When a taxi driver in China asked me if Scotland was to be independent I thought I had missed some big news. That was 2007 when the SNP (Scottish National Party) had managed a landslide victory in a parliamentary system designed to prevent one party majorities. The SNP were surprised, Alex Salmond was surprised but my Chengdu driver was not. He had seen Braveheart. Everyone I meet traveling has seen Braveheart. It's my passport to acceptance globally, except in England. The movie may lack historicity but it resonates with human desire for freedom, whatever that means.
Here lies my current dilemma. I want to tell Scotland's story to a world that is passionate about the Scotish people but I fear they are in love with a fiction. My new work is motivated by the desire to connect to the deeper story without dulling the senses using works like historical or nuanced or stereotypes. I also want to avoid the temptation to cry 'Freedom!' while wearing my kilt to satisfy the appetites of publications.
Editors often come at Scottish stories from two extremes- the beautiful or the beastly. The beautiful involves the romantic land of film and fiction. The noble savage and their wild world epitomised by Braveheart. Severed heads and war are beautiful in this definition. Which is odd, I agree.
The beastly side of Scotland comes in the form of alcohol, drugs and poverty. We have world records in this kind of thing and its chronically depressing. A decade in Glasgow have shown me all the worst areas and confronted me with hard questions as a fellow citizen. But I have seen stories of hope and humanity in adversity. People make Glasgow the marketers tell us. They are right but not every person will make it into the advertising or should. But my work can include them.
Consider the photo above which is similarly ambiguous. Is it a statement of fact or a rallying call to revolution? I assume they mean revolution but a lack of exclamation mark doesn't help. The revolution shall not be punctuated. Tolerance in society is marked by a lack of definition, we agree on statements but don't actually ask what they really believe.
My ambition is to define Scotland connecting both the beautiful and beastly to show how often both are present in the land. I have been surprised, shocked and amazed by the deeper national story. The landscape is where the culture was born and where it is continually reformed. Culture is not a static thing or a museum piece. Landscapes likewise change. Landscape photography tends to focus on natural beauty but I see no Scottish landscape devoid of human influence. My work, I hope, will capture landscapes that display the national story from historical battles to the significant landscapes today where people live, work and explore.
The land offers the narrative to ask who are the Scots today? What landscapes tell Scotland’s story? Submit suggestions or support the work here: firstname.lastname@example.org the photo motivation stories share: