Almost 1,400 years ago, on the 20th of May of the year 685, a naked man, his
muscular body and face covered in blue elaborate tattoos, urged his small
Highland pony forward and studied the scene visible on the valley below him.
He was close enough not only to count silently the tents and fires of the
huge army assembled below, but he could also hear the guttural sounds of the
Teutonic language spoken by the hated Anglian invader who had occupied the
southern part of his ancestral land for almost 30 years.
The mounted naked warrior looked behind him and examined his own smaller
army, made up of both men and women tattooed in designs and symbols like the
ones on his scarred body. His name was Bridei and he was the King of the
Northern Picts, the most ancient of all Britannic races, who predated the
Celtic immigrants from Ireland and the Teutonic invader from Angle land. On
that Easter day he could hear the Latin chants of the Christian priests who
accompanied the Anglian king, and he knew that his own Pictish army was not
only outnumbered five to one, but also that so far the Angles had been
invincible against the once Roman Britons in the south.
He raised his hand and for an instant, the future of the land called Albion
by the Picts, Caledonia by the Romans and known as Scotland today, hung in
the air. He brought his hand down, unsheathed his sword and charged down the
On Easter Day of 685 history records that King Bridei of the Picts destroyed
the largest invading Army ever to set foot in Scotland. The battle which
followed, called the Battle of Nechtansmere by the English and Dunnichen by
the Picts, remains one of the most significant turning points in ancient
history and had Bridei lost that great battle, the Scotland of today would
not exist and all of Britain would have been English. When it was over, the
King ordered a stone to be carved and stood in the Angus valley to
commemorate the great victory.
It is stones such as this which make the core of the subjects of British
photographer Catriona Fraser's body of works. Her photography concentrates
exclusively on the historical subjects of Scotland. Pictish stones, ancient
ruins, mythical landscapes, megalithic stone circles, medieval fortresses
and forgotten cemeteries all recorded in the brooding, ethereal media of B&W
infrared film make up a project begun in 1992 to record the astounding
history of the Scottish countryside.
Photographs of Scotland opened on November 19, 1999 for two weeks at the
Fraser Gallery with a reception for the photographer and gallery owner. The
opening also marks the gallery's third anniversary and the beginning of its
Catriona Trafford Fraser's photographic career began at the age of fifteen,
when she was hired as an Assistant Photographer trainee and Darkroom
Assistant by the Reading Evening Post newspaper in Reading, England. One
year later she became the youngest student ever admitted to the prestigious
Plymouth College of Arts and Design's photography Diploma course. In 1991
she founded Cairn Photography, her own fine arts photography business in
Fettercairn, Scotland under the auspices of the Aberdeen Enterprise Trust.
Soon after that, she began using black and white infrared film to document
some of the lesser known Pictish standing stones and stone circles, ruins
and cemeteries which are a nearly forgotten legacy of northern Britain's
Infrared film seems to be able to record these ancient landscapes in a way
which almost captures the historical essence of the subject, she says. It
is much more difficult to work with, and requires a lot more concentration
and effort in the darkroom, she adds, but the final result is well-worth
the extra work. My own work is a lifelong project to document the landscapes
and visual history of the Seven Celtic Nations. Being British of a Scottish
father, I naturally started by photographing Scotland commencing in 1992.
Her photographs have been exhibited widely in many galleries in Europe,
Latin America and the United States. Additionally, her work has been
exhibited in the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, the Otero Museum in
Colorado, the Museu de Brusque in Brazil and the Rufino Tamayo Museum of
Contemporary Art in Mexico City. She has been honored a variety of awards
and in 1996 she opened the Fraser Gallery, becoming (at 24) the youngest
gallery owner in Washington.
Many of these stones have been destroyed or removed over the years, she
claims, and these days, car parks, fences and cities are slowly engulfing
the remaining stones. That's why it is important to me to record them in
their original settings, before they are all moved to museums.
The Fraser Gallery is one of the eight Canal Square galleries in Georgetown,
and is located at 1054 31st Street, NW, off M Street.