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A New Acquisition: J Pugh’s Photographic Documentation of Scottish Cultural Heritage

Joining the Library’s Special Collections Division last September, Weitian Liu is the Enlight Foundation scholar. Weitian is currently pursuing an MPhil in History of Photography and working with the photo team in Special Collections on the cataloguing of the Franki Raffles Collection and other tasks. In this blog post, Weitian introduces one of the recent accessions that has been added to the library catalogue this month.

Approximately 900 photographic negatives taken by James Pugh, A.I.B.P., A.R.P.S. between 1967 and 1972 have been added recently to our catalogue for photographic collections.

Among the most common subjects of Pugh’s photographs are older buildings and ruins in Scotland—castles, bridges, churches, monuments, etc. Contributing to our documentation of Scottish culture and history, these photographs chime with one of the main themes that characterise our collection and constitute a fine addition to our historic collection.

Despite that the negatives, according to the donor, were bought at a car boot sale, all the images were stored in numbered envelopes on which basic information about the subject is provided. Unfortunately, we only have envelopes numbered 340 to 550, leaving the remainder of Pugh’s work as a missing piece of the puzzle. Or, perhaps we are holding the puzzle pieces for which someone else has been looking? In any event, it would be desirable to see Pugh’s work in its entirety.

Curiously, little is known about the life of the photographer. A member of the Royal Society of Arts, the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, and the Royal Photographic Society, Pugh’s name appears in some of the publications of these societies. This could be a point of departure for digging deeper into Pugh’s life and the story behind his work.

Hopefully this small selection of Pugh’s photographs will give an insight into the breadth of the photographic project he undertook.

JP-408-1_1
St Andrews West Port, J. Pugh, SAUL ID: JP-408-1
JP-443-1_1
Glenrothes, New Town, 1969, J. Pugh, SAUL ID: JP-443-1
JP-352-3_1
St Mungo’s Church, Cumbernauld, J. Pugh, SAUL ID: JP-352-3
JP-347-1_1
St Ninian’s Chapel, Isle of Whithorn, J. Pugh, SAUL ID: JP-347-1
JP-489-2_1
Kilchurn Castle, Loch Awe, Argyllshire, J. Pugh, SAUL ID: JP-489-2
JP-528-9-3_1
Jedburgh Abbey, Roxburghshire, J. Pugh, SAUL ID: JP-528-9-3

Mutual attraction between photography and architecture can be found since the early years of photography. We should remember that not all photography is fine art and that photography serves different purposes. Pugh’s work is not only a lucid documentation of Scottish cultural heritage that could be the object of architectural, historical, and anthropological research, but also an example of the diverse meanings attached to photography, which oftentimes exceeds what was initially intended by the photographer. The joy of working with photographic materials lies in the encounter with charming photographs of all sorts and in the adventurous exploration through which the meaning of photographs unfolds.

Weitian Liu
Enlight Foundation scholar

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