Creativity Interview with Alastair Cook – artist

AlastairCook ImageKaspa writes: Alastair has been a long-time friend of WOWH, and I’m delighted to be able to interrogate him with our questions about creativity. This is part of our Creativity Interview series.

Alastair is an artist who works primarily with lens-based media as an analogue photographer concentrating on antique photographic technologies to create amazing images, some of which you can see here. He also works as a filmmaker using 8mm and 16mm film, combining these with digital technology to great effect.

Alastair’s work explores the issues surrounding the effect of our landscape on our perception of history, of how we perceive a place, a haven, of what imbues the very spirit of place. His award winning film and photography is driven by his knowledge, skill and experience as a conservation architect.

Hi Alastair, what drives your creative work?

I work in photography and film, although I trained as an conservation architect, specialising in the conserving of our world rather than the building of a new world: my instinct therefore is to record, to note, to piece together a narrative or to illustrate the traces we leave, our subtle imprint. I’ve always wanted to write, but it does not come. I hide instead behind a camera, analogue or digital, 35mm or Bolex, Leica or iPhone, wet plate or dry.

Sheree MackWhat would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and meet yourself at the beginning of your creative career?

Choose your battles.

How do you keep creating when things get difficult?

Life is by its very nature difficult; this is what makes it blissful too. Like many intensive creative folks, I work like a lunatic for a while then come up for air. The difficult bit is steadying my ship after taking in the sails. I find it hard to stay on an even keel until the next project sits on the horizon, like that black suggestion of a shadow of a ship in Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa.  

How does your creative work affect the rest of your life?

I work where I live. I have a wife and two small children. My work wraps around them, they wrap around me, we envelope each other.

DonaldWhat is it like to send your work out into the world?

The good bits come after people have stood in front of your work and reports come through third parties, mutterings. A fisherman who I have never met brought me to tears when his wife told me that after they’d left the private view that I’d captured the sea, what it was like to be at sea, perfectly. That makes it all worthwhile, for me.

What was the best advice anyone gave to you?

I turned with a portfolio of hastily scribbled self-portraits for my interview at the Glasgow School of Art, many years ago. I apologised for not having studied any buildings, the interview slipping away. The interviewer leaned over the table and told me not to be quite so silly, I was here to be taught. He held out his hand and shook mine, telling me I was successful and welcoming me into a fold from which I viewed the rest of the world with desire.

The best advice: listen, and give yourself over to those who will impart their wisdom.

What helps you to pay attention to the world?

What grounds me, helps me – the early morning shuffle as my son creeps into the room in search of the warmth of his parent’s bed.

Thanks Alastair.

Alastair’s most recent solo show of wet plate collodion portraits, McArthur’s Store, was at Dunbar Town House, from 30th November 2012 until 21st February 2013; he is north light artist in residence for 2013 and will be making wet plate collodion images through the summer in McArthur’s Store, Dunbar. His work can be seen at and

Comments & replies

5 thoughts on “Creativity Interview with Alastair Cook – artist

  1. Ellecee

    What an interesting person and artist. I am drawn to what appears to be a calm and sensitive nature, although he says that he has difficulties between projects. I went to his blog and looked at some of his work and for me it carries that quiet observation of things usually not noticed. His portraits seem to reveal the inner person and makes us wonder about them, what their inner world is. I enjoyed this interview a lot and also the places it led me to.

  2. Sascha

    Very interesting interview and interviewee.
    I love the sentence ‘I work where I live. I have a wife and two small children. My work wraps around them, they wrap around me, we envelope each other.’ What a beautiful way to describe it. I recognise myself there if you replace ‘wife’ with ‘husband’.

    1. Kaspalita Thompson Post author

      Thanks for dropping by 🙂

      I think the work/life separation is that has come about as more and more people work for someone else doing something they don’t take any pride in/have any love for…

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