It was a busy celebrity news morning at channel Good Day Tulsa. And not only were the cops looking for JLo’s ex-husband and the country’s super couple moving their family to Vegas, there was another, uh, celebrity showbiz item…
It’s been a long time coming – this piece never did appear online, and neither Michelle nor I could even get a response from Good Day Tulsa, never mind secure the clip itself – so this week Michelle, who couldn’t copy this from her recorder, propped her iPhone in front of the TV and recorded her When The Land Meets The Sea interview, which took place the day after I left Oklahoma. [So pleased to finally be able to see this! Hope some of you enjoy it, too. I think she did a great job. And was probably helped considerably by my absence: the ‘British photographer’ mumbling in the corner with his eyes caught in the studio headlights!]
This will probably be my last post relating to the work that culminated in this summer’s extraordinary adventure to America. So, I thought it would be nice to round off Where The Land Meets The Sea : Together Alone The Artist & The Photographer with these final words.
Much to my horror, I found that Michelle had committed us to an Artist Talk for our first night show opening. Rather like the mere thought of appearing on live television, the talk mostly had me waking up in the small hours in a cold sweat, as me and talking to a roomful of people largely go together like polar bears and babysitting: it could all too easily go horrifically wrong!
Finally, on the day of the show itself, just hours before the opening, fear and panic rising, I decided to write all those small hour snatches down. So, while a degree of spontaneity in my delivery was potentially lost at sea, at least I wasn’t knocked out of the boat by a freak wave and eaten by a shark! And… I still have it, here, in my little moleskin book. So, this is an insight into me, into where Where The Land Meets The Sea was born, before meeting Michelle, who took it to an entirely different level; to an entirely different audience:
My life was very different when all this began about 20 years ago. I was a Construction Project Surveyor and a committed amateur sportsman – an often hectic, yet happy life.
Then I made a strange decision, and this guy came into me and my wife’s life. Absolutely crazy. What made me do that?
And then, about four months after Bracken came along, I was taken quite seriously ill. Suddenly, from being someone who was in possession of a full and active life, I was home, completely isolated; had Bracken not been there, I think I would’ve gone quietly insane. And that became our special bond.
So… How did I repay that bond? Well, about a year later, I put him in a kennel and disappeared to Canada for a month!
I thought about him a lot, during that time. We both did. And when we eventually returned home we both felt so guilty we booked a cottage in the middle of nowhere amidst some gloriously deserted coastline. I still recall the blissful isolation of that holiday – out of season, in an English October. And we never left these shores again. For the past 20 years, first Bracken, then Willow, it’s been out of season deserted coastlines all the way. In fact, this is the first time I’ve even been on a plane in those 20 years. And, through all this time, I wasn’t actually taking many photographs at all; just simple holiday memories.
I’m essentially more known for my street photography work. I saw an Elliott Erwitt retrospective exhibition in London in 1994. It proved to be a gateway drug to the likes of Robert Frank, Alfred Stieglitz, Henri Cartier-Bresson and ‘The Decisive Moment’. And that’s what I did. I took pictures of people. There aren’t any people along the gloriously deserted coastline, so I didn’t take any photos.
Then, something else strange happened. Some time in the late 90’s, I completely fell out of love with the medium – and barely took a photograph for more than a decade. I increasingly found myself talking about my photography in the past tense.
Through most of my life I’ve written diaries and journals – the latter quite extensively from the mid-80’s and throughout the following decade or so. I very occasionally read back through some of them and, about three years ago – coinciding with my embracing of the photographic medium again following my switch to digital – I read the line: I find a piece of my soul every time I visit the sea. And I set myself the challenge, to capture that feeling. But how?
I’ve always been a great admirer of a few contemporary, classical British landscape photographers: David Noton, Paul Wakefield and Ed Collacott. Who, much in the same way that Ansel Adams once did in Yosemite National Park, would lug their large format cameras and tripods through the landscape. But I didn’t want to do that. And, more importantly, as beautiful as their work is, I didn’t want to make purely pictorial images. I wanted to try and capture that mood, that emotion.
So, I travelled light: Nikon D300 and 18-200mm zoom lens. I would generally only take images at a certain time: the golden hour [or overcast days]. I couldn’t be too choosy, as this would usually only happen one week/year! But I still wasn’t happy with what I had. I wasn’t feeling the work.
The epiphany moment came one day when I began adding some textures to my work – desaturating colours and pushing the contrast. Again, working relatively quickly using skills associated with more traditional darkroom skills in the new digital processing medium, I began to innately feel when I’d got it right, both in my head, and my heart: the soul I was attempting to capture.
Somewhat ironically, with many people drawn to my street photography, the majority of this work, when posted online, has been largely ignored. At least, that was until one day, about 18 months ago, when Michelle suddenly dropped a beautiful comment on my Flickr stream. She seemed to immediately pick up on that emotional resonance. She really got it. [And I know Michelle is going to tell you a little bit about that – some of which she restates in the above TV interview.]
And now, for me, to have been able to have witnessed the evolution of this work through her eyes has been a truly humbling experience. And has added so many layers to this expression of feeling. And although it’s been a relatively short time for Michelle, what you’re seeing is something that has been gestating, seemingly almost waiting for this moment, for some 20 years. And if someone had told me, even a couple of years ago, that this journey, this adventure, would wind up with me standing here…
And it all began because of a cocker spaniel called Bracken.