Buzzcocks Drummer to Exhibit Crofting Pictures
He is best known for bashing away on the drums in one of Britain’s loudest punk bands. But 35 years on, Buzzcocks’ drummer John Maher has swapped the sticks for a camera.
Now leading an isolated way of life on the secluded Isle of Harris in the Scottish Outer Hebrides, the veteran rocker is launching his first photographic exhibition – of abandoned crofting houses.
The 53-year-old has spent the last four years trawling around the stunning landscapes of Harris looking for old crofting houses to capture their story before they are weathered down by time and nature.
And now John’s photos will be released to the public for the first time, alongside fellow amateur photographer Ian Paterson, in the Leaving Home: an Alternative View of the Outer Hebrides exhibition at An Lanntair in Stornoway.
He said earlier this week: “It was getting into the night photography – a new way of looking at the island in the way that the human eye can’t actually see – that I got completely hooked on photography in 2009.
“As part of that, I was venturing inside some of these old abandoned croft houses and of course some of them you would see there were a lot of old personal belongings that had been left behind.
“All that stuff particularly interested me, so I started going back in the daytime to photograph these in better light conditions and then built up this collection of photographs of abandoned croft houses.
“That ultimately led to me getting in touch with Ian Paterson the guy I’m doing the exhibition with.
“It was him who suggested trying to get these exhibited somewhere and he approached An Lanntair gallery in Stornoway and they ultimately said ‘yeah we’ve got a slot available for you to put those photographs up’.
“Since then it’s been heads down, no nonsense, getting everything sorted out for this.”
Since announcing the exhibition, which runs from November 9 till December 31, John has been inundated with fans looking forward to seeing his work, but despite the popularity, he hopes he doesn’t cause a Harris tourism boom.
He said: “There’s a woman contacted me from Wales who I’ve never met before and she said that she’d booked tickets for her and her mother to come up to Stornoway to see the exhibition.
“So it seems I’ve already boosted the tourism industry on the island as a result of the exhibition, but seriously, I hope big coach parties don’t turn up at these old crofting homes.
“What I’ve done is allowed people a glimpse of the inside of these places that they otherwise wouldn’t get to see and I don’t want large groups trying to find them as as floorboards will start going through and people will get hurt.
“You see, I didn’t want to take pictures of sunsets and beaches and all that sort of stuff because you see so much of that already – the internet is splattered with all those sort of photographs and it doesn’t really interest me.
“The great thing about these old crofting houses is that they’ve been left abandoned for decades, they haven’t been interfered with by people.
“The only thing that’s caused any ‘damage’ – if you want to call it that – is time, nature and the elements taking their toll on the place.
“Gradually these things will disappear as they’re falling apart and part of the thing with the photography, I guess, is that I’m documenting it so there’s at least some sort of record of it before it’s gone for good.”
John’s not sure if he’ll do another exhibition, but one thing he is sure of, is that since moving to Harris in 2002 from his native Manchester, he’ll never return to the mainland to live again.
He laughed: “I don’t particularly miss big city life. I guess I probably got that all out of my system a long time ago.
“I actually don’t travel away from the island that often now, maybe a couple times a year at best.”