days Before Christmas (Stanley Jackson, W. Koenig, Terrance MacCartney – Filigate 1959) the film is essentially a portrait of place, in this instance, a shore, and the communities bordering it. Engaging with different aspects of the everyday in Ullapool – international visitors, local fisherman, ferry passengers, charity shops and pub restaurants Cladach also documents a local ceilidh, featuring musical performances by local children.
Following this notion of the shoreline as a point of meeting between worlds, the film looks to reconnect these organisms, into an earth-bound whole, and the camera seeks to connect nature and society uniformly. Through the image patterns that emerge, forms and colours, bodies and movements are mirrored and continuous, and the inclusiveness of lived experience is laid bare.
As we leave Ullapool and enter a nearby shoreline, underwater footage of a maerl bed, jellyfish, sea grass begins an aquatic study of common indigenous species of Northwest Scotland – cup corals, anemones, serpulid worms, and others.
Sound presents a foundation and lyrical script for this progression. Beginning with the everyday noise of a village, cars, cash machines, conversation, Shore closes in on the voice, first the human and then the animal. Shifting from ambient to specific vocalizations – a news article read from the Ullapool News, a mother reading from Rachel Carson to her children… we then navigate a path towards the ‘wild’ voice, harbour squalls of sea birds, clattering of crabs, grunting of fish. Then finally aquatic sire recordings, supplied by SAMS, of deep sonorous calls and high pitched clicks, followed by rumbling of motors and high frequency noise and pollution. It all finally merges into a great chorus, abstract, tense, delicate. This inverted world is equally active, and vulnerable.
Rachel Carson’s lyrical observational novel, The Edge of the Sea, and beyond that, the entire Sea Trilogy, provides a wonderful context for this realist narrative. Not a scientific documentary but based in authentic observations and documentary technique, Cladach presents a cinematic progression from realism to fantasy, in an attempt to unify the exotic aquatic world with its terrestrial counterpart.
Filmed principally on location, with additional filming of specific species occurring in tanks and local aquariums, Salmon worked on 35mm film, exploring historical filming techniques used by pioneers of natural history filmmaking. The early works of Jean Painlevé, and the BFI Secrets of Nature series provides an imaginative entry-point for a technical approach, which ultimately celebrate an accessible, inclusive viewing experience, while playing with formal fascination and the acoustic musicality of the human and natural world.
Margaret Salmon, July 2018
Above images: 'Shore' research stills 2018, courtesy Margaret Salmon
Born in Suffern, New York, Margaret Salmon lives and works in Glasgow, Scotland. She creates filmic portraits that weave together poetry and ethnography. Focusing on individuals in their everyday activities, her films capture the minutiae of daily life and infuse them with gentle grandeur, touching upon universal human themes. Adapting techniques drawn from various cinematic movements, such as Cinema Vérité, the European Avant Garde and Italian Neo-Realism, Salmon’s orchestrations of sound and image introduce a formal abstraction into the tradition of realist film. Margaret Salmon won the first Max Mara Art Prize for Women in 2006. Her work was shown at the Venice Biennale in 2007 and the Berlin Biennale in 2010 and was featured in individual exhibitions at Witte de With in Rotterdam and Whitechapel Gallery in London among others. Salmon has just been nominated for the prestigious Jarman Award 2018.