Unlimited by artistic boundaries, Louise Bichan is a fiddle player, a photographer, and a songwriter. She grew up in Orkney, a beautiful group of islands in Scotland. As a child, beautiful scenery and beautiful music surrounded Louise, both of which inspire her art to this day. She was also innately interested in photography.
“I remember having a little point and click film camera as a kid. And I used to save up all my pennies of my allowance from my parents, my pocket money, to get films developed.“
Louise’s parents helped her to get the film developed. But since age 7, she’s been really passionate about playing fiddle, too. So when high school came to an end, Louise felt torn between music and visual art. Without a college that would allow her to study both, she eventually attended the Glasgow School of Art. She specialized in photography and explored the rich Glasgow music scene on the side.
“In the end I decided art school would be the thing for me. As it turns out, it wasn't. I didn’t really have the best time at art school.”
Through it all, Louise’s love for music never waned. She later attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston and still writes and performs traditional Scottish music. Because of this diverse background, Louise’s most recents projects effortlessly combine visual and audio elements.
If we go all the way back to the beginning, Louise traces her interest in photography to her grandmother, Margaret Tait, who was a photographer in her own right.
“She always had a camera in hand, all the family occasions, and she would have the photos developed in an album with everything recorded…I definitely feel like she passed that onto me.”
As a young woman, Louise’s grandmother was faced with a monumental decision: two men both wanted her hand in marriage. So, she set out on a journey across the ocean from Scotland to clear her mind.
“My grandmother, when she was 25 in 1950, traveled to Canada on her own as a young woman, which was unheard of, especially at the time. There were bets that she wouldn't come back.”
Louise recreated this trip, which was documented through journal entries. It's what inspired her recent project, Out of my Own Light. In it, we follow Margaret’s journey across the ocean through videos, photos, and original music compositions.
My personal favorite project of Louise’s is an ongoing photography series called Fiddlecam. It started when Louise took a photo looking down the neck of her fiddle one day. A friend gifted Louise a GoPro camera to attach to the fiddle. Since then, Louise has published hundreds of photos and videos of her fiddle in scenic landscapes.
“Everytime I'm out anywhere beautiful or playing with other musicians, I'll take little videos playing a tune and take a lot of pictures with that perspective of looking down the neck of the fiddle as a fiddle player.”
Recently, she and her partner took an long road trip across the United States, from Maine to Canada, sleeping in their old Volvo. To see some of the 10 National Parks they visited from the perspective of the fiddle, check out fiddlecam.com
These days, Louise lives in Maine with her partner and uses her time in quarantine to explore new hobbies. She’s been trying out linotype and cyanotype, which are lovely hands on methods of creating prints.
She has one more big project brewing, dependent on travel. It’s slated to be a multimedia project, with interviews, photos, and music that will focus on a big storm that happened in Orkney, her hometown, back in 1952. Something strange happened during the storm, though.
“All the chickens blew into the sea. Like a lot of chicken farms I think went out of business. It's sad…no lives were lost… but a lot of people's livelihoods were.”
Louise’s project will be in the works in the coming years, nearing the 70th anniversary of the storms.
Listener stories are all about connecting fellow photographers, spreading inspiration, and building friendships. If you're interested in being a guest on the show and sharing your photo journey, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know what you'd like to talk about. Finally, Louise offered one piece of advice for budding photographers.