For most, a car is transportation. For Scott Wilson, an award- winning Scottish landscape photographer diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in 2016, his car became the protective studio that kept him behind the camera—while fighting his disease.
A Denverite since 2015 along with his wife and two kids, Wilson, the head of corporate affairs for Molson Coors, had to stay out of the sun because of a medication, making landscape photography almost impossible. So he began taking wildlife photography out of the back seat of his BMW SUV and, since November, has been raising awareness for colon cancer with his new photo book, “Through the Window.” We asked Wilson, cancer free since last September, to take us through the pages.
Tell us about the book.
The idea was threefold. First, I want people to look at early detec- tion. Through my story, which I tried to weave in casually, and a double page by the Colon Cancer Alliance, we’re saying to anyone, even if you’re under 40 and particularly if you’ve got a history of colon cancer, get yourself checked. Second, I found taking photographs very therapeutic, and my hope is that viewing the photographs becomes more therapeutic for others. Last, I want people to just enjoy it as a photo book, whether they’ve been touched by cancer or not, though I imagine there’s not many people who haven’t been. And if we can raise some funds for the Colon Cancer Alliance, that’s all to the good.
Why did you keep shooting?
There were a number of reasons. One was normality. Photography isn’t a special thing I do in my spare time. I have my job, which I love, my family, which I love, and photography, which I love, and they are all big parts of my life. To signal normality was very important to me, particularly for our children. If I had stopped and stayed in bed, it would have sent a signal that Dad’s not right. Combined with that is passion. I get such a creative buzz from shooting landscapes—it’s like adrenaline. So I started thinking, how do I recreate that buzz when my original way of doing things was denied me because of weather challenges? Wildlife very quickly filled that vacuum. I’m a very optimistic, lean-forward kind of guy and I didn’t want cancer to knock that out of me. Photography was my way of saying no and fighting through it.
Have you always loved photography?
It’s the 20th year I’ve been at my company and the 20th year since I picked up a camera. Jaione Axpe, my wife, and I were living in Glasgow, Scotland, and moved to a lovely converted stable about 20 miles outside it on the grounds of a dilapidated, stately home. It was idyllic. The forest had grown over the old house, and I was doing the dishes one night, looked out the window and saw this deer staring back at me from the forest. I exclaimed, “Where’s my camera?!” And then I realized I didn’t have a camera. Funnily enough, wildlife—the thing I’ve returned to 20 years later—actually gave birth to my passion. I started with a Nikon F65, still film.
Who inspires you?
There are many photographers who inspire me, but the person who inspired the book is my mother, who passed away from colon cancer when she was 59.