NFTU #3 – Nikki Bird + Beneath the Surface


Scapa Court, Kirkwall (KW15 1BJ) in 1968/69 and in 2016

‘[Showing] the relationship between the past and the present […] so it’s not just “the past is over here and the present is over here” and that is it’

– Nicky Bird, interviewed on video for the Stills Centre of Photography in Edinburgh

While I was doing some reading on Nikki Bird for part 5 of C&N (around Question for Seller), I came across a later piece called Beneath the Surface, where Bird had worked with people whose part of Scotland had been “wiped away” to combine their photographs with up to date pictures of the places in the pictures. At the time when she first started thinking about this, she had been involved with an archaeological dig in Edinburgh.

Bugger! I thought. This – vanished locations for memories – was exactly the sort of thing I was preparing for the Square Mile Project at the beginning of the next module, Identity and Place, but without the really nice touch  of merging old snapshots with pictures taken now; and I was beginning to think about how my growing up in Orkney, with its ridiculously easy access to the Neolithic past and to the archaeological “heritage” could be extended into looking at the increasingly decaying military installations from the second world war bases that are similarly all over the place there.

But then, thinking about it, there is nothing new about any of this (either what I was trying to do, or what Bird did a decade ago). Rather it seems to show that I’m sort of on the right track somehow.

Even if I do wish I’d had the idea to do a combination of a new picture of the house I grew up in combined with the picture I have of my sister and I, sitting on the garden wall, just before we moved in before I  stumbled across Bird’s piece…

Laura and Simon on the wall that will separate 3 and 5 Scapa Court. 1968



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