By Dee Dwyer
“When I first saw it, it was running away. But when I drove back to look for it, it came towards me. It popped out of a storm drain, and I leapt out of the car with two cameras. It was posing for me, and it scratched itself, and sniffed the air. It was such a privilege to photograph it.”
Lynda Mallett is talking with passion and enthusiasm about a playful otter she photographed near Clam Harbour. She and I sit in her dining room looking at her photographs of the otter—and of loons, snowy owls, foggy beaches, gorgeous close-up ice beads and berries, and a brilliant red leaf floating in a river. For Lynda, photography is not a hobby, it’s a record of life, the wildlife and landscapes along the Eastern Shore. “I photograph every single day,” she says. “I write my life in photography.”
Born in Berkshire, England, and raised in the east end of London in an extended working class family, she played in bombed-out buildings and excelled in art at school. “I wanted to go to art college, but my parents didn’t want me to be a beatnik,” says Lynda.
At 20, she and her first husband set off for Australia. They managed a sixty-acre tourist park. She hand-reared two baby Pretty Face wallabies. Later they cared for thousands of sheep and orphan lambs on a sheep station. She was also studying art and photographing what she calls “the starkness of the countryside.”
She returned to the UK in 1974, and got a teaching degree from Nottingham Trent University. When she discovered black and white photography in her mid-thirties, “It was an eye-opener. Suddenly photography was a medium for art.”
She was working in the Highlands of Scotland, creating a teachers’ guidebook about private museums. She was also researching the ship Hector that came to Pictou, Nova Scotia. Her research got her interested in Nova Scotia. She first visited in 2006, and in 2014, she and her second husband, Stuart Reddish, became landed immigrants.
Lynda and Stuart also own a woodland property in Sherwood Forest. Since 2005, she has been documenting an amazing discovery she and Stuart made there in 2005 of a Viking gathering site, a Thynghowe (howe from an old Norse word for mound, and thyng referring to an assembly spot.) Lynda and Stuart contacted three local historical societies and together, as the Friends of Thynghowe, they are further investigating the area.
As their website says, one of their goals “is to continue discovering the ‘real’ history of Sherwood Forest.” There were archaeological dig in 2013 and 2016. Lynda and the archaeologists are also using technology like LIDAR and magnetometer surveys to do more extensive research on the history of the Forest. (Further details at https://youtu.be/Ouds6djSsYw.)
Meanwhile along the Eastern Shore, Lynda formed an artistic collaboration with fellow photographer Anne Douglass MacLean called Talking Water Studio. They sell their photographs, prints, cards, and calendars at the Musquodoboit Harbour Farmers’ Market. “It’s one way of connecting with the community here,” says Lynda, “of capturing the moment, the things I love most: light, mood, landscape, the seasons. ‘To be there’ is my mantra. I never go anywhere without a camera.”
Ever the observant artist, Lynda looks out her window and spies three bald eagles soaring above a small island off her home on the eastern side of Jeddore Harbour.