scotland

scotland in books

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Taking photos at Innerpeffray Library, Scotland's oldest free public library.
 

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Peggy Ferguson reads from a Gaelic children's book on the steps of her father's secondhand antiquarian bookshop bothy adjacent to their home on the Isle of Skye.
 

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The library at Brodie Castle near Forres in Moray, courtesy of The National Trust for Scotland.
 

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Volunteers Julie Lee (left) and Houida (right) with volunteer coordinator, Gabrielle Macbeth (center), at the Glasgow Women's Library.
 

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The home library of Hollie Reid, owner of Lovecrumbs in Edinburgh.

 

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A charity shop in Leith.

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Left: the home staircase of the owners, Joyce and Ian Cochrane, at Old Bank Bookshop in Wigtown. Right: from a home library on the Isle of Arran, the inscription of the first gift Stuart Gough ever gave to his now-wife, Heather Gough, to celebrate their first year of dating in 1971, including the orchid he gave her that same day.
 

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Morag Cuomo cooks with her son, Duncan Cuomo, in their home kitchen above their restaurant, The Pheasant, in Sorbie.

 

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Left: Caledonia Books in Edinburgh. Right: Better Read Books in Ellon, Aberdeenshire.
 

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Colin Dewar looking to identify a flower in his Collins Flower Guide in Wigtown.
 

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Captain watches a window cleaner early morning in The Bookshop, Wigtown.
 

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Right: Abigail and Zoey Stewart read in their mother's art gallery, Craigard Gallery. Left: some books in the home of author John Francis Ward and his wife Pauline Ward in Perth.
 

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Isle of Arran's mobile library and librarian Susanna Talbot at their Lamlash stop, parked in front of a memorial comemorating the Highland Clearances.
 

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Left: David Buchan stands with the phone booth he turned into a free lending library upon learning the booth would be decommissioned by BT. Right: owner Charles Leakey sits in the former church turned bookshop, Leakey's Bookshop in Inverness.
 

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Helena Cochrane reads in her bedroom above her parents' bookshop, Old Bank Bookshop, in Wigtown.
 

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A 16th century book on palm reading at Innerpeffray Library.
 

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Asif Khan, director of the Scottish Poetry Library in Edinburgh.
 

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Killie Browser, a bookshop and event space at Kilmarnock Station.
 

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Geordie Coles in his family's home library in Edinburgh.
 

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Left: Innerpeffray Library Manager and Keeper of Books, Lara Haggerty, shows some of the collection's miniature books. Right: a peek into the secret liquor cabinet at Dalmeny House, home of Lord and Lady Rosebery.
 

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Gilleasbuig Ferguson, a Gaelic and secondhand antiquarian bookseller, reads in Gaelic to his youngest son, Archie, at their home on the Isle of Skye.  
 

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Haddo House library in Aberdeenshire, courtesy of The National Trust for Scotland.
 

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For the past three months, I've taken photos of bookshops, libraries, and book lovers all over Scotland. I wanted to share the stories of people and collections as I met them from Wigtown to Inverness, from bustling Edinburgh to the quiet Isles of Arran and Skye, but here I am back home in Portland, breathless and ever eager to share what I can before it slips away.

Part of my automatic response to the question, "why?" is that I was Artist in Residence for Scotland's National Book Town, but the real reason is that books are so evocative and beautiful, I wanted to find a way to travel all over the country to see them. Not just in grand estates and charming bookshops, but in corners of homes and quiet moments in public. Despite an ever-increasingly digital world, I can look around and see that there has always been a subtle but strong lifeblood to keep and preserve physical books. I see it in the way we laboriously move from house to house with heavy boxes, the way our eyes light up when we find a book we recognize and love an unfamiliar shelf, and the way we continue to allow ourselves to be captivated by something which, upon looking, may very well only be a stack of paper with ink.

When first dreaming up this series, I acknowledged the potential of the stories and life that come from reading books. What I wanted to explore with this project was how the books themselves, in simply existing and taking up space, continue to be necessary and relevant in a world that's moving faster and becoming less tactile every day. 

My final exhibition includes 124 photos of books throughout the country, but in reality I could have shared many more. It's a work in progress. I could have continued taking more photos and visiting more places and people, hearing their stories and seeing how books are still alive and important. I could have kept going. And I want to keep going, but for now, here's this. 

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Scotland in Books is currently showing through May 14th, 2017
11 North Main Street
Wigtown, DG8 9HL
Monday - Saturday, 10am-4pm & Sunday 12-4pm

Free admission

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the first month

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The last time I was in Wigtown, I'd just lost my father. It was October and the town had begun to slow and quiet post Book Festival, and my quiet days in the bookshop were exactly what I needed.

But this time, it's different. This time I'm learning more about the people that make this town, what it means to prioritize art and culture no matter where you live, and finding a place in the community even if it's just for a little bit.

