Hirsel brought to life

Stephen Whitehorne  Exhibition. 'A Year at the Hirsel'
Stephen Whitehorne Exhibition. 'A Year at the Hirsel'

The results of a year-long scenic study of one of the Borders’ forgotten estates is revealed this Saturday by a Duns-based photographer.

Stephen Whitehorne spent 12 months collecting images of the landscape, nature, farming and recreational activities of the Hirsel, Coldstream, after being commissioned by the Home family.

And the 52-year-old says he was fascinated by the content in the 55 photographs featured in the Hirsel’s new craft centre.

Stephen said: “I know a lot of people in Duns who have previously not visited the Hirsel and are quite surprised when they get here.

“It probably has one of the best woodlands in the Borders, with it being managed well by the estate.

“Personally, I like abstract photos, but that is not necessarily representative of the Hirsel.

“It is the kind of place you can get lost in – there are more offbeat things away from the obvious.

“But there are a lot of images in the exhibition where the Hirsel is recognisable.”

A photographer of 26 years, Stephen began his career in London, providing photos for national newspapers such as The Guardian, as well as writing for music and geographical magazines.

A move up to the Highlands in 1991 saw Stephen teach his chosen profession on the banks of Loch Lomond, an inspiring setting which led to the Englishman remaining north of the border ever since.

He moved, but only to Edinburgh, followed by Lauder, before moving to Duns, where he currently lives.

His day-to-day work as a professional photographer sees Stephen working for estate agents across the Borders and Northumberland. But when the opportunity arose to work with the Hirsel in May 2011, he had no idea it would end up being a 12-month project.

Stephen said: “I love to photograph landscapes, nature and the environment.

“Originally, I was asked to photograph the estate’s rhododendrons in May, which are quite spectacular.

“From that it became a summer project and by the end of the summer I had an idea for staying the whole year. From there, we have put together the exhibition, as well as a book.”

Alongside the exhibition is video condensing 12 months of all the seasons at the Hirsel estate into just 20 minutes.

Stephen added: “The audio-visual display, which is set to music, incorporates 172 images, and follows the seasons through the year.”

Henry Birch, Hirsel Estates factor, said: “The entire experience of working with Stephen has been hugely enjoyable and for us to have the opportunity to share the results of his work with others, both through the book and the gallery, is very exciting.

“We are greatly indebted to Lady Caroline Douglas-Home who was the original moving force behind the creation of the Homestead and being able to add to her work, in a way in which will hopefully give pleasure to many others, is very rewarding.”

A total of 150 copies of a limited edition book, featuring more than 100 digital images depicting a year at the Hirsel, have been produced to mark the launch of the exhibition and will be available to purchase when the gallery opens on Saturday at 10am.