Fenland

Fenland By Peter M Corr

Photo book

Book Preview

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.

Two Houses on Ten Mile Bank Fenlands

Identical Twins, Roselle, New Jersey, 1967  Diane Arbus

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.

Ely Cathedral from the River Great Ouse

Bram Stoker was inspired by Whitby Abbey to write the story of Count Dracula. Had he visited Ely in the dark Winter months he would have found similar inspiration for a macabre Gothic novel. When glimpsed through the trees from the march on the opposite bank of the river there are few elements of 21st Century life to break the spell. A web of branches and ivy veils the tower, like a child looking in trepidation through half-open fingers.

Abandoned Farmhouse at Curf Fen Drove, Chatteris

The Fenland has visual riches in abundance, but these treasures are easily overlooked or unseen as we drive by on our way to somewhere else. Just off the Isle of Ely Way, or the A141, if you prefer the prosaic designation there is a wonderful example of a Fenland Farmhouse. It embodies the archetypal idea of a house, that childhood notion of what we think houses should look like. It could almost be a drawing, a blueprint. More or less symmetrical with a front door in the middle, uniformly spaced windows, and two chimneys at either end it surveys the flat open space of Curf Fen.

I have photographed this building on more than one occasion with limited success and this evening, with the Winter light fading fast, I was absolutely certain I had left it too late. I was mistaken. The low sun reflected in the broken glass of the upper windows briefly animated the facade providing a counterpoint to the encroaching darkness.