"A Life of Industry: The Photography of John R Hume" by Daniel Gray and published by Historic Environment Scotland is a simply magnificent book: a book that should be considered essential reading/viewing by anyone who lives in or visits Scotland and has the slightest interest in how what they see around themselves came to be; and what went before.
You get a very good sense of the background to the book from the publisher's description of it: "John R Hume is Scotland's foremost expert on industrial heritage. John's greatest passion was - and is - industry. Over the course of the 1960s, 70s and 80s, he took over 25,000 photographs of late-industrial and post-industrial Scotland. His collection is a remarkable portrait of a way of life that has now all but vanished. His drive to act as a witness to Scotland's industrial empire, and its steady disintegration, took him to every corner of the country. John's photography produces an exhaustive and objective record. Yet it also reveals remarkable and poignant glimpses of domestic life - children playing in factory ruins, high-rises emerging on the city skylines, working men and women dwarfed by the incredible scale of an already crumbling industrial infrastructure. In A Life of Industry, author Daniel Gray tells John's story, and the story of what has been lost - and preserved."
But it's only when you open this beautifully produced and large format book that you begin to get a sense of why it makes such an important contribution to our understanding of how yesterday's Scotland became today's. There are a number of short sections setting out biographical sketches of aspects of John R Hume's life and the background to his photographs. But for the most part the photographs themselves, and their helpfully scene-setting captions, are allowed to take centre stage. All those in the main body of the book are in black and white; and if you ever needed evidence of the impact of monochrome photographs, then look no further. Quite a few of the photographs are printed at full page size and this really makes them stand out. But there is variety and quantity here as well as size and quality. A section comprising a series of large photographs of industrial dereliction has in its heart a double-page spread comprising 24 small photographs of industrial chimneys. The sheer cumulative effect of so many examples has an impact all of its own.
Everyone will have their personal list of favourite photographs. For us it was one of the Kylesku ferry in Sutherland, replaced by a bridge in 1984; and one of New Lanark Mills, almost but not quite unrecognisable from the World Heritage Site it has become today, complete with a stump of the mill that has since been rebuilt to full height as a hotel.