six things: Alastair Cook

Alastair Cook

Image by Carl Radford

About Alastair

Alastair Cook is a fine art photographer, filmmaker and RIBA Conservation Accredited architect. He writes:

My film and photographic work is guided by my knowledge, skill and experience as a conservation architect: the work is rooted in place and the intrinsic connections between people, land and heritage. I grew up in the south west of Scotland, trained as an architect at the Glasgow School of Art then fled the country. I returned after a dutiful spell in London and a more relaxed time in Amsterdam to follow my interests in photography, film and architecture. I live and work in the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Edinburgh; all my work is collected together at and my recent film work with poets can be watched at

I held two major solo shows last year, Sutherland | Caithness, at Timespan in Helmsdale and The Land and the Sea, as part of the Edinburgh Festival at The Out of the Blue Drill Hall. My next solo show is at the Howden in West Lothian, opening on the 8th April.

“Alastair Cook’s black and white photographic images of Caithness and Sutherland – shot on 35mm film and hand-printed – repay closeattention… [they are] carefully composed and conceived studies which use the camera’s framing eye to convey rich metaphor and a sense of quiet, spiritual wonderment.”

— Giles Sutherland, reviewing Sutherland | Caithness in Hi-Arts Magazine

Alastair’s website:

• One thing that’s always worth getting out of bed for

What is actually worth getting out of bed for? There are a myriad of things that draw me from my slumber: the face of my child, the creak of the stair, the peek of sunshine as Emma leaves the bed and brushes against the curtain. Promises: of coffee perhaps, bread to bake, a photograph to print, a friend to meet. The answer is simple and I hope not too trite: life. Each and every one of these things is worth getting out of bed for.

I’ve just asked Emma what she might think I’d get out of bed for and she replied, immediately, “A Grand Prix”.

• One thing about myself that often obstructs me

For me, the obstruction lies with social-media, specifically the ability to while away. Essentially, I create for a living, in all sorts of different media for all sorts of lovely people. My drift through social media is justified in plaintive tones to my family as being a work generator (true but limited), a social connector (I try to meet those who I strike up a rapport with in the name of artistic collaboration) and a digger into a past I seem to have little memory of. Surely there’s little harm to squint at my class photo from Primary 6 or to hear from Lucy and her labradoodle? And we love this! OK, I love it. Follow me now, go on, I’ll follow you back: @alastaircook.

• One thing I’ve learned the hard way

C2, T12, L4/5.

C2 (Axis) is the second of the seven cervical vertebrae and is under the base of your skull: pivoted in an RTA.

T12 is the bottom most of the twelve thoracic vertebrae, behind your chest: I fell, fractured my spine and lost half an inch of my 6 foot and 2.

L4/5 is the end: slipped, removed.

• One thing that gets under my skin

The voice. The voice. The voice. The single most beautiful instrument we have.

Sung, spoken, shouted, whispered, whined, wailed.

We grow listening to other voices outside of our womb, we are launched into a cacophony, we make sense of this and then join in without tutelage; we are told stories, spoken to in terms of endearment and chastisement.

My feeling is that our desire for narrative comes from this, this inherent listening. But we spend little enough of our adult time actually listening, often considering our reply while hearing, not listening. Often the music we choose is layered in our multi-tasked lives. But do this for me now. Stop reading this, put on a song you love and stare at a blank wall. It’s only 5 minutes or so, but it’s proper rest, real downtime. But don’t forget to come back, there’s a rant below for you to get worked up about.

• One thing I’d love to change


I’d love to change the governmental perception, general or otherwise, that the arts are not a success because the measure of something’s (or indeed someone’s) success is its propensity to earn revenue and in turn the amount of this revenue generated. It is widely illustrated that the revenue generated from the arts to the general good far outweighs its investment, so why are we struggling?

In turn, why would a library, or indeed any public and publicly funded service, have to justify its existence in terms of an actual generated revenue? This makes absolutely no sense to me.

There are great artists who will never achieve their art for lack of support; there are woeful bank employees who will achieve their all behind a façade of corporate unity. I am at a loss to understand why creativity is so sought in our children, so pushed and yet so punished later in life by the nature of our system and perhaps, by our very human nature. I am saddened that I cannot with reasonable justification recommend my son takes an arts degree. Indeed, I may be at a loss to justify his going into tertiary education at all. I’d love to change that.

• One thing I hope for

I hope for little victories.

About six things

‘six things’ is a series of micro-interviews with interesting and creative people, in which they’re asked to respond to a standard set of six prompts. A new ‘six things’ is published on the site each Saturday.