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FAR FROM THE CENTRE OF THINGS

"I was better with the sounds of the sea, than with the voices of men, and in desolate and desert places, I found myself again. For the whole of the world came from these, and he who returns to the source, may gauge the worth of the outcome, and approve and perhaps reinforce, or disapprove and perhaps change its course"

Hugh MacDiarmid, from The Stony Limits and other poems Volume 

In 1933 the Scottish poet Hugh MacDiarmid travelled from London to Shetland, which lies to the northeast of Great Britain. Arriving first into Lerwick and then to the island of Whalsay, he was on a journey of recovery, after several years of personal and professional disappointment. MacDiarmid moved into an abandoned fisherman’s cottage at Sodom with his wife and son, but he soon began to feel cut off by the geographical isolation of Whalsay and was often seen walking alone around the island. During the 9 years he spent there, 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 island, MacDiarmid wrote the volume Stony Limits and other Poems, containing 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 time in Shetland, I traveled to Whalsay where I stayed alone in a small, isolated cabin. From their I made a circular walk around the island, making photographs as a response to aloneness and the clarity that can found amidst vast landscapes.