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Margaret Tait
Visiting Orkney in April 2002 brought home how Tait was very much an artist film-maker.

By using images and sounds from the environment in which she lived she was closer in approach to an artist, poet, or composer, than the jobbing life so often associated with more mainstream film-making. Her work explored and revisited landscapes, sounds, and people familiar to her since childhood. Preserved neatly in albums are photographs that she had been taking since the 1930s of different parts of Orkney, such as Yesnaby which would be revisited in her film Blue Black Permanent, as well as family, outings,picnics, boats, landscapes, seascapes, snapshots. Her early photographs include aunts and uncles and her mother and father; also her brothers, whose own children will later appear in her films Happy Bees and Colour Poems. She would also film her mother in Portrait of Ga.

Tait worked on more composed photographs too, and experimented with different exposure times. Shots of her school years, during the war, and later studying in Italy, suggest she was also happy to be photographed. There is little evidence of Tait's own appearance in her films apart from a sequence of shots in The Leaden Echo The Golden Echo and a fleeting appearance at the end of Three Portrait Sketches and an equally brief one in Happy Bees.

However, Tait's voice can often be heard. In Orquil Burn she is the narrator, for example, and in Land Makar she is heard speaking with her neighbour, the subject of the film. She speaks to the surprised postman coming to the open door she is filming in Place of Work, reads a poem on the soundtrack of Colour Poems and is heard singing in On The Mountain. Her partner, Alex Pirie, is also glimpsed in Rose Street in Hugh MacDiarmid A Portrait and in Where I Am Is Here. In her early films there is some exploration of the documentary form, driven in part by a desire to see if it was possible to make a living through this work. This can be seen in The Drift Back, which was sponsored by Orkney Council.

Still from Place of Work by Margaret Tait, 1976
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