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.
The late afternoon sun transforms an ordinary scene. Windows and doorways become dark rectangular shapes and intense sunlight reflects from plaster walls. In these images of geometry and order I see echoes of the surrealist Magritte, the mysterious city streets of the Italian artist Giorgio De Chirico and the cool detachment of the American painter, Joseph Albers.
For those of you also interested in the technical aspects of photography this image was taken on a Fuji X100s using the excellent Fuji Acros film simulation setting.
Please feel free to share your own thoughts and ideas.
These are the vast open landscapes of the Cambridgeshire Fenlands that influence my paintings. This image was taken with a Fuji X100F a couple of days ago when the sky was particularly dramatic. I have carried out some basic editing – mainly tonal adjustments and sharpening – using Silver Efex Pro2. I have to say the Fuji is a great little camera, easy to take with you and it produces really good jpg’s with the Acros settings. You can’t really tell from the photograph but it was an incredibly blustery day out in the Fens….the clouds were racing across the sky. Really should have used a tripod and a long exposure to capture the movement; maybe next time.