Intimate photos show what it's really like to be a modern-day hermit

  • When you think of hermits, you probably envision someone living in solitude for religious reasons.
  • And while some hermits do live in seclusion from society for this reason, there are other people around the world who live in isolation for different reasons.
  • From former nuns to people who just prefer to live a life of minimalism, here is an inside look into the lives of some modern-day hermits.

From a former nun in the English countryside to an elderly man living naked and alone on an island in Japan, there is no one picture of what a hermit looks like.

Sister Rachel Denton, a former nun and teacher, has been living in solitude in a small English town since 2006. She has pledged to live as a hermit for the rest of her life, though she communicates with the outside world through social media.

Another hermit, Masafumi Nagasaki, took a more extreme approach to the solitary lifestyle. The 82-year-old was the only known resident of a small island off the coast of Japan until he left his life in seclusion for health reasons.

Keep reading for striking photos that show what life is like for Denton, Nagasaki, and more hermits around the globe.


Denton, who lives in a modest house in a village in Lincolnshire, England, begins her days early by praying, feeding her cat, and tending to her vegetable garden.

Source: Reuters


She usually spends her days praying, reading, and working on her calligraphy business that she runs out of her home.

Source: Reuters


But Denton’s life isn’t spent entirely in solitude. She owns several chickens and cats that keep her company.

Source: Reuters


Religion plays a major role in why Denton decided to retreat from the world. As a former nun, her life of isolation provides the perfect environment for prayer and contemplation.

Source: Reuters


While many facets of Denton’s life may seem old fashioned, she still engages in modern activities that allow for human interaction, such as checking Facebook and Twitter on a regular basis.

Source: Reuters


Through social media, Denton also seeks to educate people about what it’s really like to live as a hermit in the modern world. “The myth you most often face as a hermit is that you should have a beard and live in a cave. None of which is me,” she told REUTERS.

Source: Reuters


Denton’s choice to live as a hermit allows her to live peacefully. However, she sees her parents once a year and speaks with friends on the phone to maintain human connection.

Source: Reuters


After a day spent working without leaving her property, Denton ends the night by locking up her home and praying before repeating her routine the next day.

Source: Reuters


After being diagnosed with cancer in 2015, Denton said that she is more committed to her life of solitude than ever.

Source: Reuters


On a tiny island in Japan’s Okinawa prefecture, an 82-year-old man took advantage of his solitude by living entirely in the nude for years.

Source: Reuters


Instead of moving into a traditional retirement community, Masafumi Nagasaki shed the constraints of his normal life (and his clothes) when he moved to the island in 1989.

Source: Reuters


After surviving on shipments of rice cakes and clean drinking water from neighbouring islands, Nagasaki was finally forced to leave his isolated home in June 2018. Japanese police transported Nagasaki to a hospital after receiving reports that he was ill.

Source: Reuters, The Telegraph


Another recluse lived with a few more conveniences of the modern world than Nagasaki did. Artist and poet Barry Edgar Pilcher lived on the Island of Inishfree, Ireland, in relative isolation for over 20 years before returning to live on the mainland with his family in 2013.

Source: Reuters,Irish Examiner


Pilcher lived by himself in a cottage on the quiet island in the northwest region of the country, although he ventured to the mainland once a week to buy groceries and collect his pension.

Source: Reuters


Pilcher kept his kitchen stocked with all the necessities, since he spent the majority of his time in an area far from shops or markets.

Source: Reuters


Though Pilcher spent many years living in isolation, he originally brought his wife, Eve, and their daughter to live with him on the island when he moved there in 1993. After a few years, Eve and their daughter returned to the mainland of Ireland, returning to Inishfree only for visits.

Source: Reuters


In the nearly 20 years he spent completely alone, Pilcher filled his days with various creative activities, including playing the saxophone all over the island. He played outside his property …

Source: Reuters


… on the beach…

Source: Reuters


… and in the open fields of the island.

Source: Reuters


Since he is also a poet, writing played a significant role in Pilcher’s time as a hermit. As of 2013, he was writing a book about the Island of Inishfree.

