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Scotland's Shadows

Joseph Fox couldn't have cast the Highlands in a more depressing light.

by Joseph Fox
May 23 2012, 2:20pm

The Highland village of Kinlochleven was established in the early 20th century when the then NBAC (Northern British Aluminum Company) built the Blackwater reservoir hydro-electric plant and aluminium smelter. The aluminium plant became Kinlochleven's main source of income, transforming the shooting estates of the Mamore Mountains into a thriving industrial village.

The plant eventually closed in 2000 when aluminium became cheaper to buy as a foreign import, and, as a result, the village and its people have been left in a dire economic state. While the surrounding villages and Highland Estates teem with tweed-wearing tourists, Kinlochleven boasts only one hotel, one pub, and a small store. The summer tourism and the remaining hydro-electric plant (which only has four employees) are all that keeps the village alive.

And if that isn't depressing enough, the sun doesn't rise high enough to climb above the dominating peaks of the Mamore Mountains during the winter months, and so the village is continuously cast in a dark shadow.

For some reason, photographer Joseph Fox finds this whole grimness fascinating. So fascinating in fact, that he keeps going back and forth between Kinlochleven and London (where he is based) to freeze a little and photograph the gloomy landscape and the people who inhabit it. He says he uses "the shadows as a metaphor for the spiralling economic oppression." I say I hope he never forgets to pack a sweater.