Born in Manchester, England, in 1957, Ian Lawson’s early years were spent in rural Lancashire where he nurtured his love for nature and the landscape. At high school Ian’s passion was the visual arts, with photography the perfect medium to express his thoughts and experiences.
He studied at Manchester Polytechnic for a BA Hons degree in Fine Art Photography and in the years after graduation, he perfected his craft and gained commercial success with his corporate career, travelling the globe for international organisations.
In 2007, Ian experienced a shift in perspective, and increasingly began
to devote his attention to capturing landscapes. It is a decision he has never regretted. In 2008, Ian moved to the Lake District National Park, a place that has always been close to his heart and which remains a constant source of inspiration for his personal work. It is a move that has allowed Ian to develop the style and content characterising his work today.
Ian now works exclusively within the landscape documentary genre, filling his time with self-initiated projects including his own publishing company, Ian Lawson Books, to create unique stories about the people and places he has come to love.
The islands of the Scottish Outer Hebrides cling on tightly to precious traditions and a way of life, surviving in their remoteness off the far northwest shores of western Europe. Here the ancient tongue of Gaelic dominates over English in speech and ties to history and heritage remain strong among families who have lived and worked upon the land for generations.
The culture of crofting remains, a unique form of small-holding that encompasses crop growing, fishing, shepherding and the weaving of a cloth known to the world as Harris Tweed. From their far flung cottages and crofts men and women work old looms by hand, intertwining patterns from warp and weft of wool, dyed, blended and spun in a myriad of colours in the same way as has been done for hundreds of years.
In the face of relentless 21st century commercialism their way of life lives on, the fruits of their looms refusing
to give way to mass production and technology thanks in no small way to the protection afforded to the craft by a singular Act of Parliament, the Harris Tweed Act, and the iconic Orb Mark which seals the authenticity of their cloth.
Only tweed that has been made from 100% pure new wool, dyed and spun in the Outer Hebrides and woven by hand at the weaver’s home on these beautiful islands can be called genuine Harris Tweed. Each inch of their cloth is inspected and only when the rigorous criteria laid down in law has been met can the Orb Mark be applied by the governing body, The Harris Tweed Authority, as proof of authenticity.
This protection defends the fragile pattern of existence for Harris Tweed’s originators, allowing weavers and mill workers to thrive without the compromising of standard, securing the succession of skills from one generation to the next.
Travelling to Scottish Outer Hebrides almost a decade ago in search of the magical, long summer light of these northern latitudes, Ian Lawson found so much more, sparking within him a passion and project that was to encompass his life for the many years to come.
Spurred on by a revelatory moment in an old Harris Tweed weaver's loom shed, a unique body of work developed, one that intertwined his beautiful images with the unique experiences afforded to him by quiet diligence and countless hours of observation. Extraordinary patience, a willingness to step-off the well-beaten path and an attunement to the rhythms and cycles of Hebridean life allowed his experience to deepen and a rarely seen side of the people an place to be revealed.
Through sensitivity and determination, slowly the islands and their special story emerged as seasons changed and doors opened to his exploration of life and community there in the heart of beyond. The bonds between the crofters and their work shone through, those intimately binding ties that wound their way back through time, stitching generations together and forging a community with a deep sense of belonging.
Through Ian’s camera lens this affinity with land and nature is captured, the intricate connections between colour and cloth explored, the story of a hidden culture brought to light. As well as capturing the people and place in photographic form Ian journalled his thoughts and experiences in intimate detail, giving depth through personal insight to his subjects and scenes now documented here in a body of work that is testament to the beauty and character of this timeless part of the world.