At first glance, the work of Scottish photographer Philip Braham seems to be a simple series of postcard-pretty (albeit slightly haunting) black & white photographs of Scottish landscapes. But, much like Scotland itself, beyond the surface lays something darker.
Sadly, beautiful Scotland has one of the highest suicide rates in Europe, almost twice the rate of the rest of the UK. Inspired by the high-profile case of Irene Hogg, a Scottish headmistress who ended her life after a critical school inspection, Braham began following cases of suicide reported in the media and documenting the sites as sacred spaces. Calling his project Suicide Notes, each landscape is a haunting photographic monument to a real person who committed suicide there. In the words of the artist:
The conscious decision to take one’s life in the open, before nature, I believe represents a private farewell to the world and a stark acknowledgement 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.
The artist does not reveal any personal details about the deceased, but the landscapes nonetheless seem to become deeply personal portraits of the people who ended their lives in them. Armed with knowledge of the tragic events that took place there, each image becomes saturated with a dark but beautiful pathos. Braham’s quiet and slightly eerie style of photography captures the ghosts of the place: a fitting tribute to individual grief and a poetic response to a pressing social problem in Scotland.
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