Relocating from London to the quiet, picturesque village of Cellardyke in the East Neuk of Fife has given photographer Sean Dooley the time and space he needs to make art that is both rewarding and meaningful
Going to the East Neuk of Fife is never a hardship. It doesn’t matter if it’s for work or pleasure, the climate is different (warmer), the air is tinged with sea salt and the pace of life is, on the whole, slower. It all adds up to a stress-busting deviation from the frantic demands of everyday life. That’s not just my assessment: Crail, Anstruther, Pittenweem and the rest of the quaint fishing villages in this pocket of Scotland are home to proud Fifers, families escaping city life and, increasingly, a community of artists. There has been a surge in the number of creative types quietly beavering away in this part of the country, so much so that East Neuk Open Studios – an event that sees artists opening up their workspaces to the general public – now runs twice a year, rather than just the once as it used to.
Artist and photographer Sean Dooley now part of the colony. Despite a long family connection with the area, he only made the move to Cellardyke ten years ago. Today, he is firmly entrenched in community life and has fashioned his work around the environment in which he resides. “I have a lot of relatives in the area,” he explains. “My granny, aunt and uncle and some cousins all live here and I used to come up from London and stay here a lot.” With hindsight, he says, he can see that his increasingly frequent trips to Fife were his way of trying to escape London. He wasn’t fulfilled there, and after spending more and more time in this part of Scotland, it began to feel like home.
Born in Australia, Sean moved to London where he studied maths at university. His love affair with photography began late: he’d barely taken a photograph until his first year as a student, when his friend asked him to hold his camera. “I was hooked,” he laughs. Soon he was hiring the university’s dark room and getting a friend show him the basics.
He didn’t know many photographers, so after a spell of mostly instructive research, he decided to do a Masters in documentary photography at UWCN, in Wales. “I saw it as a good opportunity to meet people who were interested in the same things I was,” he explains.
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Words Catherine Coyle
Photographs Neale Smith
Art direction Gillian Welsh