Gunnie for Tait & Style
Artist and photographer Gunnie Moberg was born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1941. She left school at the age of 16 in order to pursue photography and a few years later moved to Scotland to attend Edinburgh College of Art and improve her English.
It was in a bookshop in Edinburgh that she met Californian artist and bookseller Tam Macphail. He would become her husband in January 1961, in a freezing Edinburgh kirk. The two young artists had only pennies left after paying the minister’s fee, and a choice to make: have the heating switched on, or an organist playing. Not for the last time, they chose art over comfort.
In 1976 Gunnie, Tam and their four sons moved to Orkney. Her first job there was working behind the desk at the local airport. She got to know the senior pilot, Captain Andy Alsop. Now and then she’d get the chance to fly with Alsop in the eight-seater plane that brought people in from the remote islands to the Mainland. The flights were truly enlightening for Gunnie, exposing her to the stunning beauty of the isles - with their natural as well as man-made patterns. Gunnie was inspired to pick up her camera again.
Photograph of Gunnie taken by her son Paul
Before running The Longship, owner Ingrid Tait focused on textile design, creating fabrics for well known fashion brands, including Paul Smith, Commes des Garçons, Chanel and Givenchy through her label Tait & Style.
Gunnie designed for Tait & Style, collaborating on a collection of scarves and hats based on Swedish textile techniques she had learned as a child. International fashion and local tradition intersected as Gunnie began to crochet whilst walking her dog along the clifftops of Ootertoon.
Minnie Gorie, Ingrid's granny, in Tait & Style (curlers: model's own)
When founding Tait & Style, Ingrid knew she didn’t want conventional fashion photography. So, she turned to Gunnie, who could perfectly capture the bold and eccentric style of Tait & Style, combined with the uniqueness of the land and people of Orkney.
Many of her shots were taken around the piers of Stromness. Rather than using conventional models, Ingrid and Gunnie turned to local knitters, fishermen, and even sheep. The end result was a collection of original and witty photos, that blurred the lines between art and commercial photography.
Gunnie was always on the lookout for interesting faces. Perhaps what makes her archive of photos so rich and exciting is the sheer mix of people and places, from well known writers such as Irvine Welsh and Liz Lochhead, to the local farmers and fisherman of the isles.
Duncan McLean and Irvine Welsh, launch of Trainspotting,1993
Over thirty years of work, Gunnie built up her reputation, exhibiting widely and producing an outstanding photographic archive on Orkney and its northern neighbours, Shetland and Faroe. Gunnie would have a quiet but profound impact, not only through photography, but also through painting, gardening and, perhaps most importantly, the humour and generosity that she brought to so many people's lives. Despite being a thoroughly non-conformist individual, Orcadians welcomed her with open arms. All who met Gunnie were to be drawn into her orbit. And a wonderfully warm, enriching world it was.
Gunnie passed away in 2007, and is still greatly missed. But her vitality and wonder lives on through the Gunnie Moberg Archive, catalogued by Stromness photographer Rebecca Marr.