The Pool by Iain Sarjeant

From the first time I heard that Iains series, The Pool, was to be published by Triplekite, I was excited. I have followed Iains work for a few years now and The Pool series has become a favorite of mine.

I first came across the work on Iains website a year or two ago and was instantly entranced by its delicate beauty and simplicity. Iain is a full time professional photographer working out of Strathpeffer in Scotland. His work is often characterised by its keen observational quality. Iain is a man who walks around with his eyes wide open and seems to see things where many do not.

His Tumblr photoblog is essential viewing for me. There he regularly posts images from his travels around Scotland. But, whereas you and I might post ‘pretty Scotland’, a land of glens, lochs and sea, Iain takes us into the urban areas and the margins of human habitation. He finds beauty and interest in the mundane, the forgotten, the obscure. He finds shapes, patterns, incongruity, melancholy, joy, texture and the surreal.

This work is in direct contrast with The Pool series. While his work on Tumblr focuses on mans hand in the environment, on decay and neglect, The Pool is very much a project about nature but it still shows Iains intense observance of the seemingly mundane.

Iain describes how he regularly passed a small pool of water, almost on a daily basis as he went to and from his home. He describes this as smaller than a pond, bigger than a puddle, perhaps only 2 meters across. In my mind I see a small patch of water ignored by almost everyone except the local wildlife… and Iain. Surrounded by a thatch of reeds, grasses, ferns and young silver birch saplings, this small wild oasis passes each day making no impact on the wider world, but being so important to the birds and animals that rely on it for water and food.

Iain, drawn to this unremarkable place, decided to try and capture its silent beauty with his lens and show us what we are missing as we hurry pass these little scrubby places that are everywhere. From this came The Pool.

Iain has settled on the square format (a particular favourite of mine) and a gently sepia toned mono look to the images. This gives the whole series a lovely harmonious flow and helps us focus on shapes, forms and details rather than be distracted by colours.

Added to this, Iain has shot the images ‘wide open’ or with very shallow depth of field. This helps mitigate any distracting backgrounds but, more importantly, gives the whole project a feeling of pleasing soft gentleness which feels appropriate to such a quiet and gentle oasis.

The masterstroke to complete the effect is to shoot many of the images combining shapes of foliage with reflections and ripples in the water. The resulting images are, quite simply, magical. There are several images in the book I would love to have on my walls at home (we need to talk Iain!), they are the kind of images I won’t tire of seeing every day for the rest of my life.

I love the fact that Triplekite have opted to keep the images to a sensible size. These images are not designed to be viewed large. I feel it would destroy the intimacy of the project and so each plate is about 6 inches (in old money) square. This has the effect of drawing us in rather than pushing us away, to look at details and appreciate the fine harmony of the compositions.

This type of composition is difficult to achieve. Foliage, branches, grasses – all can appear chaotic, but Iain has used his accomplished eye to find harmony, line and a calm order in his compositions. We get a sense of the delicate way nature makes its own compositions for us, if we are just patient enough and observant enough to find them.

The book has a beautifully written foreword from Wayne Ford, who is another blogger well worth following. What he doesn’t know about photography and particularly photography books, is not worth knowing.

As with all Triplekite publications, love for photography, not profit, has driven the design and production values of the book. For those of us who love photography books, this is a company who deserves our support. The book is hardback and printed again in Malta by the same company who printed the sublime ‘With Trees’ by Dav Thomas, so you know print quality is about as good as it gets. They have then taken the trouble to provide the book with a translucent dust jacket overprinted in silver which softly reveals the cover image beneath.

Could the book be improved? Certainly! I would love more images, but I say that about just about every photography book. I would have liked some words from Iain in the book, about the images, his thought process and motivation. That would have added to it in my opinion. But apart from that, it is just about perfect.

I was excited to hear The Pool was to be published. I waited impatiently to receive my copy. I was not disappointed. If you love photography that goes beyond the obvious, photography that reveals quietly what most of us are blind to, photography that rewards repeated viewing then I would heartily recommend you consider getting hold of a copy of ‘The Pool’ for your own collection. You can do that at the Triplekite website, HERE.

Disclaimer: In the interests of journalistic integrity I want to make it clear I get a free press copy of the publication under review from Triplekite. The above link is also an affiliate link so if you use it I get a small commission. However, I can also honestly state that Triplekite make no attempt whatsoever to influence what I say about their books. They do not see (or ask to see) what I write prior to publication and they do not ask me to alter what I write (except if I make an error regarding technical details. If I don’t like any aspect of the books, I will say so. I take my integrity very seriously.

If you do wish to buy the book and use a link which does NOT give me any commission then this link HERE will do that for you.

As a consequence of being a professional teacher, writer, photographer and active member of the photographic community it is inevitable that I will know many of the photographers featured in the books I review. Some are now close friends, others are acquaintances and some I know fleetingly or just by reputation. I hope all of these understand that as a reviewer I have to try and stand back from any personal relationships and give my honest review of what I see and read. If I praise the work I genuinely feel it deserves praise. If I am less complimentary then I will always try never to be unkind but always to be honest, but it will never be personal and I trust that if what I say is less than glowing that we can remain friends? I have come to realise that reviewers walk a minefield, but walk it they must.