On Scottish Islands, a Generation Caught Between Past and Future

A quick online search of the Western Isles, also known as the Outer Hebrides, reveals no shortage of dreamy imagery. The region, west of the Scottish mainland, is branded by travel agencies as an otherworldly paradise with untamed shorelines under vast, open sky. It is one of the few places where Scottish Gaelic is still dominant.

Given this reputation, it took French photographer Laetitia Vancon by surprise when she read The Stornoway Way, an autobiographical novel by Scottish writer Kevin McNeil. The author portrayed the Western Isles as an isolated place where people struggle with alcoholism and entropy. The stark contrast between the two narratives—one seen in McNeil’s book and one presented on the pages of tourism booklets—led Vancon there herself. She first went to the islands of Lewis and Harris last January, and then to North and South Uist in July.


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