As well as taking photographs I also collect old pictures and postcards of the area. I recently purchased a late 19th century photo of the Square in Grantown a dozen or so miles to the north down the Spey. It was taken by the then local professional photographer, John B. Russell. most pictures of the square will have a few people dotted about, but this one has quite a high number of people in it. This raises the question of why they were there? They appear to be largely stationary at a time when exposure time was so slow that any movement rendered figures a blur. They seem to be waiting for something or somebody. Curiously most of them are looking away from the camera. To solve this riddle one needs additional information, especially if one is unfamiliar with the area and its history. One possible clue is that the road entering the square towards which most of them appear to be looking is called Castle Road. The castle in question being Castle Grant the residence of the chiefs of Clan Grant, the Earls of Seafield. The dress of the people suggests that they are well-to-do which in turn suggests that they are well-heeled summer visitors. Yet the random grouping would also seem to deny that anything formal was about to happen. I suppose you could try and explain it by proposing that the photographer had asked them to stand still and look down the road but that is highly unlikely given his lack of social status. Initially, I believed that the answer was that a member of the Seafield family, possibly the Countess was expected to pass by. But I made the mistake of showing the picture to a friend who pointed out a few things that I missed. Firstly, that the figures nearest the camera were boys wearing kilts. As the picture was taken from the Orphanage it begs the question if they were some of the orphans, even though they were apparently well-dressed for Victorian orphans. Secondly, they seems to be a body of people at the entrance of the square but they are very indistinct. My friend using a magnifying glass thought they were soldiers with kilts on. However, they are partially obscured by the leaves and branches as well as being affected by the slow speed of negatives in those days.
Equally when you look further back into history and read a passage from the Bible you can get a good picture of what happened yet at the same time there are often questions which arise. Some from the historical and cultural context which might have been lost. Though using the analogy of the picture referred to above a new believer who starts to read the Bible is like someone who knows nothing of Grantown looking at the picture sees its a picture of the Square but does not see its significance. We must also be wary of coming to a conclusion based on insufficient information. I had hoped that when I started this post I would have everything wrapped up neat and tidy but that is not the case. When studying Scripture the additional information required is often that of other parts of Scripture which shed light on the passage you are reading. But there are other sources such as commentaries, concordances, and Bible dictionaries which can help as well. Sadly these study aids are often disdained in Charismatic circles where the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is considered to have rendered them redundant.
But I realised that God was showing me another important point. It says in Proverbs that “Iron sharpens iron” and just as I found that my friend pointed out certain things to me in the photo, others will point out things we miss when we read the Bible. We may not entirely agree with what they say, but if it stops us from charging off in the wrong direction then interaction has served its purpose.
David Rose, 2016