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Reviews / A fitting monument to a friend of Shetland

Georges Dif's widow Nelly hanging one of his photos at Islesburgh Community Centre last week. Photo: Jonathan Wills

Georges Dif’s many friends in Shetland will remember his endless patience, his skill – and his habit of getting up very early in the morning to get the pictures he wanted, writes Jonathan Wills.

An exhibition to launch the English edition of Shetland – a spectacular new book by the French photographer, ornithologist and author’s work is currently on show in the foyer and staircase of the Islesburgh Community Centre in Lerwick. It runs until this Saturday (14 July).

Georges first came to Shetland in 1969. He was captivated by the scenery, the wildlife and the light in storms, fog and sunshine.

For over 30 years he returned every spring and early summer, with the idea of writing and illustrating a great book about his beloved islands.

He was fascinated by the people as well as the wildlife. He travelled all over the islands, spending time with crofters, knitters and fishing families, and creating vivid images that encapsulated the sometimes austere way of life of people living in the remoter parts of the archipelago.

Georges studied the history of Shetland from earliest times and, as the book shows, he had a special interest in legends and folk tales passed down from one generation to the next, over hundreds of years.

Georges Dif (1946 - 2015).

His photographs radiate a love and understanding of the place – and his remarkable ability to capture not just dramatic pictures of birds and flowers, but also how the fauna and flora fit into the landscape. He inspired many French wildlife photographers, such as Laurent Cocherel.

He wrote many articles for magazines, such as Grand reportage, Géo, La vie, Airone, and also published several books: Les Oiseaux de Mer d’Europe (published by Arthaud); Les Oiseaux de Mer and Les Oiseaux des Bois et des Champs (Editions Hatier); Les Oiseaux des Côtes de France (Editions Nathan); and others…

He contributed as a photographer to the work of the BIOS agency and guided groups of photographers to several destinations, including Shetland, for the tour operator Terres Oubliés.

Tragically, a sudden and brutal illness took him away at the end of 2015, but Georges had time to finalise his book, which mattered so much to him during most of his life.

His widow, Nelly Dif, who accompanied Georges on so many trips and photographic adventures over their 47 years together, has now, with the help of family and friends, arranged for the publication of his magnificent work in French and English editions.

It is a fitting monument to a great man who was a true friend to Shetland. More info can be found at https://www.facebook.com/shetlanddif/