If you believe access to Art is an essential component of a life well-lived – assuming basic critical needs have been met – then you might decide to live in the Northern city of Milan. Architectural beauty exists on almost every street corner in the city centre of this commercial metropolis, and it is a visual and spiritual delight. When you also factor in the high probability of coming across sculptures of this quality, adorning a facade or the entrance to a doorway, you know you are in a place where life and art coexist and complement each other. It was E. M. Forster who said, ‘Only connect the prose and the passion and both will be exalted’. I think he was on to something.
I think we are all fascinated by graveyards and the stone memorials, particularly those attached to churches dating back hundreds of years. According to local records, the cemetery at the Holy Trinity church in Haddenham, Cambridgeshire has existed since the early 13th Century. Just to reassure you, this isn’t a morbid preoccupation of mine, I just like the sculptural qualities of the headstones and the often delicate engravings and relief carvings that accompany them. In the older graveyards the stone surfaces are extremely weathered and often exhibit a rich and elaborate patina of lichen and moss. This transformative process enlivens the colours and texture of the stone.
When I took these photographs around midday, the sun was very bright and i decided to focus on a monochrome interpretation and the extremes of light and shade.
A mountain bike is a gift to anyone interested in landscape photography and I really should have considered buying one before. Yes, even here in the flat mountain-less terrain of the Cambridgeshire Fens there are endless opportunities to leave the road and follow byways and trails across the open countryside. Photographers are always in search of different vantage points, new perspectives and fresh ways of representing familiar scenes. If I left the road on my old hybrid bike it was impossible to progress more than a few yards and then a puncture from a thorn or sharp stone was more or less guaranteed. Well, I have just discovered that a mountain bike is an entirely different proposition…who knew?
I stumbled across this wall of abandoned haystacks just off Adventurer’s Drove near the village of Pymoor. The reason I stopped had nothing to do with the haystacks but the discovery of three World War 11 ‘pill boxes’ in various states of decay. Local farmers had clearly been using them over the years as makeshift storage for agricultural supplies etc. There is no doubt that these defensive bunkers are very powerful and evocative structures, immediately conjuring a host of memories and images from the past. As I reflected on the purpose and role of these buildings I looked towards the haystacks; a hallucinatory image of submarine wreckage briefly materialised at the side of the road.
I don’t really know why we honour the dead with such austere architectural forms but here in the UK, we certainly do just that. There is something deeply ironic about the contrast between the solidity and permanence of these cold hard stone blocks and the transience and fragility of the human lives they commemorate.
The black and white photograph of my granddaughter was taken at Anglesey Abbey in Cambridgeshire. The painting below, which many of you will be very familiar with, set in the coastal landscape of Maine was created by the American artist Andrew Wyeth. Wyeth’s painting is a penetrating psychological portrait and a vivid representation of the inner world of Christina Olson who, because of a muscle degenerative disease, was unable to walk. It is undoubtedly a powerful and memorable image. When I took the ‘shot’ of Sienna, she had just befriended a tiny snail on a leaf and was gingerly carrying it up the embankment; she had already given it a suitable name and was completely lost in her own imaginary world. When I looked at the photograph later, I immediately recognised the composition I had unwittingly borrowed. The house, the gradual incline, the perspective and the viewpoint. Of course the psychological drama was necessarily absent but it does reveal the extent to which we make aesthetic judgements based on our previous experience.