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Gunnie Moberg

Photographer; Born May 8, 1941; Died October 31, 2007. Gunnie Moberg, who has died aged 66, was a photographer of exceptional talent, and was especially well-known for her work as pictorial chronicler of the island groups in the north Atlantic, their landscapes, seascapes and their inhabitants.

Photographer; Born May 8, 1941; Died October 31, 2007.

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Gunnie Moberg, who has died aged 66, was a photographer of exceptional talent, and was especially well-known for her work as pictorial chronicler of the island groups in the north Atlantic, their landscapes, seascapes and their inhabitants.

Where others feared for life and limb, Moberg ventured with her camera, scaled sea cliffs and braved autumn storms. Born in Göteborg, Sweden, she thrived in the Orkney climate and soon took up the islanders' pastime of walking the cliffs and shores, camera in hand. Her photos had an incomparable freshness and one of her gifts was the ability of breathing new, and often highly original, life into the most jaded of subjects.

She never succumbed to the lure of the digital age. Always working from slides, she was ruthlessly meticulous in her selections, went straight to the heart of her subjects and was a master of portraying textures and light.

Of late she had started working on plant portraits. With the aid of multiple exposures she created softly textured diaphanous layers of leaves, petals and stamens.

Moberg collaborated closely with the poet George Mackay Brown on several highly acclaimed publications during the 1980s and provided the pictures for a series of books on the island groups in the north Atlantic, written by the Norwegian travel writer Liv Kjørsvik Schei. Moberg's portraits of the landscapes, seascapes and people of Orkney and Shetland are permanent fixtures at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood.

It was Scotland's capital city that first brought Moberg and her husband, Tam McPhail, together. They met during the summer of 1960 and quite by chance, in the bookshop where Tam had found work shortly after arriving from California. There was a strong mutual attraction between them right from the start and they got married the following January, a marriage destined to last for 46 years.

Tired of city life, they relocated to a large estate near Lochgilphead in Argyll three years later. By 1967 they had a family of four sons and largely got by on the meagre earnings from McPhail's work as an artist - his award-winning metal sculptures were exhibited all over Europe, while Moberg contributed her formidable energy and unstinting creativity. Her batik textiles, ironically launched in a farming magazine, immediately became highly sought after.

While their years on the west coast of Scotland were idyllic and care-free, money was always tight and their friend, Colin Hamilton, during one of his frequent visits, recalls the couple being particularly pleased to see him - and the box of food he carried, "as there was nothing but an onion in the house".

Their move to Orkney in 1976 brought in its wake a marked upturn in fortune and prosperity and also brought a shift in their relationship, with Moberg taking over from her husband as the artist of the family.

Soon the couple found themselves at the hub of artistic and literary island life. McPhail first worked in, then bought, ACE bookshop in Stromness, a bibliophiles' paradise, which he runs to this day, while Moberg began to make a name for herself as a photographer.

Hamilton's partner, Kulgin Duval, introduced Moberg to Mackay Brown and later their close friendship brought artistic inspiration to both of them, with the1980s becoming their most productive phase. They published four books together, The Loom of Light, A Celebration for Magnus, Portrait of Orkney, and Stone.

Almost a decade passed between these and their final work. Sadly, Orkney: Pictures and Poems, was published after Mackay Brown's death in 1996. It contains without doubt some of the finest work from both artists. Moberg managed to transform a squat Martello Tower into a dark-shadowed pawn on a giant chessboard, and the Churchill barrier into an al-fresco art installation.

Moberg, tall, blonde and with a warm and outgoing nature, charmed all who came into her orbit. Though best known for her work as a photographer, she was also a painter of considerable talent, a multi-disciplined designer, an elegant and prolific correspondent and an exceptional gardener She died at Don, her Orkney home, and is survived by her husband, Tam, their four sons, Colin, Llewelyn, Paul, and Thomas, and their 10 grandchildren. By Rosa Steppanova

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