Photographs can serve many purposes, especially in a modern world in which just about everyone carries a camera with them at all times, and when the opportunities for publishing photographs have never been greater. In today's throw-away society there can be a tendency to think of photographs as ephemeral, even disposable, and that is perhaps true of selfies posted on Instagram or Facebook, to be admired, or not, by friends and then forgotten. Photographs of Scotland are also hardly a rarity. We publish tens of thousands of them on this website, all taken and published with the aim of showing what the country, or more usually a particular place or visitor attraction within the country, is like to visit. And there are Facebook groups, one with over 100,000 members, dedicated to showing off photographs of Scotland.
Against this background it seems fair to ask whether there remains room for the more traditional approach, of photographs gathered together and published in book form. On the evidence of "Scotland in Photographs" by Shahbaz Majeed the answer is a resounding "yes". Shahbaz Majeed is a photographer from Dundee who takes the view that: "...photographers have an important job, not just to document our surroundings but to share our work in order to promote the beauty of the world to others." His photographs of Scotland are intended to show off the remarkable beauty of the country at its very best, and the collection that has emerged as a result is one that will cause many to want to go and see the places shown. As Brian Cox (the Scottish actor, not the Lancastrian scientist) says in his introduction: "Looking through these images makes my heart ache to return home and reacquaint myself with these special places."
Shahbaz Majeed's approach to his subjects is a careful and considered one that in many cases makes the most of morning and evening light. He often uses slow shutter speeds, to achieve the results he wants in coastal and river photography. There are also a number of very fine aerial and night photographs in this collection. The book is organised by theme. A section on "coast" is followed by one on "lochs and reservoirs"; then "rivers and bridges", "buildings", and finally "mountains, glens and forests". Some of the scenes shown are from viewpoints that have been visited by every serious photographer of Scotland, but always with a result that reflects Shahbaz Majeed's personal style. Other views are more unusual. Each photograph carries a brief title that identifies its location.
Looking at another photographer's take on scenes you have photographed yourself is a fascinating exercise, even when the purpose of the photography is very different. We are never going to dust off the tripods and camp out beside a river at dusk, but it's always possible to learn from others. The viewpoint for the author's photograph of the Kelpies is one we will be going to seek out for ourselves: not for it's sunset background or mirror-reflected foreground, but rather because he has succeeded in finding an attractive view of them that excludes the nearby and very intrusive electricity transmission lines. The only thing that rings slightly oddly about the book is the description of Scotland as "God's Own Country" on the rear cover - a phrase rather more frequently used to describe Yorkshire in England - but that's hardly a major gripe and it certainly doesn't get in the way of our very strong recommendation of this book.