SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.

I can’t remember the last time that I was so excited about my photography. It’s a bit weird; I’m like a kid in a sweetshop. It’s not that I’m jetting off to the Pantanal or the Canadian Rockies. It’s not that National Geographic is sending me to Antarctica – quite the opposite in fact: I’m staying in Scotland, a tiny country with a Big Story (that’s the exciting bit).

Years ago I met a Swiss photographer who was passionate about the Serengeti ecosystem. He told me to always make sure I was “doing something” for a place, species or issue about which I was passionate. Ever since that chance meeting, I’ve done exactly that, or at least tried to.

The Big Picture is an itch that’s needed scratching for almost two decades. It’s an undertaking that without realising, I’ve been leading up to since I first picked up a camera. It’s about “doing something” in Scotland and in my view, for Scotland.

This is a fantastic place to work as a photographer and there are times, standing by a mirror-calm loch or watching a golden eagle soar high above snow-dusted hills, that it’s hard to imagine anywhere more ‘natural’ or dare I say, pristine. But there are other times when I despair. Scotland is a country that has been stripped bare in all but the wildest corners. It’s native forests are mainly gone, the remaining fragments clinging to an isolated existence, and ageing; its bogs have been drained, its rivers straightened and its wildlife decimated.

This is not a uniquely ‘Scottish’ problem of course; this is symptomatic of a world where economic growth trumps everything and the Natural World – the very thing we rely on to survive and prosper – is an afterthought, a disposable, throwaway commodity.

“Doing something” then has led me to The Big Picture. It’s not a story lamenting Scotland’s past – the reasons for Nature’s demise here are complex and reach much deeper than simple ecological vandalism – it’s a glimpse into the future, a personal journey that will articulate the case for a wilder Scotland with More. More forest, More bog, More eagles, More salmon, More whales. More Life.

Scots pines silhouetted at sunrise, Loch Maree, Scotland.

The modern term for accelerating the restoration of Nature on a landscape scale (rather than just protecting the bits we have left) is rewilding. I have to say I like the term but for some it conjures up images of a past that can’t be recreated. I agree. Rewilding for me is not about turning the clock back but about recognising the value of natural processes and reigniting them. Being brave. Thinking beyond the obstacles to the opportunities. The Big Picture is about what’s possible if we rewire our minds as well as rewild our landscapes. And the great news is that in many parts of Scotland, that’s already happening.

I’m going to be spending the next few years telling stories. Of eagles, beavers and ospreys. Of salmon, wildcats and pine martens. And the places they live and could live again in much greater numbers. In “doing something” I want to create an innovative media resource that will fuel the rewilding engine and ignite a fresh conversation about what the Scottish landscape could look like.

I’m under no illusion here. The Big Picture’s success – the ability for it to find its way into wider society – relies on building an audience. If you’re a fan of rewilding principles and especially if you’re not, I hope that you might join me on The Big Picture journey. And if you like what you see, tell your mates. If you don’t, tell your mates. It’s how change happens.

Be part of The Big Picture here.

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6 Comments

  • Good stuff Pete, nice to see you being led by passion into ‘new’ areas (although I know for you it’s not really so new, it; having time to do it that’s the novelty!).

    Rewilding (certainly for me) has always been more about people than landscape. I’m a firm proponent of the notion that before the impetus to ‘rewild’ land can gain momentum, there needs to be some action to ‘throw the switch’ in people’s minds, turning back on that part of our brain that has for too long been switched off and has ‘forgotten’ that atavistic thrill of ‘wild’. We need that.

    It’s important, what you propose: to tell the stories of our place. One of my favourite authors on people and landscape, Barry Lopez had this to say about storytelling:

    “We keep each other alive with our stories. We need to share them, as much as we need to share food. We also require for our health the presence of good companions.

    One of the most extraordinary things about the land is that it knows this—and it compels language from some of us so that as a community we may converse about this or that place, and speak of the need.” Barry Lopez

    I look forwards to seeing what stories our landscape compels you to tell, and what need that may fulfill in all of us.

  • Excellent! I could never understand with the biodiversity, topography and culture that exists on your doorstep why you cleared off to far flung places. It’s all about experiences and being experienced ‘SCOTLAND’ an amazingly beautiful country.

  • Tom Dullage says:

    Thanks, Peter, this is a terrific idea, I hope it gets the publicity and support it deserves. We could do with someone like you doing the same for England! (I know 2020 vision has already inspired many, including me)

  • Alan Smith says:

    Another brilliant “vision” Pete, after the huge success of 2020 what a brilliant follow up to embark on, I wish you well and will be following with enthusiasm

  • Paul Chilton says:

    Pete,
    in the past I’ve often been critical of some of your ideas/visions/messages as you well know, but this time I think you’ve hit the nail right on the head. Really well thought through and with a very worthwhile objective. Good luck.

  • Clare Watson says:

    after the huge success of 2020 what a brilliant follow up

    That is very questionable when nothing is ever audited of public viewing.

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