The idea behind my project was fuelled by a project I had explored during the final year of my BA photography course, which looked at how photographic portraiture can influence and contribute to documenting, shaping or criticising cultural identities across the world. In reflecting on my experiences living in Red Bluff, California, I carried out an auto-ethnographic research study specifically focussing on the cultural normality of guns in the United States and how different upbringings, lifestyles and beliefs shape who we are as a person. This study sparked my interest into other cultures and has been the driving force to further explore my own Scottish heritage and culture. However, with the current announcement of another national lockdown, I am unable to travel back to Scotland for the time being. I have found myself struggling with how I can proceed with this project and so I scheduled a meeting with photography lecturer Yan Preston.
Yan was very helpful in giving me advice and encouragement that I can still carry on this project but with a different perspective. She advised me to look at my life as a Scottish woman living in Yorkshire, and how I manage to still carry my culture with me despite living in a different place. She gave me an example of her own personal experience being a Chinese woman living in the UK. She said that just because she lives in a different place from that of her home country, it doesn’t mean she stops practicing and carrying out Chinese traditions and ways of life.
This really got me thinking about the dynamics within my home here in Yorkshire. My siblings are half Italian and half Scottish and born in England. Despite this diverse mix of cultures, we teach them Scottish and Italian traditions and ways of life to allow them to still feel connected to their roots, despite not actually living in those countries. This is an area I am keen to explore, not only how I remain connected to my Scottish roots but how as a family we have intermingled different cultures into our everyday life, so much so that it has become such a normal way of life that I didn’t realise it until now.
This talk with Yan has reinforced my desire to explore my Scottish culture and how I remain connected to my roots despite living in Yorkshire. I began by identifying certain things we have in my house that reflect the Italian and Scottish cultures. Scottish poetry was a big part of my childhood and my mum has always kept books around the house. Yan advised me to begin collecting materials that reminds me of my childhood growing up in Scotland. Throughout school and at home with my parents, I was always encouraged to read poetry and learn poems to recite at school assemblies. Robert Burns is a famous poet and I would often find myself learning his poems. The complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns is a book my gran bought for me and is one of many in our Scottish poetry collections we have at home.
(Waverley Books, The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns, 2020)
Along with this, I asked my gran to send me some books she has collected over the years, to help me begin gathering different materials that represent my the city of Dundee where I come from. This book includes different accounts from elderly individuals describing their memories of life in Dundee during the 20th century. I really resonated with the stories told in the poems, as it reminded me of the tales my great grandmother would tell me of her time growing up in Dundee.
(Dundee City Council, Oor Dundee, 1999)
My hope throughout this project is to use it as a platform for self discovery. A way for me to explore and identify my own Scottish culture and how I carry it with me despite living in a new place. Through the eye of the lens, I hope to visually portray my memory and perspective of Scotland along with showing how my exposure to different cultures within my family, has influenced who I am today.
Burns, R. (2020). The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns (7th ed.). Waverley Books
Warden and Tennants Wellgate Sheltered Housing, . (2020). Fond Memories. In . Dundee City Council (Ed.), Oor Dundee A Millenium Book by the Tenants of Wellgate Sheltered Housing (). Dundee City Council.