John Byrne Award profiles: Katie Blair Matthews

In the latest edition of our series profiling recipients of the John Byrne Award, we meet 23-year-old Edinburgh photographer Katie Blair Matthews

Feature by The Skinny | 09 Jan 2018

The John Byrne Award, now in its second year online, is a digital platform which aims to celebrate the creative expression of values by young people in Scotland. Each month a £100 prize is awarded to a creative work by a 16-25 year old resident in Scotland.

The prize-winning pieces are diverse, across categories of music, visual art, video and writing, and the judges are multi disciplinary creative professionals. The underlying aim of the programme is to provide a platform and encourage young creatives to engage with societal debate around values, fostering a greater articulacy around the expression of values in Scottish society as a whole.

Katie Blair Matthews is the latest winner of the John Byrne Award – the 23-year-old Edinburgh photographer picked up the award for her piece Digitalis purpurea, Foxglove. Watch a video chat with Matthews in the YouTube player below, or read on to find out more about Matthews' work.

"For the past two years I have been creating work which discusses Scotland’s fragile native forestry. My aim is to draw attention to land use in Scotland and our custodial responsibility to maintain and restore our beautiful and essential ecosystems, landscapes and native species. Beside valuing nature in and of itself, I also hugely value the ability for nature to help combat the stresses and misfortunes of life; to me the outdoors is a playground that allows the mind to wonder freely. The conservation of our natural world is incredibly important to me.

"In order to signify the preciousness of our native species, I have begun archiving various trees and plants through photographic portraits after being influenced by the notion of the seed bank. Created as a typology, each plant is photographed on a black backdrop to highlight its colours and form.

"Pictured here is the Foxglove, a wild flower native to Britain and widespread across Scotland’s highland landscape. Beyond its striking aesthetic, the foxglove has a fascinating medicinal history which truly exemplifies the preciousness and importance of plants to the development of humankind. As the original source of the drug Digitalis, an extract of the foxglove was once used to treat an array of heart conditions and its medicinal use can be traced back to the ancient Romans."