This ongoing body of work, depicting the lost villages of the highland clearances, started with my chance discovery of an abandoned village at the end of a track in an isolated part of western Scotland. The experience of discovering the shell of an entire village with its buildings and lanes still present after 150 years of decline, was a startling one, and started an on-going process of documenting and researching these sites.
The grandeur of the landscapes that surround these ruins contrasts with the intimacy of their scale and the human traces left in the detail of the buildings; a worn fireplace, a doorframe warped by the elements, or a corroded picture frame that has fallen from the wall. Walking on lost roads through the settlements, it is difficult not to sense the population that once lived there.
More than any other ‘archaeological’ sites I have been to, the remains of these settlements mark a change: The point when an idea or a way of life was abandoned after many generations. They question our idea of what is permanent, but as they fade back into the landscape they maintain a sense of presence and significance. They are marks left on the landscape by the lives moving through it.
Perhaps inevitably, there is a memorial aspect to this work.
Abandoned villages that have featured in this project so far include: Bourblaig, Inniemore, Slaggan, Smirrisary, Glendrian and Plocaig.
I have also explored some of these themes in an essay published by The Journal of Wild Culture (May 2017). Read it here...