Sarah, intern with Orkney Museums and the Pier Arts Centre, has been with us here at the Gunnie Moberg Archive this last week. She worked her way through a file of Gunnie’s newspaper clippings from the 1990s. These have now been catalogued and can be browsed in at Orkney Library & Archive.
Gunnie Moberg worked as a freelance photographer for the press from the late 1970s, sending rolls of film south. In a pre-digital age photographers shot on a couple of cameras so they could send the undeveloped films to different papers, sometimes only seeing their work when it was printed in the paper. Cut out of the papers and stored carefully in a box file, Gunnie was building a decade by decade archive of her work in print and, consequently, an archive of the island’s representation at the turn of the century.
Gunnie Moberg’s photography news clippings from the nineties reveal a fascination with Orkney and island life in the Scottish national papers. Stories about remoteness and technology and the possibilities therein are beautifully typified in this portrait of telecrofter John Ruscoe, his head office 500 miles away in Manchester. In an article from The Herald in May of 1992, John, wresting a giant walkabout phone and a wriggling iodined lamb, is simultaneously involved in lambing and software design.
The Herald May 1992
In November of 1994 Scotland on Sunday printed Gunnie Moberg photographs of Rousay alongside the article by Will Self about the writer’s self-imposed exile to the island.
‘Gradually I began to feel my sense of geography shifting. I was becoming Rousaycentric. England and the south was an impossibly tropical and decadent region; the Faroes began to take on the aura of a possible holiday destination; Reykjavik plausible cultural centre. As I walked to the Taversoe of the evening, I could see the lights of Kirkwall twinkling across the water. Ah!, I would think to myself, disapprovingly, there’s that Babylon of a place, full of distraction and debauchery.’ Will Self
Spectrum Magazine, Scotland on Sunday, 27 November 1994
How else was Orkney being depicted in the nineties? A 32 page Orkney pull-out in the Herald is full of Gunnie’s loving portraits of the place. Also in the pull-out, a feature on craft industries tells the story about how Stromness fisherman George Sinclair wowed Paris with this Gunnie Moberg fashion shoot for Tait and Style.
The Herald, 8 March 1994
Throughout the decade Gunnie was steadily being asked for new portraits of George Mackay Brown. In one photograph the home-grown writer enjoys home brew with author Duncan McLean. Here at the archives one of the many boxes of documents on shelves in strongrooms bears the name D91. It is the collection of Duncan McLean’s working notes and proofs from his books, including Bunkerman the book reviewed in this edition of The Orcadian.
The Orcadian 22 June 1995
In a Sunday Post magazine article in November of 1991, photographers are asked ‘to let their lenses sum up their feelings’ about Scotland. How does Gunnie Moberg respond? ‘This is Scotland to me because it represents a nation that goes in head first in any given situation.’
image: Gunnie Moberg D135-2-449
Sunday Post November 1991
The Orcadian’s 1999 obituary for Orkney filmmaker and poet Margaret Tait is accompanied by Gunnie Moberg’s portrait of the artist. Margaret Tait’s archive is also held here at Orkney Library and Archive, her collection of personal communications, photographs, scripts, scene sketches and poetry workings is now fully catalogued and searchable. The Pier Arts Centre in Stromness, Orkney, holds an archive of Margaret Tait films and with an ongoing programme of public screenings. The films are also available to view by appointment with the Pier Arts Centre.
This portrait is part of the next Gunnie Moberg exhibition ‘White’ at the Library in Kirkwall – more about that soon. Click here to see one of Margaret Tait’s films Tailpiece (leaving Buttquoy) on the LUX collection site.
The Orcadian 1999
Come in to the archive and ask for box D135/30 if you would like to see any of these clippings or browse many more newspaper stories with Gunnie’s pictures.
Thank you to Sarah and also to Andrew, who has been here on work experience and spent an afternoon putting Gunnie Moberg’s 1979-1989 newspaper clippings in chronological order.