'Nil' by Steve Macleod : Fitzrovia Chapel
Fitzrovia Chapel, 2 Pearson Square, London W1T 3BF
We are delighted to present Nil, made between 1992-2005, by Steve Macleod at Fitzrovia Chapel. The series was inspired by the area of the Scottish Highlands where Macleod grew up.
The First World War devastated many Highland rural villages to such an extent that in the post-war census, the return of many soldiers was listed as NIL. With the loss of so many able-bodied young men, rural communities diminished and people slowly drifted away from their lands, rural industry and crafts. Whole communities disappeared; places became forgotten – this became known as the third clearance.
Records show that 26.4% of enlisted Scots died compared to 11.8% of the population in other areas of the UK. The population of Scotland at the time was 10% of the total UK population yet the statistic accounted for a fifth of Britain’s war dead. It is estimated that 147,609 Scots were killed in active service during WWI 1914-18.
In 1992 Macleod began creating a photographic response to these losses; the traces of abandoned communities in the Highland landscape. Visiting old ghosts, he has traced dilapidated evidence of forgotten villages and ways of life.
Inspired by the writings of author Neil Gunn he travelled to and met with people now living in the landscape, people who may have no historical connection yet embrace a beautifully unforgiving environment. He engaged with current residents in a collaborative approach to the photographic works.
Creating silver gelatin prints he then obliterated the image with black oil stick and invited people to uncover the image below with their hands, in turn placing their own identity on the landscape and resurrecting a connection that commemorates the past yet connects us with the present.
These unique images will be displayed in an original and atmospheric way at the beautiful Fitzrovia Chapel.