My career as a photographer was born out of three sets of circumstances. Firstly, I was a passionate mountaineer and I wanted to be able to capture on film those majestic slopes of rock and ice that brought me such joy. I wanted to share the intense emotions the beauty of those wild lofty spaces created in me and remember the feeling of being outside of myself that they engendered. In the words of John Muir;
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of autumn.”
The second reason I arrived in a career as a photographer was because of a post university early manhood lack of direction. I gained an honours degree in Zoology and immediately traveled overland from Scotland to Australia and beyond. I did not make it back home for over two years, but it was immense fun and a great learning experience and once again in the words of John Muir;
“I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in."
The third reason was the restlessness that travel can instill in the traveler. Having explored the rich diversity that different cultures offer it is difficult to settle back into a regular pattern of life. Following periods of employment on the oil rigs and in small business I turned a hobby inspired by travel and mountaineering into a commercial enterprise.
Within a few years I was a regular freelance contributor to two of Scotland’s national papers, the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, as well as being the Scottish photographic representative for the New York Times. I worked around press, corporate and editorial commissions. I contacted the publishing department of the Automobile Association UK and within a few years had completed photography for a dozen travel guide books all over the world… San Francisco to St Petersburg, Paris to Malaysia, Crete and more. (I left my heart in San Francisco by the way…!)
After fifteen years work at a high level in Scottish photography something dramatic, and yet ultimately inspiring occurred. I needed an operation that lead to the need to learn how to walk again. It was following this that I discovered the name of John Muir, one fact amongst many why I have no regrets over that period of my life. I was unable to visit the wild places that I cherished so I started reading about Yosemite as a leading center of world climbing. It was with shock that I discovered the name and works of John Muir for the first time in my life, despite having lived and been educated within fifty miles of his birth town of Dunbar. The more I read the more I discovered that my nation of Scotland has had a historical influence on the rest of the world that is far greater than the size of the home nation would suggest. I determined that I would use my hard earned photographic skills to try and create a series of photographic essays to bring home the stories of these famous Scots. This is a first step in re telling the real story of Scotland which lies within the courage and determination of the ordinary folk of Scotland; the story of the families who left home out of economic hardship and necessity to seek a better life in foreign places. Many of our Diaspora reached America and played an important role in the formation of a new country.
When I read John Muir’s words of his childhood, his escapades climbing onto the roof of his house, his adult adventures sleeping out on mountain tops, sometimes scaring himself with his own audacity, it brings back memories of my own childhood. Wild camping trips and lucky escapes in the precipitous mountains of the European Alps and beyond. I believe that the message of John Muir has never been more powerful or relevant than it is today. We need to drink from the spiritual fountain of nature, to soothe our tired nerves. We need John Muir’s calming words to set us on a path of harmony with all around us, to bring a deeper meaning to lives led at a fast pace.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity...”
I want to play a small part in bringing a message home to Scotland about our heritage. Heritage is important for any nation. We in Scotland to some extent have forgotten the story of our past, and that is a wasted opportunity for an appropriate sense of national pride and as a source of inspiration for future generations to come.
To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.
Marcus Tullius Cicero