Legacies of Perception: The Forgotten Places of Twentieth-Century Scotland

Andrew Blaikie

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1 Citation (Scopus)


From the mid-eighteenth century to the late-twentieth, painting, photography and film created ‘modern Scotland’ as a visual frame of reference through which to map physical locations culturally. Images characteristically fit one of two opposing literary rhetorics: on the one hand, critiques of contemporary industrial decline set against bucolic tradition; on the other, forward-looking propaganda invoking continuities with a resourceful national past. Romanticism, embodied in landscape painting or postcard photography, produced a Manichean view of the nation as a country defined in opposition and represented by sublime Highland scenery contrasted with the urban-industrial horrors of the slum tenement; realism, characteristic of photo-journalism and Griersonian documentary, explained the transition to modernity more sympathetically as nurturing past virtues in the name of progress. What is remarkable is the elision of those milieux that fell outside this dichotomous iconography. This essay considers the role of imagery in creating forgotten places – suburban housing schemes, nondescript manufacturing areas, or districts simply passed through – that were, in fact, the places where most people lived, yet ignored either because they were visually unedifying in their disfigurement of ‘natural’ beauty or, conversely, insufficiently coded by the stereotypes of shipyards and slums caricaturing the urban.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-91
Number of pages28
JournalCanadian Journal of Irish Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2015


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