Going to the Hill, Life on Scottish Sporting Estates, the latest and much awaited offering from acclaimed sporting and landscape photographer Glyn Satterley, is a delightful book.
In setting the scene in his Author’s foreword, Glyn acknowledges the privileges he has been granted in the course of his photographic career in being allowed into people’s homes and lives – people at the centre of the cultural tradition, the sporting estate.
And that is what this book is all about. Not sport, although therein lies a common thread, but people – those who work on the hills, the lochs and rivers, the foreshore, and Glyn’s encounters with them, the nuggets they expose, the yarns they spin.
Packed with characters, the book draws from a 20 year span of Glyn’s career spending time with guns, beaters, stalkers, ghillies, boatmen, netsmen, and capturing on film at the outset (but now digitally) the many aspects of their day.
It’s not a who’s who of the great and good, although certainly some of them do feature, and many more would aspire to be in the next volume, if there is to be another. It’s more a pictorial and anecdotal account of a way of life, a social history of the last 20 years, all set against the backdrop of scenery that arguably cannot be bettered anywhere in the world – and weather that could be, but without which a certain atmosphere would be lacking from many of the shots.
Every picture is evidence that Glyn has been there and seen that at first hand. On several outings I have been with him ‘yomping’ up inclines like someone half his age behind a young stalker, or traversing death-defying drops with a camera on trusty monopod for additional support like a mountain goat on three legs. He’s been soaked through and frozen solid, but lived for his pictures to tell the tale.
The book’s foreword by Michael Wigan is a fabulous essay on the social climate and the changes that have come to bear on the land where Glyn has captured these images – land reform, access, community ownership, micro-management, fluctuating fortunes in grouse numbers, the decline (and fall) of a number of grand Victorian lodges, the arrival of wind turbines. Michael’s words are an appetiser to the main course of Glyn’s pictures and their sub-texts, sharpening the appetite, but leaving you wanting more. He concludes with this gem: “His [Glyn’s] book, definitive of its subject, constitutes a peepshow of the leisure activities which occur in a land of fabled beauty.” Who could express that better?
Devoid of colour, everything is in black and white fittingly from the opening shot of Donnie McKay’s funeral cortege in 2005. Donnie, a former keeper was the inspiration for Glyn’s previous book The Highland Game.
In this modern era of E-Books and Kindles, traditional publishing itself may be at risk, and this book has been made possible with the support of a number of ‘sponsors’ who certainly merit a reprise in this review – Goldsmith & Co, Ronald and Erica Munro Ferguson, Novar Estate; Tim Radford, Benmore, Isle of Mull; Iain and Janet Wotherspoon, Glenlyon; Arthur Irving, St John, New Brunswick, Canada; and Glencalvie Estate, Sutherland.
Going to the Hill, Life on Scottish Sporting Estates is published by Quiller Publishing and is available from www.countrybooksdirect.com, price £16.99