About ZenBends

The sign on the A86 that inspired the project name, September 2004

ZenBends is a play on the British road sign warning of double bends ahead, (sometimes referred to as ‘Z’ bends) and often seen on Highland & Island single-track roads as they follow the contours of the land rather than the more direct routes of modern roads that, by a combinations of blasting, cutting and filling, take their own line regardless of the surrounding topography. These older single-track roads are the type of road that draw me down their length, filming what I see as I drive, mentally noting corners, curves, roadside details and panoramas of hill, sea and sky to photograph later.

Every journey is different - the variables of light, the time of day and year, the purpose of the trip, the frame of mind of the driver, the music playing on the radio or CD player. Even if it seems that you are all alone on the road, you always have to be prepared for whatever is round the corner. These are, by their very nature, roads that demand negotiation with other travellers (human or animal) to reach your destination . . . .

I am an ethnological photographer and I work for the department of Celtic & Scottish Studies at the University of Edinburgh. This project has been awarded funding by The University of Edinburgh’s Small Project Scheme, The Catherine Mackichan Trust and the Moray Endowment Fund.

The title ZenBends came about after seeing a particular version of the road sign for dangerous bends on a return journey along the A86 just past Loch Laggan, heading back east from the west coast after a weekend away with a group of my (mainly) middle-aged motorcycling friends who suffered a car driver to be among them on the annual outing known as the ‘Shout’. The fact that I was driving an old Audi Avant Estate, that was more than able to carry spare motorcyle panniers and other discarded items, may account for their tolerance.

I have made two field trips so far, in September and December of 2006, and I will be making more journeys in May and June of 2007. Read my fieldwork notes.

Thanks to Owen Nelson of Defaultgrey.com for help with this site.

Ian can be contacted at ZenBends@googlemail.com