Portfolio: John Carlos's The Western Islands

Award-winning photographer John Carlos's book 'The Western Islands' is a celebration of the islanders of Inishbofin and the Aran Islands: Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr and has just had its second reprinting


Anyone who browses in bookshops frequently will come across photo books in the remaindered pile. It's good for book collectors but it makes some publishers leery of taking on a photo book project. It was a particular pleasure therefore to hear that John Carlos's book The Western Islands (Collins Press) sold out shortly before Christmas. It's now been reprinted and is back on the shelves.

This is a nicely printed collection of photographs stretching back to the early 1970’s. Here is a celebration of the islanders of Inishbofin and the Aran Islands: Inis Mór, Inis Meáin and Inis Oírr, County Galway. It includes the islands of Inishturk and Clare Island, County Mayo and also honours the people of Inishark and Turbot Island, County Galway who were displaced from their islands in 1960 and 1978 respectively.

The photographer John Carlos became interested in photography while visiting Inis Mór, Aran Islands, aged 12 in 1963. He joined the Connacht Tribune seven years later in his native Galway. He became staff photographer with the Sunday Tribune in 1983 and won numerous awards including Photographer of the Year with the PPAI. He later worked with the Sunday Times before returning to live and work in the west of Ireland.

This is very personal work, quite traditional in nature, in black and white. It reflects on disappearing traditions and culture in a society increasingly consumed by materialism, information technology and celebrity culture. The photographs speak, on the one hand of exile and on the other, of our young people wanting to stay at home.

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The work portrays the Islanders’ spirit of perseverance, their determination against adversity over the centuries, their humanity, dignity, wit and humour. It succeeds in its stated aim to preserve a memory of the islanders and their homelands. For anyone interested in sensitive, high-quality photography of island life this is a very sweet buy at under €20.

The Western Islands by John Carlos is published by Collins Press. Available in bookshops or online here