Followers of this blog will have an idea about the number of photographs I have taken of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands. I had many images on this theme and collated them in a book using the Bookwright software. What you will find here is an edited collection and some of these shots you may have already seen. Most of the captures included were taken during the Winter of 2020/21 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic; maybe that is why they are so dark. For me, these are archetypal images of the land I walk across and cycle through every day. It is where I live. Others will see this place very differently but this is a personal interpretation of the landscape, the roads, tracks, rivers, dykes, droves and the wetlands of East Anglia.
Christo and Jean Claude never explained, interpreted or gave meanings to their work; they didn’t need to. We will always obligingly do that for them. Writers and art critics have theorised about their ideas, conjuring a complex set of social, political, philosophical and psychological reasons why we should be interested in the art they produced. If I list many of the customary arguments here, you might consider them to be pretentious, meaningless drivel. And who knows, you may well be right. What I know is, I love the mystery and sense of wonder they created by using the unbelievably simple device of concealment, and for some reason it is far more effective if the object is relatively well known and familiar in terms of scale and shape.
Don’t worry, I’m not claiming to have produced a masterpiece but I do see a connection between the two images. The power of Diane Arbus’s photograph rests on our understanding of individuality and identity. The twins were seven years old when Arbus spotted them at a Christmas party for twins and triplets. The twins’ father once said about the photo, “We thought it was the worst likeness of the twins we’d ever seen.”
The houses next to the River Great Ouse share a deadpan presentation and surface likeness, but they are not the same. The flat emptiness of the Fenland landscape behind the houses echoes the featureless white wall behind the twins who remain quietly animated by their differences.
Submerged agricultural land is quite common at this time of year in the Cambridgeshire Fenlands but I am always struck by the sheer incongruity of scenes like this. This image was taken near the village of Earith and shows the impact of controlled flooding from The River Great Ouse.