This Land is our Land: Three Scottish Photographers at Gladstone Gallery, Edinburgh
‘Who possesses this landscape? The man who bought it or I, who am possessed by it?’ Norman MacCaig
This Land is Our Land: Three Scottish Landscape Photographers is a richly evocative exhibition, presenting the distinctively dramatic work of Stephen Drew, Hamish King and Neil Shaw.
The artistic theme reflects how the photographers have been inspired by and how they personally view Scotland through the lens of a camera:
“Landscape is woven through Scottish culture. Love of and pride in the country’s hills and glens and lochs is a core element of Scottish identity. Landscape is part of what it means to be Scottish.”
Halfway up the Lawnmarket, climb the steep spiral staircase to the Gladstone Gallery. It’s the perfect historic setting. This 16th century Townhouse, (owned by the National Trust of Scotland), has decorative ceiling beams and from the high windows look down on to the Royal Mile. Opposite is a narrow cobbled Close, once the haunt of James Boswell before he set off with Samuel Johnson on their epic Tour to the Hebrides.
This exhibition takes you on a journey from the Borders to the Highlands through the seasons of the year. Each photograph is neatly captioned with the place name on a tiny map of Scotland to pinpoint the location. For Festival visitors, this is particularly helpful if you have no idea where Loch Morlich or Barra might be.
Neil Shaw lives in Peebles, Scottish Borders and amongst his selection of landscapes, is a series of black and white prints to illustrate the local village of Eddleston during a severe winter a few years ago.
I used to come here for childhood picnics, playing by the river on Eddleston moor. Here, Shaw’s images depict the same scene in a freezing whiteout. Only monochrome can do justice to reflect the purity of snow crystals, leafless trees, fences almost hidden from view in the empty stillness of farm fields, devoid of sheep.
Stephen Drew only took up photography professionally two years ago and in pursuit of the art he also enjoys hill climbing “to keep fit!”.
In one colour photograph, the perspective taken from the high crags of The Storr on the Isle of Skye is spectacular – a wide panoramic view of the Cuillins, sealoch, grass, rock.
Another image of this mountain ridge surrounded by low lying clouds was snapped in early morning. It was a chance shot when Drew turned around to see this mystical, misty sight, just at the moment when dawn was slowly breaking.
J. M. W. Turner travelled widely to perfect his style of impressionism, the changing light across the landscape. On Skye he explored around Loch Coruisk where he made many sketches and watercolours, some used to illustrate the poetry of Sir Walter Scott.
Turner apparently clambered up to the summit of Sgurr na Stri from where he could view the loch and the Cuillins. The story goes that it was a bit of an adventure: ‘but for one or two tufts of grass he might have broken his neck, having slipped when trying to attain the best position for taking the view.’
Artists and photographers take note!
Bleak, desolate mountains and seascapes are beautifully captured in a series of photographs by Hamish King. Observe the high winding road leading to Applecross, Wester Ross – the Gaelic name ‘a Chomraich’, means ‘The Sanctuary’ and it’s certainly a wild and remote peninsula. The memorable drive over the Bealach nam Bo, the only true Alpine pass in Britain, will lead you to the welcoming Applecross Inn.
Another image by King shows the shimmering pools of seawater along the beach on the beautiful island of Barra, Outer Hebrides. This is not just a sandy shore but the actual runway for Loganair flights from Glasgow. A unique landing experience, reminiscent of arriving at Denis Island, the Seychelles. Just the climate is different!
“ The Outer Isles look as though they were cut out of paper
And stuck on a brilliant silver background,
The Cuillin peaks seem miniature … in the molten breath
Of the Corries which divide them.“
As you stroll around Gladstone gallery, travelling from tranquil beach to rugged peak, the pure simplicity and subtle beauty of each scene expresses the ancient land lines and poetic sense of place.
The majestic, magical, moody landscape of Scotland is here to see in this impressive exhibition.
This Land is Our Land, Gladstone Gallery, Gladstone’s Land, 477b Lawnmarket, Edinburgh. 12 – 17 August, 2014. 10.30am-7pm. Free entry.
Prints, cards and exhibition catalogue for sale.