Caught in the act of falling off a chair, sawing through the plank of wood on which he is perched high above a loch, tentatively trying out crutches on stilts from a high branch of a tree. This is the work of Johnny Lyons, a 2013 graduate of Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design whose work mixes a lightness of touch with a ghost of the outlandish and a poignancy that is instantly engaging.

Many people will have first encountered Lyons’ work at New Contemporaries at the Royal Scottish Academy in 2014, a curated selection of graduates from the 2013 Scottish degree shows. That indeed was where Richard Ingleby first saw his work, drawn to it by one of his Ingleby colleagues, Amy Murray. “I was extremely struck by the work. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing,” says Ingleby, speaking to me the week before the installation of Lyons’ exhibition. “His work had a very unusual balance of feel and touch, emotion and conceptual ideas, even at that early stage. He’s not afraid to play with emotions.” The result is Lyons first solo exhibition, which, given the Ingleby’s status as a major commercial art gallery with an exciting exhibition programme, is no bad place to start.

“It was nice to see somebody taking an interest,” says Lyons, modestly, who tells me he first met Richard and Florence Ingleby a few months before Christmas when they came for a studio visit and ended up taking some of his images to Paris Photo.

The images are both surreal and familiar, occasionally verging on the outlandish and yet instantly recognisable. His forays range from those based on the kind of stunt you probably dreamed about whilst sitting at your desk at school – or work – to what seems like a visual manifestation of the curiosity inherent in the human mind. These are the what ifs inside your head, the meanderings of the mind made concrete, given weight, documented by a human crash test dummy, the faltering footsteps on the less well-trod path.

Lyons frequently works with his “oldest, closest” friend, who can be seen exploding a firework strapped to his body in one series of images, and pushes the button on the camera in others. Alongside the images, the carefully constructed wooden ‘props’ designed to be used just once are laid out, from an impossibly high memorial bench to a box containing a saw.

In one of his latest works, The Hop Pickers, Lyons sits on a high tree branch, somewhat pensively, a little melancholically, with two tottery stilt-crutches leaning on the branch next to him. In the next image, he takes his first uneasy steps, and in the final image he is caught in the act of falling. The moments are captured, a sequence of decisions that echo with vulnerability.

“Even the simplest images, of Lyons falling off a chair are poignant. You know what is going to happen because it’s obvious, but it doesn’t make it any less touching somehow when it does,” says Ingleby.

And, as the Gallery Director points out, Lyons also knows his craft. The photographs are well made, judged and presented, variously in diptychs or triptychs, with a remarkable assurance. “I think I really developed the work as it is now in art college,” says Lyons. “I’d always worked with images in street photography and film, and I’d worked in sculpture too. But in this work, I really liked that magic of not knowing what I’d captured on film. And that continues, that joy in not knowing.”

Jonny Lyons: Dream Easy, Ingleby Gallery, Calton Road, Edinburgh, February 6 to March 26