What I knew at the outset was that I was guest teaching in Scotland for a full month, and that I would have several free afternoons left over for exploration. So, in addition to the still camera I lug with me everywhere, I brought along a digital video camera. “Something will surface,” I told myself, and that was the extent of my plan.
As anyone who has been to Edinburgh might have predicted, the enormous castle dominating the city landscape caught both my intellectual attention and my photographer’s eye. While human history to the average American remains just a concept in a textbook, a subject taught in school, history in Edinburgh is visual, palpable, and omnipresent. The story of warfare and conquest forms the very fingerprint of the town.
In my writing, I have learned to trust the impulses which rise up unbidden, the unconscious voice that is always more interesting than the chatter embedded in my frontal lobe. For this video essay, I tried to rely less on words and ideas and instead trust the visuals. It was two weeks in before I realized the story here was not the Castle, or other snippets of video I had collected, but what I was capturing with my still camera. The heart of it was more personal than cultural.