FAR FROM THE CENTRE OF THINGS
"I was better with the sounds of the sea, then with the voices of men, and in desolate and desert places, I found myself again."
Hugh MacDiarmid, from The Stony Limits and other poems Volume
In 1933 the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid travelled from London to Shetland where he moved into to a small, abandoned fisherman’s cottage on the island of Whalsay. He was on a journey of recovery, after several years of personal and professional disappointment. He spent 9 years living on Whalsay where, despite an unstable mental state and living in near poverty, he wrote more than half of his life’s work. Inspired by the isolation he felt on the small island, MacDiarmid wrote one of his most revered poems On a raised beach, which is said to have been composed whilst spending the night sleeping outside observing the stars. Most of what he wrote during his Shetland years was driven by his experience of his surroundings, the North Sea, stony beaches and wide open skies. Whalsay became the centre of his imaginative universe and his writing reveals the introspections of a solitary man contemplating his place in the world.
Inspired by MacDiarmid’s writing during his time in Shetland, I traveled to Whalsay where I stayed alone in a small, isolated cabin. From there I made a circular walk around the island, making photographs in response to the aloneness and the clarity that I found, amidst the vast Shetland landscapes.