Finding Strand: Croft, Loch Carnan

Page 76: Croft, Loch Carnan

Croft, Loch Carnan, Paul Strand, Tir a' Mhurain 1962

Croft, Loch Carnan, Paul Strand, Tir a' Mhurain 1962

As I drove south from Benbecula I had decided to try to find one of Strand's locations: I had no idea whether this would be possible, but the first that was both convenient and possibly identifiable was a small, dark image with a lowering sky on page 76 titled 'Croft, Loch Carnan'.

The title gave me a clue to the approximate area, but the map shows a branching road running north and south of what it calls 'Loch a' Charnain', a winding sealoch that cuts inland west towards the main A865 a mile or so south of the road's arrival on South Uist. It could lie anywhere along a wide strip of land and I had no idea how accessible it would be. I chose first the spur along the south side of the loch.

I'd memorised the key features of the image - a thatched croft sits alone on a stone plinth by the loch, and poking above the rising ground beyond a blip of a distant hill is visible - but I had no idea how far the scene lay from any modern road. I could see the distant hill for a little while (it's Ruabhal on Benbecula), but nothing else matched until I rounded a gentle bend over a crest and immediately scrabbled for the iPad on the floor of the passenger compartment to confirm the scene that had struck me. Yes, I'd found it, right next to the road!

Croft, Loch Carnan ©Mark Farrington

The walls of the croft had been painted white, the door pillar-box red, and the gables extended and a pitched, tiled roof added; a garden planted with scrubby trees partially obscured the side and rear of the building from the road; scattered modern crofts disfigured the land beyond; but this was undoubtedly the correct place.

As emerged over the next few days, Strand never carried his plate camera far from the road; as I have been told by Kirk Keeler of the Ansel Adams Gallery in Yosemite, apparently Ansel Adams also did not backpack heavy loads across the wilderness!

Strand's aims were different from his elder forbear, wishing to illustrate people's lives in their immediate surroundings rather than concentrating on the wild landscape itself.

This proximity to transport made my project a lot easier, and as long as I drove with care to avoid ditches and stone walls while glancing at the scans of my book, it was relatively easy to find the exact location of the images I hunted on this trip.

Click the images to open in a lightbox.


Finding Strand: Loch Skiport

Finding Paul Strand's Tir a' Mhurain: Resources