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Daylight Books : Alicia Bruce : I Burn But I Am Not Consumed


Landscapes hold stories and are the harbors of memories for the generations who chase chickens across yards, walk among the grasses, build homes, grow gardens, watch their children kick balls outside, watch the sky change with the seasons and the patterns of days. Alicia Bruce‘s book, I Burn But I Am Not Consumed (Daylight Books, June 27, 2023), is a visually immersive experience that documents through photographs, narratives, and images of ephemera, the 16 year battle between the residents of the Scottish community of Menie defending their land and homes from takeover by Donald Trump.

Working collaboratively with the coastal northeastern community members in Menie, Scottish photographer Alicia Bruce, documented the events between the Scottish people who relentlessly fought Donald Trump as he pushed to build his golf course and housing development on their land in the coastal and once remote area of Menie, Scotland. Bruce’s pastoral color photographs and portraits show the relationship between the land, sea, and people, and also reveal the destruction of such within the construction of Trump’s golf course and houses.

Bruce is a working class photographer and used her photography as a “conduit” for social change for the community in Menie fighting to protect their homes, and also the surrounding landscape from the devastating environmental impacts that Trump’s golf course project was causing. As a child, Bruce herself played on the very coastal dunes of this area long before they were being destroyed, along with the ecosystems.

In her essay for the book, journalist Lesley Riddoch provides historical context for the Aberdeenshire people’s history with outside entities either taking or attempting to take their land and their homes, going back to the Victorian era establishment of the Scottish Farmer’s Alliance to end feudal control of the land. In recent history, this part of Scotland existed in relative peace and free from buyout threats.

But in 2006, Trump purchased the Menie Estate and 16 years of challenges ensued, including aggressive tactics by his security force, threatening the landowners, cutting off their water, and other methods designed to try to strong-arm the people into selling their land to Trump. Bruce herself was aggressively threatened by Trump’s security.

In addition to this effect on the community, the land was also severely, and permanently disrupted. Sand dunes that had previously been awarded protected status were destroyed, and thus stripped of these preservation act protections.

Riddoch writes, “It took a decade for expert warnings to come true. It took ten minutes for savvy locals to size and sort Donald Trump. Maybe one day the great and good of Scotland will get over their admiration of arrogant outsiders and trust the local people who get it right, instantly, time after time.”

In her essay in the book, curator Louise Pearson writes about the impact of the collective efforts and voices of Bruce and her photographs and the people of Menie who not only collaborated for the portraits but shared their stories. She notes the symbolic aspect of standing up to a global bully.

“And this is a form of protest. A quiet, dignified act of rebellion. Because Trump is proud of his Scottish heritage, that his mother came from the Isle of Lewis. Instead of a glorious entrance into the nation’s collective memory as president of the United States and successful business tycoon, his mark on Scotland is remembered by his poor treatment of its citizens and the destruction of its unique landscape. The motherland won’t forget.”

In several of the portraits, Menie residents posed in the same figurative style as historic paintings of their choosing, including Grant Wood’s iconic American Gothic (pictured above left) , and Auguste Renoir’s Dance in the Country.

I Burn But I Am Not Consumed also includes a timeline of events, and visuals of maps, newspaper clippings, and other exchanges that occurred throughout these years, including an angry letter from Trump to Scotland’s then First Minister Alex Salmond.

The book’s title origins are explained by Scottish singer and songwriter, Karine Polwart who contributed the book’s Afterword. I Burn But I am Not Consumed is the motto for the Scottish MacLeod clan, and Polwart named a song/spoken-word piece she created for her performance on the BBC at Celtic Connections, the largest winter arts festival in Europe held the eve of Trump’s presidential inauguration. A portion of her song includes:

This is your apprenticeship:
The Gulf Stream doesn’t know your name,
nor does the splendid, blazing sun
that alters how the currents run.
The North Wind never heard you roar:
You’re fired! You’re fired!
My back might burn, and the blaze run wild,
but I am not consumed, my child.

This book honors a Scottish coastal community who refused to bow down, sell up, or be pushed around by Donald Trump. It is a document of a remarkable people; they stood up to money, power, and bullying to save their once-protected land and homes from compulsory purchase, a process by which a public authority has the power to take private land for projects deemed in the public interest.” —Alicia Bruce 

Alicia Bruce is an award-winning working-class photographer, community collaborator, educator, and activist based in Scotland. Her photography sits between documentary and staged imagery focusing on communities, environments, and human rights. Alicia’s photographs are held in several public collections including the National Galleries of Scotland, the University of St Andrews, the Royal Scottish Academy, and the UK Parliament. She is a teaching fellow and tutor at Edinburgh College of Art, The University of Edinburgh. In 2014 Alicia received the prestigious Royal Scottish Academy Morton Award. In 2023 she appeared on the BBC documentary The Women Who Changed Modern Scotland. She is a member of Women Photograph.


Alicia Bruce : I Burn But I Am Not Consumed
Daylight Books
Photographs and text by Alicia Bruce
Portrait of a Scottish Coastal Community in Conflict with Donald Trump
Essays by Alicia Bruce, Lesley Riddoch, Louise Pearson, Karine Polwart
Contributions by Catriona McAra
128 pages; 80 Photographs
9.5 x 9.5inches
ISBN-13: 9781954119246
$50 US,from%202006%20until%20present%20day.

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