The John Byrne Award

Video ScreenshotHaving not quite completed scanning all my negatives from my Outlandia Artist Residency (as suspected something had to go wrong and of course I had fogging in my negatives) I decided to enter my first, and favourite image into the John Byrne Award. After such a fantastic experience during my residency I was then delighted to have found out I’d been chosen as November’s monthly winner for my entry. Niall Dolan emailed me to discuss the production of a short video on my values surrounding nature and conservation which both excited me and truly terrified me – you will rarely see me on the other side of the camera and I had always intended it to stay that way!

I had a fantastic day in December working with Niall and Liam who took me up to Arthur’s Seat for some “photographer-staring-proudly-into-the-landscape-with-camera and-tripod-slung-round-back” type shots. An initial interview at the John Byrne Award HQ really got me to think about my projects and the reasons surrounding the production of my work.

Check out my entry in the links below and the final video through The Skinny’s webpage.

The John Byrne Award;

The Skinny;


Digitalis purpurea, Foxglove



The John Byrne Award

Propagation; Behind the scenes


Test shoots and planning

My final series was to be photographed at the Trees for Life tree nursery in Dundreggan and I had little time once I was there to practice and re-shoot. Subsequently, I spent many months preparing by practising using external flash kits, metering and understanding the visual effect of the Kodak film with flash. This lovely Chilean Holly bush became my muse. The numerous leaves and the multiple twisted angles in which they grew provided a technical challenge for me when it came to positioning the flash and reflectors. It was my hope that this challenge would prepare me for my final shoot in March/April time at the tree nursery.   

Propagation Behind the Scenes


Dundreggan Tree Nursery

At the tree nursery, I was met by the most amazing variation of tiny tree saplings. Each sapling grew in it’s own unique way therefore providing it’s own special identity.


Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews

Propagation Behind the Scenes

My own little pop-up studio was set up in the bird watching hut behind the polly tunnels circled above. For April it wasn’t the warmest of environments but it provided much needed sheltering from unwanted sunlight. Thanks to Josh Raper – who was also photographing within the Dundreggan Estate at the time – I was able to set up a slightly wonky black back-drop  within the hut. After hours of meticulous adjustments to each piece of equipment, my chosen saplings were photographed one by one.

Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews   Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews

Propagation - Katie Blair Matthews  ….followed by hours of scanning the film negatives….

Final Presentation


Each sapling was printed life-size and presented in an FSC certified wooden oak box frame. This form of presentation enabled each sapling to be viewed as a preserved specimen and also further emphasised the 3D appearance of the print.



Propagation; Behind the scenes