I don’t have a story about this one, I just love photographing Vintage cars… you can see me paying homage, reflected in the chrome detailing. The sad irony about the automobile is that something so aesthetically pleasing and genuinely ‘liberating’ has created so many problems for our planet.
In 1927, William Lyons, co-founder of the Swallow Sidecar Company, saw the commercial potential of producing a re-bodied Austin 7. Buying a chassis from dealer Parkers of Bolton Lyons commissioned Swallow’s talented employee, coachbuilder Cyril Holland, to produce a distinctive open tourer: the Austin Seven Swallow. Holland (1895- ) who joined Swallow in late 1926 had served his apprenticeship with Lanchester and would become chief body engineer. The height of saloon car fashion of the day was to have the back of the body fully rounded, this was called “dome” shaped.
With its bright two-tone colour scheme and a style befitting more expensive cars of the time, together with its low cost (£175), the Swallow proved popular and was followed in 1928 by a saloon version: the Austin Seven Swallow Saloon.
Approximately 3,500 bodies of various styles were produced up until 1932.
A pastel blue Hillman Minx 66 Deluxe was my first car, and I remember I spent a couple of days painting the headlight surround -and other perforated areas – with bright red anti-rust paint. It cost £100, but the engine had problems; a pall of thick black smoke coming from the exhaust shrouded any cars following us. I later discovered that the lovely individual who sold it to me had poured a well-known additive into the engine to hide the existence of a cracked block. I replaced the engine with a reconditioned unit and the car was off the road for 3 weeks. But I loved that car. It had a very smooth ride, tan leather seats, and I removed the rotor arm each night to stop short sighted opportunists from stealing it. In retrospect, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
The Minx was one of the most popular saloon cars of the 1930s and the most famous Hillman model. It was first introduced in 1932 and underwent several updates before the larger, more modern ‘Minx Magnificent’ was launched in August 1935. 10,000 of the new model were sold before the end of that year. This car features the new style of grille and opening boot lid first seen in mid-1937.
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.
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.
I think late Autumn and Winter are probably the best seasons for landscape photographers living in the Fenlands. I know that Cambridgeshire doesn’t have the dramatic landscapes of the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales or even the Trough of Bowland, but it does have something special.
At this time of year the landscape maintains a gritty and determined resolve. There is a complete absence of pretension and prettiness. The uneven roads and tilted telegraph poles, the isolated columns of tall trees, vast skies with fields stretching to the distant horizon makes me feel as if I have been cast adrift on an open sea.
John Clare: The Fens
There’s not a hill in all the view,
Save that a forked cloud or two
Upon the verge of distance lies
And into mountains cheats the eyes.
And as to trees the willows wear
Lopped heads as high as bushes are;
Some taller things the distance shrouds
That may be trees or stacks or clouds
Or may be nothing; still they wear
A semblance where there’s nought to spare.