Philip Braham
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The circumstance of our death is rarely chosen. Life is that great external driving force that keeps us going until death inadvertently overtakes us along the way. The only exception to this are those intent on taking their own lives, as they alone choose when, where and how that will be done. The conscious decision to takes one’s life in the open, before nature, I believe represents a private farewell to the world and a stark acknowledgment that one is utterly alone in death if not in life. The landscapes here represent the last scenes in the final act of lives too broken to continue. They stand as modest monuments to the subjects absent in this series of photographs.

Scotland has one of the highest rates of suicide in Europe, and twice that of the UK as a whole. In 2002 the Scottish government set up the agency Choose Life to try to tackle the problem, and there have been slightly fewer deaths in recent years, but the statistics remain grim. Guidelines are issued to suppress media coverage of suicide cases, and most are never reported. When they are it is couched in codified language: “Police report that there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding the discovery of the body” is a typical statement. One cannot be categorically sure that death was self-inflicted.

After the widespread media coverage of the case of Irene Hogg, a headmistress who had taken her life following a critical school inspection in 2008, I became aware of every suicide story that was reported in the Scottish press, and began to document the sites as though they were sacred places. I understood that they had a personal significance to the victim, and I approached each location with a reverential attitude. All of the stories are equally tragic. Whether driven to despair by love, pride, guilt, or disappointment I made no differentiation about the circumstances that led to these deaths, but simply wished to mark the passing of these individuals and acknowledge the basic humanity that draws us all together. I wanted the images have a poetic quality; a quiet beauty, dignity and serenity that would offset the emotional turmoil that is the hallmark of the narratives they relate to. Personal details have not been disclosed as a mark of respect to the bereaved families and friends of these victims.

Philip Braham
June 2010

Fallen Tree, Nature reserve near Ashkirk

The River Eden, Guardbridge

Folly on Kinnoull Hill, Perth

Woodland at Kinnoull, Perth

Footbridge, Barry Buddon

Disused Quarry on Balmashanner Hill, Forfar

Dark Water, Tayport

Forest Entrance, Bridge of Orchy

Lockage on Neptune's Ladder, Bannavie

Copse on Gallow Hill, Tealing

Tidal Swell, Monifieth

Twisted Trees, Arbirlot

View Over Fauldhouse Moor, West Lothian

Divergent Paths, Hownam

Eroded Rocks at the Falls of Bruar, Perthshire

Flow on the River Lossie, Elgin

 All images and content ©2010 Philip Braham