Thousands of years ago the retreating glaciers of the last Ice Age stripped much of the soil from the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, leaving boulders and alpine flowers on the edge of the continent, blasted by winds from the ocean and subject to some of the wettest weather in Europe. Adrian Tyler is no stranger to this environment and has always taken pleasure in these varied landscapes and seascapes. He has the ability to appreciate the basic comforts, where wealth is measured not in what is possessed but rather in what is not coveted.
His knowledge of this landscape gives him the means by which his talent can be practiced. This fine series of photographs presents the man-made structures of this remote region. Leaving aside ancient past, and the edifices of landlords (distant in place and time), Adrian concentrates instead on the buildings used by those in constant contact with the land in our era. The poetry of the region has for many centuries described with great love the changing scenes of nature, while early travelers from other regions commented that there was little to do in the houses but sleep. Yet the lack of parlor room diversion should not deceive as to the importance of home to people here, and this should be remembered while enjoying this remarkable series of photographs.
For example, the local expression “as mean as the lock” indicates the importance placed on open hospitality. The household fire was referred to as “the angel”, indicating its comfort and latent power, and inhospitality was attacked in satirical poems reaching back to the pre-Christian era.
Stone, tin, and concrete are used in construction, wood being more unusual. Some of the buildings here may occupy sites dating back many generations, though others were abandoned in the 1700s, then forcibly cleared in the 1800s. In this period many were forced to leave cattle herding in the hills, and left to eke out a living on the coast, fishing or working their small enclosed farms. Others moved to the industrial towns of Britain, or went further afield. Thousands left the land they had loved. Those remaining in Scotland have used their ingenuity to survive in times of changing economic, environmental, and political forces. Adrian Tyler’s photographs give us a view of their world, the change and continuity, the peace and turbulence of their existence.
Mark Stewart Cassidy