In the first month since I've been back, my heart still warms every time I come downstairs and walk through the shop-- whether to work down stairs or say hello or just pass on my way out. There's such a comfort in being surrounded by books-- especially when they're basking in low winter light and Captain has just come down the stairs and rubs his side along your leg to say hello.

It's just how I remembered it but also brand new, and exactly where I want to be.

big bang weekend

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As I see millennia of discrimination and suffering sink their teeth further into our wounds, I wonder what I'm doing five thousand miles away from home.

I don't know that I'll ever overcome this guilt of being gone when there's so much to do at home, but I'm hoping that in creating art and offering a marginalized perspective, I'm prioritizing and making space for more good in this life.

During my first weekend as Wigtown Artist in Residence, the town hosted Big Bang Weekend-- a lecture series celebrating female scientists and their work. I didn't expect to relate to any of the content but appreciated that this tiny rural town had made space to provide female scientists a platform to share their experiences and findings.

While I wouldn't dare any attempt to reiterate what I'd learned from Dr. Amy Hofmann, Dr. Pippa Goldschmidt, and Dr. Maya Tolstoy in their respective fields of planetary habitability, science fiction writing, and deep sea exploration, the humanity in their perspectives resonated with me the most. During the first panel, all three women gathered on stage to give teasers on their lectures to come.

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When the inevitable subject of science as a male-dominated field came up, former astronomer/fiction writer Pippa elaborated the importance of having different perspectives. Not only for representation (because that should be a given), but because your findings as a scientist can only be improved by having more eyes and backgrounds look at your work. Diversity is key.

Amy spoke of her lifelong love of astrobiology (even before she knew what it was called), how she was discouraged from pursuing the field in high school, and how her love of science eventually won-- all tied to the beauty of studying science for the sake of mere curiosity.

And Maya gave the striking yet not surprising statistic that 25% of female field scientists have reported being assaulted on the field, while 75% have reported being harassed. We can acknowledge and applaud the small steps in progress we're making, but there's still a long road ahead.

So where do we go from here? We continue to make space and prioritize these conversations. We actively seek knowledge from women, people of color, LGBTQ, disabled, and other marginalized communities.* We keep going. 

*I am not the first to point out that this panel featured only white women. I whole-heartedly believe we need to hear from other marginalized communities, and applaud the Wigtown Festival for coming this far. That said, this is just the minimum-- there is still a long road ahead and I'm optimistic about their events to come.

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"The universe is a pretty big place. If it's just us, seems like an awful waste of space." - Carl Sagan

colin & the clyde

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There was a weekend at the bookshop where I had lofty plans to drive to Aviemore for a photo shoot then spend the night in Glasgow for Halloween, and it all fell apart. That night, I went to the pub for drinks with Margi before she headed back to Philadelphia, and while waiting, met Colin.

"Oh there's nothing in Aviemore. Why don't you come sailing on the Clyde?"

And before I knew it, I was waiting for Colin outside of the shop at 7am. A few minutes into driving, he turned to me and said, "forgive me, what is your name?"

And so, by completely happenstance, I went sailing for the first time on a surprisingly temperate first of November. We ate porridge every morning for breakfast and had steak pie and potatoes for lunch out on the tiny deck. I got to steer the boat and tried not to panic when we were almost completely sideways. (They said it's impossible to capsize but..) We saw seals and I read in the sunshine when the wind was calm. I wore as many layers as I could manage and bopped around like a marshmallow. I kept asking myself, "how did I end up here?"

It felt completely random and wonderful, but the more I think about Scotland, the more it makes sense. 

the first week

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I've shared a bit on Instagram already, but I've been living in The Bookshop in Wigtown for the past week now. Everything was very dramatic at first and now it feels quite uninteresting, but I came because I love books and put all of my wishes into this daydream and here I am. And every day I'm smitten.

The Bookshop is the largest used book store in Scotland and also happens to be in Wigtown, Scotland's National Book Town. It's everything you'd expect from a tiny town-- little shops and sweet locals included. 

The weather has mostly been what you'd imagine of Scotland in late October, but every once in a while, the sun breaks through and the books are bathed in the most beautiful light. On top of the joy of unpacking my suitcase and nesting for a while, the shop has been great for catching up on photos and sharing my adventures as they happen, rather than months later in retrospect.

Since I've come, I've been sharing (almost) a photo a day on my tumblr, and I'm enjoying the challenge of finding something new and inspiring in the everyday once again. 

PS - I would be remiss not to send the biggest hug of awe and appreciation to Jessica, who made this all possible, even though we've never met. Thank you for the reminder that L.M. Montgomery is always right, that kindred spirits really aren't so scarce, and that trusting your gut is always worthwhile. Happy Birthday xo