The Outer Hebrides, Scotland

Ian Lawson - Saorsa Book

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What follows may best be imagined as a Freedom journey.

Saorsa (n.) Scottish Gaelic for Freedom, Liberty.

The photographs within this book represent all that I love about photography. That rewarding feeling you get after an Hebridean adventure. Searching for island beauty and then forced home by the darkening night, there is nothing left of you but the sea. All is washed away, an empty mind, but with my heart full.

‘I travelled to a faraway place, the Celtic fringe with more rain, sheep, light and Gaelic signs. I wanted wider skies, sea-mountains, white beaches and bigger colours. It was to be a rendezvous with beauty, an encounter with living landscape, of revelations woven in Harris Tweed, and a revival of inner spirit among modernity.’

Ian Lawson - Oceans Art

These islands hold the grandest of all storytelling, with tales hidden beneath each and every stone. Given time and attention, such secrets unravel like old remnants of heather rope, enclosing the heart like croft-land; bound by bent post and long forgotten boundaries.

My own story is a slow, meditative experience of these revelations, wholly appropriate to the rhythm of this special place. I have long been immersed in it, lost in the faces of the inhabitants and the character of their precious land. While I work here, my pictures always seek to capture the delicate balance between nature's light and dark, the challenges of life lived in the remote and rural, and the rare glimpses which always reward if one's patience can endure. The longer I spend here, the more the islands come to impose upon my own psyche and soul. I find myself unburdened, old emotional tethers falling away, bringing an increasing sense of lightness to my being with every visit.

My Hebridean work, which first began over fourteen years ago, now continues as I set out upon these new headings. Camera in hand, there is a deep drive to discover whatever may lie over the next hill and far horizon. Onwards the journey goes, and always with that inescapable sense of freedom only time spent in the Outer Hebrides can bring.

That is the feeling which has inspired the creation of this updated collection. Since the release of my first book ‘From The Land’ in 2013, the islands continue to reveal themselves in ways I never expect. So my story too continues to evolve, as I look at life there in an ever-changing light. Like nature, everything is always in flux but the essential endures.

This then is another step on the road I first began walking all those years ago, a beautiful path always leading home to the Outer Hebrides. No matter where I am in the world, my heart is irrevocably tied like a weaver's knot to this place, my soul forever drawn by the siren calls of unseen sea-birds.

This then, is SAORSA Freedom of the Outer Hebrides.

Saorsa Brand Ian Lawson - Freedom of the Hebrides

Freedom of the Hebrides

‘A landscape I wanted to see for myself. What I found changed my life, my work, my ambitions.

I travelled to the Outer Hebrides all those years ago to discover a place of authenticity and I did. It is why I continue to return, camera in hand, dogs by my side. In an increasingly conforming society, we all search for real meaning, deeper resonance and ultimately that elusive sense of genuine freedom. I found mine here and hope my work will inspire you to find yours too, wherever it may lie.’

Ian Lawson - A place to dream

Hebridean Memories

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so, for the most part, I let my photography speak for me. Yet, I'll always try to capture my thoughts and impressions in words too, from days spent in the wilderness or time with new friends by the fire. By sharing excerpts from my journals, I want to bring something open and distinctly personal to the books pages, to give a wider sense of story. While I hope the images alone will capture your heart, perhaps my words will deepen the appreciation.

Time appears to move slower upon these shores, the past still lingering in place names and people’s memory. Modernity's grip has definitely taken longer to settle here. The rhythms of life are different to my own, the vagaries of weather and of distance conspiring to prove the demands of deadlines futile.

The Isle of Harris holds firm my heart, naturally forming the focus of this body of work. But, my years-long journey has also blessed my camera with wonderful opportunities in the islands of Lewis, Berneray, Eriskay, Barra and the Uists.

Happily, they've each revealed their hidden stories as I've patiently looked on, listening to all they have to say. Sometimes calm and peaceful, often wild and wet, but always beautiful.

Ian Lawson - Beauty of Harris
Ian Lawson - Sea Meadow

Peace of mind before you buy

Always a leap of faith buying an art book online without knowing exactly what's in it. My limited version preview will completely counteract that unknown. 

From the comfort of your viewing device you can turn the leaves of sixty-two double-page spreads for peace of mind before you take possession. While an online perusal of Saorsa in no way compares to the physical joy of holding, reading and owning a beautiful work of art in one's hands, I nonetheless want to give you semblance of the images, words and design. There are still over three hundred more pages, full of Hebridean landscapes, croft life and tweed colours waiting to be discovered.

Ian Lawson - Saorsa Diptych

Weaving Landscapes

The story of wool to weaver provided me with a way in to a culture illustrating an entire way of life only found in the Outer Hebrides. Land, shepherds and sheep - they each fitted into an old routine. They caught my eye, excited my mind and a vital connection was made.

As I began to photograph the landscape, the people and the cloth, I started to see patterns emerge. A beat began and the rhythm of Harris Tweed flowed into my consciousness and into my pictures. Herringbone, hound’s tooth, basket weave, bird’s eye, glen check, windowpane: evocative names for original Harris Tweed patterns. The closer I looked, the more beautiful and complex the patterns became. They are about the relations between and within – the ties of labour that bind Hebrideans to the weaving landscapes of their making.

This glorious landscape and tweed became firmly entwined in my imagination. The editing together of my landscapes alongside elements of coloured wools, yarns and textures allowed me to create thoughtful connections, each pairing capturing the wonders of this cloth and the setting that is so integral to it. With the ever-changing island light somehow the weavers have managed to capture the harmony, which speaks of durability in a time of constant change.

Ian Lawson - Saorsa Diptych



MaterialHardcover - Silk bindings. Foil-stamped

PresentationCustom slipcase with suede-cloth lining. Gift-box with carry handle.

TextEnglish 12,000 words

Weight5 kilos / 11lbs

Photographs343 Full-plate colour photographs

Size35cm x 29cm x 5.5cm

PaperGuardapat heavy-weight matt art

Origin of ProductionPrint & Bindery. Verona, Italy

Price Promise

First, making my photographs and secondly, creating all that goes into my opus books – design, artwork, writing, editorial, proofing, printing and the binding are all very expensive, both emotionally and financially.

I’ve only ever followed my ambition to make the most beautifully created self-published books I could imagine up. Each and every copy made by my Italian printers is a proud achievement and it is only with your kind support that I am able to continue my quest.

So, such is the love and care embodied in my work, Saorsa will never be found discounted at any time. Your investment will never be de-valued.