Source: Reuters,Irish Examiner


He didn’t often have visitors, but Pilcher set up his own version of a doorbell to let him know when guests had arrived.

Source: Reuters


By 2013, Pilcher had lived as a hermit for nearly 20 years. The then-70-year-old artist finally decided to rejoin his family and modern society, in part due to his age.

Source: Reuters,Irish Examiner


After returning to the island for the first time in five months, Pilcher remarked that he had forgotten what it was like to live in utter silence.

Source: Reuters


On the other side of the world, a Siberian man lives off the land in a remote forest outside the city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia.

Source: Reuters


Viktor, 62, moved into this wooden hut about 15 years ago.

Source: Reuters


Since his home is small and there’s no one else around for miles, Viktor stores many of his belongings outside under the roof of his house.

Source: Reuters


For food, Viktor primarily survives on a foraged diet of fish, berries, and mushrooms.

Source: Reuters


If he wants to travel, Viktor rows his boat along the Yenisei River.

Source: Reuters


You’re probably wondering how he stays warm in the cold Siberian winters. Viktor must always make sure that he has enough firewood to heat his home.

Source: Reuters


In his life of isolation, he spends much of his time studying the Bible and searching for food.

Source: Reuters


Meanwhile, in one of Greece’s most desirable vacation destinations, one man has made himself a home away from the droves of tourists on Santorini.


Sostis lives off the coast of Santorini’s caldera. He’s the only human living on the volcanic islet of Palea Kameni.

Source: Reuters


While Sostis’ home is only about 100 square feet, he has most of what he needs in his small space …

Source: Reuters


… except for a bathroom. So Sostis has built his own private restroom on the side of a cliff.

Source: Reuters


Hermits also aren’t always entirely alone. A family of four lives in isolation in this log cabin in Russia.

Source: Reuters


Valentin Pantin, who’s in his late eighties, moved with his wife to a home in rural Russia in 1993. They now have four children who also live with them in seclusion.

Source: Reuters


Two of Pantin’s children put firewood into the family’s furnace. Keeping a fire going is necessary to keep warm in their home in rural Siberia.

Source: Reuters


Since the Pantin family lives in a remote area, their young children are growing up only socialising with their siblings.

Source: Reuters


As you might expect, life as a hermit can be profoundly lonely. This photo of Pantin’s wife, Ekaterina, conveys the emotional toll of living in seclusion.

Source: Reuters


Many hermits in today’s world tend to be older in age, but there are also some young people who happen to live in isolation. The Penikese Island School, for example, is located on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts and serves youths who have run into trouble with the law.


On the quiet island, the students are able to find peace while practicing activities like yoga.


The students at the Penikese Island School may not be hermits in the traditional sense, but their status as the island’s only residents makes them unique.

Source: Reuters


Many hermits choose to live alone in a remote location, although others, like Yiorgos, pictured below, came to a life of solitude when his community’s population dwindled, eventually making him the only resident of his small Greek village.

Source: Reuters


About 45 families used to live in the village of Skafi, Greece, but Yiorgos is the only full-time resident left. Twelve elderly former residents still return for the summer, but during the winter, Yiorgos has the town to himself.

Source: Reuters


Though he lives alone for much of the year, Yiorgos isn’t completely cut off from the modern world. Like some of his fellow hermits, he stays connected to the world through television.

Source: Reuters


Some hermits, like Viktor from Siberia, are more private when it comes to sharing their lives with the outside world. While he allowed photographers to document his life, he refused to provide his last name.

Source: Reuters


Similarly, Yiorgos, who lives in an abandoned Greek town, also provided very little information about himself to photographers.

Source: Reuters


Other hermits, however, are remarkably open about sharing their experiences with the solitary lifestyle. Denton, for example, has spoken with various media outlets about her choice to pursue life as a hermit, in part to dispel stereotypes.

Source: Reuters


Living in isolation for a certain period of time can take both an emotional and physical toll on people. This man has lived alone in a valley in Bosnia and Herzegovina for years and is said to have lost his ability to communicate as a result.

Source: Reuters


Pilcher, however, uses his art to express the joy that can come from living life apart from society, reminding people through his music that solitude does not always have to be silent.

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