Cultural Crossroads

During his lifetime Idries Shah promoted contacts and connections between different traditions around the world, believing this to be an important element in the advancement of human culture.

In this spirit, The Idries Shah Foundation has created ‘Cultural Crossroads’, a website forum where people from many walks of life are invited to talk about their own experiences crossing cultural boundaries, and the lessons that they have learned as a result.

You can find the full series here:

About Laura Hudson Mackay

Laura Hudson Mackay is a professional photographic Artist from Sheffield. Now living in Dumfries and Galloway, she divides her time between Scotland and Morocco. Laura completed an Advanced Diploma in Illustrative Photography at Glasgow Metropolitan College in 2006 and a Diploma with Distinction in Art History at London Art College in 2013. Laura is a Licentiate Member of the Royal Photographic Society and was recently appointed Representative for the Dumfries and Galloway area.

Both film and digital cameras are used, exploring concepts, which are primarily still life and structure based.  Photography, fundamentally examines the relationship between light and dark and Laura chooses to shoot in black and white in order to study this juxtaposition; often adding in her own photographic textures in post-production, sometimes allowing an injection of a subtle amount of colour to a subject.  The overlaying of multiple images or adding of visual texture enables Laura to incorporate both monochrome and colour.
The concepts explored include doorways into other worlds; portals, ancient buildings or natural forms, particularly stone and wood. Still life subjects include organic forms such as flowers, feathers; found objects, again employing an ever-growing library of textures to create otherworldly images, which enchant and mystify.

Inspired by Celtic lore, Laura strives to create images with a complex simplicity, reflecting the Celtic esoteric spirit and culture. Also, Inspiration has come from tales of A Thousand and One Nights, with their Arabian djinns, genies and sultans and the timeless themes within these fantastical stories. When creating her work, Laura often draws on the myths and fairy tales which link these two worlds.



About Confluence

Confluence is a collaborative project linking storytelling and photography across cultures.

By Confluence artists interacting, doing their own research and sharing, they are exploring links and inspiring each other as storytellers and visual artists to create new stories and new photographic art, which in turn is inspiring the people around them.

Since the project began in January 2017, links between Celtic and Arabian stories and storytelling traditions have been researched through a number of artistic residencies and exchanges in both Scotland and Morocco. In 2018, Confluence artists will travel to the Nordic countries and explore their storytelling cultures, looking for links there too.

A Confluence book was launched in 2018: a beautiful collection of the stories (both traditional and modern), photographic images, illustrations and research gathered so far along the Confluence journey.


1 – How did the idea for Confluence come about?

Confluence began as an experiment, to see if there were links between Celtic and Arabian stories and storytelling traditions. As a photographic artist I had been creating work for many years inspired by Celtic myths and legends.  A decade ago I began travelling to Morocco where the stories I had read as a child, tales of magical lands with Genies, Merchants and Sultans etc inspired my work and this ongoing body of work brought about the idea of Confluence.

2 – Photography and storytelling seem like natural bed fellows. How have they combined for this project? Were there any challenges to make them fit?

Confluence works by Photographers and Storytellers sharing their own work to inspire each other. The first meeting between the core team of artists showed quickly that there are indeed many links which run throughout Celtic and Arabian stories so we focused on just seven – Water, Happiness, the Number 3, Old, Time, Silence and Money.

The Regular exchange of ideas and artwork brought about the first challenge of having to share everything through social media (there is a growing Facebook community of Confluence artists) and at times the language barrier was tricky. Other challenges along the way included, having to wait until the oral Storytellers had written down their tales, in many cases waiting to have them translated and often also edited before being shared.

3 – Could you highlight some of the similarities between Celtic and Arabian stories? And some of the differences?

Since the initiative began the artists involved have been gathering research on the seven themes of Confluence. There have been many different events, artistic residencies and workshops along the way in both Scotland and Morocco, with people of all ages taking part. At each event we have asked the same questions and the similarities in the answers gathered have been fascinating. Take happiness for instance, people of all ages in both cultures said they are most happy with friends, without worries, in beautiful places, while reading etc.

Interestingly, we have found that most of the Arabian stories are morality tales whereas the Celtic ones are more otherworldly and include sea creatures, mermaids, etc. The aim of Confluence is to try and bring together what may on the surface appear to be very different cultures.

4 – You use both digital and analogue cameras. How do they compare? Do you prefer one over the other? (Feel free to mention here the actual cameras you use and why)

I prefer to use film cameras as the process helps me to slow down and be much more considered. I have a medium format Hasselblad 500c which I absolutely love. However, I do use a digital camera more often, a Canon 6D, chosen for its light weight and full frame sensor.

5 – Colour, or black and white?

Almost always black and white. The results are timeless and beautiful. I find it has the simplicity required to capture the Celtic esoteric spirit and culture.

6 – Which is your favourite story from the ones you’ve collected so far?

It’s quite difficult to choose just one story from the journey, there have been so many. There are 29 in the recently launched Confluence book ‘Celtic and Arabian Visions and Stories’ and I love them all for different reasons. Some are truly quirky and others much more traditional and remind me of the tales I heard as a child.

7 – What is next for Confluence?

We have just returned from a road trip tour of Scandinavia, to connect with photographers and storytellers there and begin to look at the links between Celtic and Nordic stories. We are now working together with 4 Norwegian storytellers and photographers in Sweden and Denmark.

There is a second book launch taking place at the British Ambassador’s residence in Rabat, Morocco on 5 October. This coincides well with a collaborative photographic exhibition between Confluence and Cafe Clock, a Storytelling venue in Marrakech. In addition to providing great opportunities for cross cultural sharing and connecting, these events are providing opportunities for apprentice storytellers and photographers from Scotland and Morocco to learn the art and craft of storytelling from the Master Storytellers and gain expert tips in workshops with the Confluence team of photographers.