Margaret Soraya (b.1973) is a Scottish landscape photographer who has visited the Scottish Hebrides for over ten years in search of solitude, a positive state of aloneness, which allows her the creative space to capture the untouched beauty of the islands’ rugged coastline and endless white sandy beaches. She has been awarded the Master Photographers Association Travel & Landscape Photographer of The Year (UK) for four years running and became the overall Scottish Master Photographer of The Year in 2017.
As an introvert who visits Scotland’s remote islands again and again in search of solitude, Soraya’s work questions the cultural bias towards extroverts in today’s western society and its obsession with personality over character. Soraya’s evocative and calming images capture the islands’ enchanting atmosphere and offer us a highly artistic interpretation of the islands’ stormy seas, reminding us of the power that can be found in peace and how for many it is the crucial ingredient for creativity to flourish.
Introversion today is viewed negatively in a world that applauds those who speak loudest and step into the spotlight. In fact, as Soraya demonstrates through her work, introversion can be a great strength and is a trait of many leaders and inventors, at the heart of creative minds, including Bill Gates, Eleanor Roosevelt, JK Rowling, Steve Wozniak, Barack Obama and Steven Spielberg.
The message conveyed by Soraya’s work goes further and is one we need to hear now more than ever. She reminds us that solitude is a positive state that can stimulate self-awareness and provide a breathing space to restore body and mind, something we all need to thrive, regardless of whether we are introverts or extroverts. As the world spins faster and we become immersed in technology and its constant interruptions, we mortals need a variety of ways to cope with the resulting pressures. One of the best ways to maintain some semblance of balance, Soraya tells us, is by seeking and enjoying solitude – the state of being alone without feeling lonely. It is a constructive state of engagement with oneself and an opportunity to refresh and renew our body and mind. The problem with modern life is that the human body is still analogue and to survive and flourish Soraya makes the case that we all need periods of solitude. Temperamentally we may differ in the amount of solitude we need, but some solitude is essential for us all.
Artistically Soraya’s photographs have been cleverly constructed to convey her message. She offers a highly artistic interpretation of stormy seas, creating images akin to impressionist paintings. By slowing the shutter speed Soraya creates gentle, quiet and calm seas from wild, stormy windswept days, often during winter when the beaches are deserted; all the while finding stillness in the process personally.
Soraya uses minimalist compositions with a very limited colour palette and tone, only allowing the Hebrides’ distinctive turquoise sea to stand out and greet the viewer. A gentle mood and feeling of peacefulness are conveyed by the use of soft, overcast lighting complemented by a softness to the impressionist waves and swash on the beaches created by the use of long exposures. The feel of her photographs echoes the gentleness to her message. As a softly spoken introvert, Soraya quietly offers her message of encouragement and hope, leading by example.
In her exquisite studies of turquoise waves rolling onto Luskentyre beach with the stunning backdrop of the Harris hills behind, we see how vast open beaches are critical in the foreground to convey her message, as they invite us, the viewer, into her sea of solitude and allow us a breathing space to reflect and daydream a little.
Because of Soraya’s strong use of scale and deliberate open space one cannot help but wonder how to cultivate the same peacefulness and state of inner richness that she has discovered in Scotland. Of all the wild, exposed and stormy locations that Soraya shares with us, it is easy to appreciate from Scarista Sands Study 5 & Scarista Wave Study 6 how this beach has become Soraya’s favourite location, precisely because it is quieter and more remote than other locations in the Hebrides. Its exposed sweeping beach, with views up to Ceapabhal one way and over to the Harris hills the other, mean it is a uniquely beautiful place which enjoys incredible light.
So, a question to you, whether you are an introvert or an extrovert: where do you find your own solitude and how do you protect that precious time of reflection and inner growth?
As you mull over this question, I very much hope you will enjoy this uplifting collection and allow yourself the time to be transported onto some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, to enjoy their golden sands and clear turquoise waters. And perhaps one day, experience them for yourself.