“Sit down my love of open spaces.”
I can’t claim any credit for that above line, it comes from The Guillemots’ 2006 single Sao Paolo but ever since then that line has followed me. It’s a literary turn of phrase that speaks so loudly to me. But it’s not done there, in the same song the lyrics continue, “I’m going to tell you about some memories that I dreamt.” And nothing has ever come closer to how I feel about life — memory and dream are extremely potent things in my creativity, made all the headier for my love of the wild and the open. Sometimes I feel my most energised and creative in wildernesses. Last week in Cornwall, I finally realised just how much of a factor this is in my creativity as a photographer, and why it is such a driver of my vision.
Driving in mist and rain, I caught out of the corner of my eye a murmuration skirting above the telegraph lines, up and then swooping following the contours of the hills and undulations of the land below, a fleeting dance of birds as I drive along a quiet back road towards Redruth. A brief frame that became memory, and through time will become a dream. My eyes returned to the road ahead, full of uncertainty of what was ahead, the road disappears with its telegraph poles long into the distance, long into the mist, the only illumination is the hint of a taillight curving around the distance.
In the blue hour of not quite darkness I cut through the unknown. Climbing cliff driven paths and only the distant roar of the sea, nothing else, not even the sound of birds puncturing the mist. And then it’s out into the patchwork of moorlands, back down into river valleys, dewy emerald fern lined forests, all inked in the midnight blue of 10pm.
The air felt released of pressure, and something plays in my mind, the distorted chords of nocturnal subversions. A dream being woken into a memory, into the present, and then back into memory, back into a dream. All these dreams surging forwards as a renaissance of that past, they were memories all along, and now they are the present too.
I am back in the South West.
I am back to where we were brought to begin again in 1989.
I am back in a forest, grazing my palms high grasses and glistening ferns.
I am blind in the lifting mists of dewy moors in their latent sunrise.
I am dancing on the splintered ragged and savaged cliffs.
I am knee deep in a real ocean’s salty spray of a real tyrannical deep.
I am pulled by the swell of the tide ripping at my ankles.
I am back back to the memories I swore I dreamt but were all distantly real.
I am back listening to a lonely song in my head in the wilderness.
I am in search of a sunrise.
I am back.
I spent between the age of 6 and 18 living in Devon and of course by extension we spent a lot of time in Cornwall and Somerset. This wasn’t just a passing thing, it seemed like almost every weekend we were out walking around the coast and the hills, on the moors. I spent much of my teenage years hiking, getting blisters, camping in wet clothes frozen in a damp tent on Dartmoor in March. I thought I hated it at the time, now I realise all of it was intrinsic to who I’ve become.
I still return to Devon very regularly but this trip down into Cornwall really stirred me, not only did it strike a chor, it pulled it viciously taught snapping my head back, and the mist cleared.
Despite being a very gregarious person, I love the sheer isolation of the wilderness. There is something intoxicatingly freeing about standing on a cliff edge in the bleak midwinter only just about seeing the sea and its stormy waves crashing into foam, there’s something settling about sitting on a tor not quite being able to see where you came from and where you’re going to.
Where all of this figures into my work is actually just how much I enjoy working in remote places. I love nothing more than shoots in those quiet places like Glencoe, Rannoch Moor, the Isle of Skye, the rugged coast of Cornwall, the west coast of Ireland, Forest of Bowland…I could go on, even places that are populous like the South Downs offer so much potential for true exploration.
It is so exhilarating when I get to work with couples in dramatic landscapes like these. The companionship, the shared adventure and sense of adventure. Working with couples passionate about film based photography too, the special way that film captures light and its subtle nuances. It’s an immense pleasure to be able to do this as my job. It’s the spectacular nature of the wilderness that sparks my imagination, that sees it in a very dream like way, like its a fantastical realm!
I can’t wait to share with you some recent work from Scotland and Cornwall soon that speaks to these very passions!
I am back…