Highland fling: Martin Parr scours loch and glen in an ode to Scotland

A woman with small child
GB. Scotland. Stonehaven, 2006.
(Image credit: Martin Parr)

What do you think of, when you think of Scotland? This is the question Martin Parr puts to us in his latest book of photographs, taken in Scotland over a period of 25 years, the third in his series contemplating cultural clichés today. (So far, he has captured England and Germany with his camera).

Parr doesn’t set out to either deconstruct those cliches or set new stereotypes – instead, he gives us his view of a nation that is both changing and staying the same, through portraits of Scottish society that are at times sentimental, and at others searing and sharp.

Someone sitting with cross legged

The cover of Martin Parr’s Think of Scotland, published by Damiani Editore

(Image credit: Martin Parr)

Parr first went to Scotland as a tourist, but has continued to return regularly to shoot its landscapes and people: his photographs of the country now constitute his largest archive – published for the first time in the book. His love of both the scenery and the Scots is clear in the photographs he has selected for the book, a visual narrative that takes you from the drizzly streets of Glasgow and Edinburgh to the remote islands, and age-old traditions such as the Highland games, agricultural fairs and bagpiping – never seen quite as you think you know it.

When the photographer thinks of Scotland, he says, ‘I think of the imagery to be found in this book, many are on the fringes of being clichés.’ The photographs are also memories of people and places, personal records; Parr explains, ‘This is why I take photos, these are the moments I want to remember.’

With Scotland’s recent politics, what has he observed about Scotland, looking back on these images and his visits there over the last two and a half decades? ‘Scotland is both in flux and is at the same time is quite stable.’ Though the publication is complete, his relationship with Scotland is not over. ‘I have shot many images since and am going to the Orkney island this summer.’

People gathered for funeral

GB. Scotland. Glasgow, 1995, depicts Rangers fans at the funeral of player Davie Cooper. He died of a brain haemorrhage, three years after retiring from the game. He was one of the most loved and respected players in Scotland.

(Image credit: Martin Parr)

Jeans kept for wetting

GB. Scotland. Shetland, 2004.

(Image credit: Martin Parr)

Players on the ground

GB. Scotland. Inveraray. Highland Games, 2006.

(Image credit: Martin Parr)

Participants on the games

GB. Scotland. Dunoon. Cowal Games. From A8, 2004.

(Image credit: Martin Parr)

Someone occupied for third prize

SCOTLAND. Orkney Islands. The East Mainland Show, 2007.

(Image credit: Martin Parr)


Think of Scotland, £30, published by Damiani Editore. For more information, visit Martin Parr’s website

Charlotte Jansen is a journalist and the author of two books on photography, Girl on Girl (2017) and Photography Now (2021). She is commissioning editor at Elephant magazine and has written on contemporary art and culture for The Guardian, the Financial Times, ELLE, the British Journal of Photography, Frieze and Artsy. Jansen is also presenter of Dior Talks podcast series, The Female Gaze.