Steve Macleod, At the Drying Nets

June 9, 2020
Steve Macleod
At the drying nets, 1992 - 2005 
From the series NIL
Archival pigment print 
40.6 x 50.8 cm (16 x 20 inches)
Edition of 7 + 2 artist proofs


£ 900 framed including VAT + delivery





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, and 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, estimated at 147,609 Scots who were killed in active service. 


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, Macleod 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 obliterated the image with black oil stick, inviting 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.




10% of all Black Box Projects sales will be donated to Hospital Rooms, a London-based charity championing the healing power of art by commissioning world-class artists to create permanent site-specific art installations and art programmes for secure mental health facilities in the NHS service.