Derelict Hut, Coed Llyn y Garnedd
I am rapidly approaching the end of my Forest Nation project, a book being the natural culmination of images produced over a three year brief. The forest shots were easy for me to produce, I enjoyed the solitude of the environment and the discipline of predominantly medium format cameras. So what now?
I have felt recently that I have been losing my way slightly, caused to some extent by having to produce individual, pictorial images to earn my living, or part of it. As the ‘selling season’ approaches for another year I find myself examining the contents of my output over the years, only a small percentage of which has ever been digitised. One of my main influences when I first took photography seriously in 1980 was Thomas Joshua Cooper. His examination of the ritualistic, both in terms of subject matter and work ethos, struck a chord in the developing creativity within me.
The ritual of man’s activity that I found was initially based around the remains of gritstone quarrying that surrounded Derby. These were not the romanticised ideas of nature reclaiming man’s desecration, or the heroic Victorian view of the ruined abbey or castle, but the echoes of the past resounding in the reflections of the current. The photographs of buildings and earthworks that I produce are neither high praise for the industry of man or the resilience of the natural world, but my emotional response to the rituals that took place there.
The location for these echos covers the full aspect of man’s activity. From Roman forts to stone circle, from quarrying to agriculture, all have been a focus for specific activities and as such leave their ‘spirit’ behind. Part of the photographic process involves responding to this spirit, the atmosphere of the place. Quiet contemplative work allows the area to influence how you respond to the environment, you make the emotional link both with the past and the present. The past has produced the structure, the signs of activity, the scars and embellishments. The present has absorbed and embraced those changes and provided the opportunity for my ritualistic activities.
This body of work represents a series of my own emotional responses to these environments, starting from my early days in Derbyshire and continuing to current practice. What came first though, the subject or the image? Was it my photography that led me to explore the interest that started as a kid playing in sandstone quarries and caves, or was it those early experiences that led me to explore the photographic theme? Which ritual spawned the other?