When it comes to Scotland, the collective imagination usually is stuck in some clichéd notion filled with kilts, castles and tartan.
And who can blame us? Even until today, that historical, romantic idea persists – and not many people seem to want to counter it.
Not even Martin Parr, the well-known British documentary photographer who’s known for his satirical take on his subjects, takes a particularly challenging look at the region’s stereotypes in his most recent book. Rather, Parr uses his characteristic macro-lens and ring flash to create his close-up, segmented images as a tool to put Scottish identity under the microscope.
In ‘Think of Scotland’ Parr invites his viewers to contemplate 25 years of his photographs taken there, sharing an image of a nation at once unchanged and changing. Looking at both the Scottish landscape and the Scots with a pinch of sentimentality but always with a clear eye, Parr’s book shows us Edinburgh and Glasgow in their gloomy, rainy states as well as bagpipers and the Highland games in all their glory. Shots that prominently feature the kilt-clad legs of men while mundane actions like the feeding of a baby happen in the background, or Glasgow Rangers fans mourning their hero Davie Cooper’s death, sobbing into their scarves, each photo speaks a thousand words.
Parr has said before, “The fundamental thing I'm exploring constantly is the difference between the mythology of the place and the reality of it”. The images in ‘Think of Scotland’ can be interpreted as Parr’s personal record of moments he wants to remember. And they are certainly images that are at once recognizably of the human condition and intimately personal.
When staying at Killiehuntly Farmhouse in Scotland’s Highlands, in Inverness-shire, keep Parr’s images in mind. Let the grandeur of the scenery and the communal spirit of these age-old premises merge with the contemporary spirit of Scotland as captured by Parr’s lens, and contemplate, once more, on what it means today.