Modern technology insists on ever-higher pixel counts as if the weight of detail was the most essential component in a photograph. If only we could witness more, ‘capture’ more, encompass more, our desire for evidence would finally be sated. The tsunami of information swamps us, flooding every nook and cranny of our lives, absorbing and occupying our natural capacity. The increasingly futile quest to record the minutiae of the visible world is a ‘will-o’-the-wisp’, a shadow play, a distraction. When the fog rolls across the Fens we stop looking, the obsession with calculation, measurement and accounting stalls and we are free to see.
Photography differs from painting. Paintings liberate the artist from the tyranny of the subject and the objectivity of the lens. You can manipulate a photograph to create impossible realities and surreal events, but the light from objects passing through an optic is the starting point. Chance is a key element in a successful photograph, the chance alignment of distinct elements such as lighting, weather, people and place. What are the chances of standing in front of Ely Cathedral in a dense fog as a silhouetted monastic figure walks towards the Gothic doorway? Clearly, much higher than you would imagine if you photograph the Cathedral as many times as I do.
Lumix G9 Olympus 12-40 mm lens
At first sight, this looks like a mirror image, but it is a photograph of one of the arrow-straight tree lines seen across the Fenlands. Why there are two rows of trees planted side by side, I really don’t know; it is unlikely to be an aesthetic decision because it is so difficult to walk between them.
Anthony Trollope (1815 -1882) writes about the Fen landscape and he says, ‘a country walk less picturesque could hardly be found in England’. Trollope was familiar with the fens through his work as a surveyor for the Post Office but was unimpressed by the landscape. I think he was wrong, the Fenland landscape can be absolutely wonderful, as you can see here. There is a poetry in this place, you just have to open your mind and heart, you will see it.
Leaving Mile End Road, just after the village of Prickwillow and following the River Lark for a mile or so, you find a part of the Fenland that is very much off the beaten track. In the fog, the landscape takes on a different mantle and there is a genuine sense of remoteness and isolation. There must be more telegraph poles here than any other area of the UK, and in the soft peat soils of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands they take on a range of jaunty angles. As a mere beginner, just deviating from the perpendicular, it will be a long and epic journey for this pole to reach the customary 30 or 40 degrees.
Lumix G9 Olympus 12-40 mm f2.8
On the road to Pymoor, three container lorries arranged side by side in a field look for all the world like three birds in a nest, mouths wide open, waiting expectantly. A surreal vision in the Cambridgeshire Fenland.