Highlander is short documentary about Neil Elliot, who is "arguably the best caber tosser in the world." His story is told through still images and interviews by photojournalist Kieran Dodds, edited together by Anna Stevens at Panos Pictures. Caber tossing is a traditional Scottish contest that requires hefting a 19-foot, 175-pound log through the air. Dodds talks about his inspiration for the project and his work as a photographer in a short interview below.
The Atlantic: How did you find this story and decide to tell it?
Kieran Dodds: Travelling to far-flung corners of the world takes time and money to access a culture and make photos so it makes sense to shoot locally. Neill lived nearby so got in touch and it started from there. He opened my eyes to a world I hadn't seen. The Highland games, for a Scot, are a tourist attraction but they are culturally rich and visually interesting, some would even say chaotic. I wanted to challenge myself to see familiar things with fresh eyes and if it made good pictures show it to the world.
When you're not documenting caber tossing, what kind of subjects do you photograph?
I shoot photoessays for lots of different clients but my focus is people stories. There are 7 billion stories out there and each is valuable. My main interests are stories of endeavor and struggle, against nature, society or oneself. Locally I am shooting a series on the people of Scotland, as we consider independence I want to ask who are we as a nation? Recently I was climbing over the iconic Forth Rail Bridge documenting the painters completing this repetitive and epic task for the first time in its 125-year history. In November I travelled abroad staying with recovering addicts going very cold turkey in Asbest, Russia. I did shoot a story on fruit bats once which was a bit of a tangent but I like to take on new challenges.
What's next for you?
I have a list of ideas but will have to see what the year brings. I have a possible journey to the roof of the world for a environmental conservation story, my background is zoology. I also want to shoot the Scotland work so am spending a lot of time typing up proposals. As a freelance, everyone things you travel, shoot amazing stories then party but its amazing how much time is spent at a desk. But I do have an appointment with some sword-wielding Hollywood-acting battle reenacters this week to keep it interesting. I expect there will be a lot more tartan in 2012.
For more work by Kieran Dodds, visit http://kierandodds.com/.
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