Scotland is known throughout the world for its natural beauty, with its islands – great and small – attracting international interest.
These have now been captured in a visual odyssey of adventure and exploration, in one of the world’s most alluring natural environments
Award-winning, globally travelled landscape photographer Allan Wright demonstrates his unique ability to evoke and capture the spirit of the land – whenever and wherever he treads.
His work features in Scotland’s Islands, a stylish new publication, packed with over two hundred stunning photographs that he taken over the years.
The eloquent writing of Marianne Taylor expertly complements Allan’s photographic skills. Her personal reflections reveal her own special relationship with her favoured isles.
Whether weaving a course northwards on Scotland’s famously beautiful West Coast through the Sound of Mull, the Inner Hebrides, the Small Isles and on out to the Western Isles, including remote St Kilda or surfing the wind with the birds on Orkney’s perilous cliff-tops and on to the most northerly and dramatic Shetland Islands, neither photographer nor writer are strangers to Scotland’s seaboard.
Allan said: ‘My earliest and most unforgettable exposure to the magic of Scotland’s islands occurred in the late sixties at Machrie on the Isle of Islay.
‘I have vivid memories of the longest beach you could imagine, a golf course fully inhabited by sheep, and a wonderfully idiosyncratic hotel whose kilted laird Bert Marshall would be found sat on a bench, gnarly crook in hand, surveying his minor Gaelic empire. Thus began a relationship with the “Queen of the Hebrides” which at my last count has extended to 16 visits.
‘As a Glasgow teenager, I fell victim to the tradition of taking boozy, bank holiday weekends on the Isle of Arran. Aside from all the bar banter and madness, these sorties further connected me to that special “island time” feeling one reliably experiences as soon as the ferry sets sail.
‘It’s perhaps fitting that since those days I have been in no great hurry to complete my personal island odyssey. Some of my favourite images in this portfolio date back to the mid 80s, the majority were obtained in the past 20 years. Even as a Scottish landscape photographer, I’ve never really followed a particularly structured approach to my island bagging. Each visit came in its own time according to business opportunities and ad hoc inclination. Awareness over the last two years of a wish to achieve completion of some kind however, caused me to sharpen up my shooting schedule.
‘Maybe my three day visit to the St Kilda archipelago was the most intense and other worldly experience that deeply touched me but then, my time on the Isle of Coll was so delightful, I could easily rate that among the top few. On the other hand Mull quite simply has it all. Islay for sure is in my blood and Jura remains for me an intriguing and vast unconquered wilderness.’
Marianne added: ‘When I think of Scotland’s islands what always comes to mind first is that rarely achieved feeling of living in the moment, of weather and landscape encompassing and overpowering everything in its wake, including the people. Especially the people. It is striking that almost everyone you talk to about the islands, be they inhabitant or visitor, young or old, male or female, will invariably bring the conversation round to these three themes: landscape, weather and community, and all are highlighted in this book.
”You won‘t see people in the pages of this visual odyssey, yet their presence is indelible in the boats, tractors and fences, the white-washed cottages, churches and distilleries.
‘The standing stones and ancient remains remind us that island communities have been surviving, sometimes thriving, for many thousands of years, bringing up families, working the land and the sea, worshipping, celebrating, mourning and fighting. The abandoned settlements, meanwhile, highlight a past in which communities ultimately did not thrive, and it’s both interesting and sad to note that many of Scotland’s islands were more populated in the past than they are now.
‘The climate and seasons affect them in very different ways, as do their geographical and political influences; Islay off the south west of Scotland, just 24 miles from the Irish coastline, is clearly very different from Shetland, in the far north east, halfway to Norway and not part of Scotland till the 15th century.
‘It’s telling that in this era of mega-cities and unlimited digital networking, urban isolation is also on the rise and it is our most remote places that are often seen to provide the things so many of us crave: community and authenticity. They are precious things indeed and we must preserve and invest in them so that Scotland’s islands can continue to thrive in the years to come.’
Discover more about Allan Wright’s photographic work HERE.
Published by Allan Wright Photographic, it is available now, for £16.99.