st kilda

Today we interview Jim Richardson who is a photographer for National Geographic Magazine and a contributing editor for its sister publication,TRAVELER Magazine. Jim Richardson has photographed more than 25 stories for National Geographic.

What was it that drew you to photography?

My photography began on the farm where I grew up in Kansas. My dad was an avid amateur and I thought cameras were exotic. Perfect thing for a loner kid who liked gadgets, science and nature. Eventually I worked for newspapers and then magazines. But it has always been the challenge of making pictures that somehow showed how special the world is.

What is the one thing you wish you knew when you started taking photos?

Well, how much gear I would have to carry around during my lifetime. It’s been a lot. All over the world, always worrying about whether it would work at the critical moment.

What inspires you?

I’m driven by the desire to make pictures that reveal the workings of the world. Maybe that’s why I like the research stage of photography, trying to figure out what’s important and how to see it.

Which photographers influenced you, and how did they influence your thinking, photographing, and career path?

My early influences were photographers of the LIFE magazine traditions of documentary photography, principally W. Eugene Smith and Cartier Bresson. That showed that you could find true drama in the everyday world.

What keeps driving you to Scotland?

There’s a lot of Scotland I haven’t explored. I find myself drawn to the wild edges more and more, especially the islands and the northwest. Maybe that’s because I grew up in the flatlands of the American Great Plains. Not many lighthouses in Kansas. But I’m also fascinated by the people I find in those remote places, chasing their improbably dreams of a life in the place they love. 

How does Scotland compare to other areas you enjoy photographing?

Scotland has a particular intensity for me. I’m not much for Tropical countries where every day is the same (perfect, maybe, but always the same.) So I appreciate the dynamic weather and seasons, the landscape that seems to do battle to endure, and the great sense of drama and history that drapes every crag and glen.

What would be your perfect Scottish road trip?

Well, I used to tell everybody about this great road trip up the northwest coast and over the top of Scotland that nobody traveled and really ought to be better known. Then it became the NorthCoast 500! Still a great trip but better known now. Now I think I would say something like driving up Skye to Uig, taking the ferry over to Stornoway, down Lewis past Callanish (side trip) and down to Harris (stop in the distillery in Tarbert) around the Golden Raod to Leverburgh (take the day trip out of St. Kilda, if possible,) then take the ferry down to North Uist, South Uist and Barra, then grab the ferry back to Oban. What a bit of scenery along that route.

Do you have any advice for a budding photographer looking to visit Scotland for the first time?

There’s a lot to see and it’s all good. So do a lot of research, get out a map, carve off a piece of it and work it hard. No way to do it all in one trip, maybe not even in one lifetime.

Do you have a standout photo from your trips to Scotland?

Might be the Callanish Stones when I stayed up all night, light painting the stones for hours before the dawn finally put an end to my picture taking at about 4 AM.

Will we see you back in Scotland sometime soon?

I’ll be back twice this summer, in May and August. Through the Outer Hebrides, up to Orkney, Fair Isle and Shetland on the first trip. Down the Caledonian Canal and out into the Small Isles on the second trip. Hope to see you then.

Thank you for your time! You can find out more from Jim using the links below.