Water is not mere embellishment; it is the essence of my reverie." So says Felix Davey, a Belfast-born photographer so inspired by the sense of freedom he finds in all things aquatic that last year he was drawn to Scotland's west coast to seek out those he dubs the "Water Folk" – people for whom water is enmeshed in their lives. "These individuals' solitude and fortitude," he says, "speak of wild, beautiful places, and our place within them."
Individuals such as former fisherman, white-water rafting instructor and bargeman Ewan Irvine, now a fireman; Ron Wyvill, who has made his living from the sea for the past 30 years and now lives on a remote peninsula surrounded by water; Jim Raffell, who has spent his whole life around water and is now a biologist near the village of Shieldaig; and Margaret MacKinnon, who grew up on the remote isle of Vatersay (a five-hour ferry ride from the mainland) and, though now in her eighties, still picks cockles, mussels, oysters and scallops at low tide. Such as Catriona Nicholson, Barra's only surfer , which, she told Davey, gives her a deep respect for the sea: "Fighting the ocean reminds you how small you are compared to nature; it gets your adrenaline going."
Derek Dowsett, however, should perhaps be given the final word. As gillie – or gamekeeper – on Skye's longest river, the Snizort, he has helped resuscitate its dwindling population of wild salmon over the past seven years. "Communing with nature is a bit twee to say," he admits of his connection to the water, "but that's what it is. It's like you feel yourself growing into it as the day goes on, and you do feel you belong."
'Water Folk' is at Old Truman Brewery, London E1, until tomorrow, then the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides (taigh-chearsabhagh.org) from 25 June to 25 August. For more: felixdavey.com