The Hebrides, or Western Isles, have become among the emptiest places in Europe with a population density of less than nine people per square kilometer. This population continues to dwindle, while there is a continuing demand for housing. Many empty structures have been judged unfit for human habitation while many others which may be brought to a tolerable standard are in remote districts where demand for housing is low. The islanders continue to have a standard of living below the Scottish average, while spending more on basic necessities such as food and heating.
The photos in this series skillfully capture the vacancy at the heart of this paradox. The empty spaces outdoors have at last gained access to the homes where simple domesticity had defied the elements for generations. Some of the belongings left behind hint at the spirits and mind of the inhabitants while in others, the land which provided both livelihood and solace has encroached on the interior spaces. In addition to the natural composition of simple rooms returning to their organic elements, Adrian Tyler’s photographs add much with the details of other things lingering in the houses: damp discarded books, rusting cooking utensils and peeling wallpaper add to the sense of disuse as much as do the intrusion of animals and the collapsed roofs.
Fires of hospitality, chairs for rest and doors for privacy, all combining to keep out an unforgiving climate and make those inside more comfortable, have been stripped of meaning and are, to the eye, reverting to a jumble of colour and texture. The photographs capture all this, while, in the details, they hint at the interiors of the people themselves, their day to day lives, and their spiritual and intellectual compensations in the beautiful and relentless environment they call home. It should be remembered that it is their absence which is recorded in these photographs.