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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain interacting with special places. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.

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Light expelling the darkness: a singular point of light at Salisbury Cathedral.


'We hunger for artworks that will compensate for our inner fragilities and help return us to a viable mean. We call a work beautiful when it supplies the virtues we are missing, and we dismiss as ugly one that forces on us moods or motifs that we feel either threatened or already overwhelmed by. Art holds out the promise of inner wholeness.'

Alain de Botton, John Armstrong: Art as Therapy


The Smithy

I’m out again with Sisk Productions and we’re being subject to an intense act of ice cold focus against a backdrop of hammered heat and intensity. To my embarrassment (at the expense of the filming), I shout out and ask the hot-iron wielding incumbent to repeat his work over and over again, whilst I try and capture a photograph of something I’d seen.

Bob Garlick, an exceptionally talented Blacksmith based in the Derbyshire Dales near Buxton, is having none of it. Politely, he tries to re-create the process, but, as is always the case with innately gifted artists - he can’t fully replicate his work unless there is an honesty behind it.

What I’d seen, whilst Bob was working a piece of iron between the forge and anvil, was something in the heat of the moment that sparked a memory from deep within, and I was frantically trying to ensnare the memory with a barrage of photographs.

I’m sharing this story to convey my profound astonishment that the creative process can quietly unfold in the backdrop of one's life, independent of any deliberate intervention, ultimately yielding a beacon of hope for the future.

Later, whilst looking through the images I’d taken of Bob, I came across a photograph that brought a memory back to the surface. It was something to do with the receding pin of light and the glow on his face.

My breakdown fogged out much of my memory that preceded it, and since that day, photography hasn’t just been a way of making a living, but a method of self-discovery. Every now and then, I find within the dynamics of an image an impression of who I am: my hopes, my fears, and dreams; but also, intriguingly, references to my past. The images come about from a felt sense during a moment rather than an orchestrated composition. It isn’t the first time it has happened. I’ve had the same feeling before, during certain times under certain light conditions. I refer to these emotive photographs as my spark images.

'Since the day of my breakdown, photography hasn’t just been a way of making a living, but a method of self-discovery.'

Until recently, what I hadn’t done was to put the spark images together. When I did, I realised that they all had common traits. These photographs were part of my inner archaeology, and I soon realised that each photograph was helping me unravel the knots of a difficult past towards a sense of peace and stillness.

I imagine that people go about their lives with such subconscious renderings never being resolved - the key to resolution relying upon a chance meeting or a near-impossible discovery. But my spark images developed a voicefulness that kept talking me back to the start of it all.

It was photographing the Gothic marvel of Beverley Minster at dawn that began my journey. At Beverley there was something in the ruddy light (the same as at Bob’s Smithy) that brought about the strands of a recollection.

Beverley Minster, East Riding, Yorkshire

Other photographs were born from a felt sense of connecting with a place - one at Hopwood Hall captured a spindle of light amongst the dereliction, and others followed in the Cheesden Valley, Harnham Water Meadows and the Isle of Skye.

Hopwood Hall, Greater Manchester

Closer and closer these images brought me closer to a fleeting sense of myself, until finally, amidst the mundanity of a cluttered living room, I found an image on a book from my childhood that bolted me to the ground. Not a grand tome written by a revered philosopher, but a crumpled paperback called 'Everyday Life In Anglo-Saxon Times.'

I remember, as a child, being mesmerised by the image on the book. I’d marvel at the way the light had been portrayed - figures backlit, resonant and glowing. This was the ultimate spark image, the stepping stone to my final destination. The ruddy glow of the conqueror’s blaze stirred something inside that took me to a place of harmony from the pockets of my past: the faint outline of a room lit by a coal fire.

This labyrinth of optical prompts had transported me into the front room of my grandmother’s house - a place where I spent many hours as a child. I found myself hovering within a particular moment in time, crouched in front of the fire, hypnotised by the ambient glow of the coals. In the distance, through an open door, there was the silhouette of nan looking out of a window at grandad in the garden beyond.

What I’d discovered was the source of my creativity, my leitmotif, my creative colostrum. Anchored to home and hearth, nurtured from within the embers of a coal fire - the recollection now as clear as day : a child sat fixated for hours, watching and absorbing a haven of golden light that was slowly redacting, eddying and converging. When the coals turned to ash and the embers dissipated one by one, there appeared - piercing my retina and folding it deep within my memory - a singular point of light.

And so, Bob Garlick’s forge, prompted by a vivid memory triggered by a visual cue, had taken on the myth and majesty of Wayland’s Smithy.

After a debilitating period in my life that threw up a wall against my childhood, the instinctive and creative act of photography helped me return to a place of comfort and security that I thought I’d lost forever.

There’s something deep inside us that has the power to regenerate our lives.

Take Photographs Of Your Feelings.

The Arts have really made a difference to my life - especially photography.

Photography helped me understand my condition and come to terms with difficulties from the past - not only that - but it has helped me flourish, be happy and content.

Here's some more of my words on the power of photography and observation in the hope that you might take up the camera and start to take photographs of your feelings.

Light Sculpting
I work with patience and knowing. The years of failure have steadied my resolve and, as I weave through the gorse with my camera and tripod, my mind threads between the past and the present.
The First Camera
For those moments, something miraculous had happened. During the action required to take a photograph, I had let go of my anxious self. From that day onwards, the veil of depression lifted. Photographing the priory had released me from my mental prison.
☀️ Eustace Collection: Wells Cathedral Light Refinery
Across a building extruded from the Triassic and Jurassic this isn’t just a parable of faith, but also the story of the cosmos itself and our part in it.

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Bob Garlick's Smithy

Once again I'm out with Ken Sisk and Victor Silverio from Sisk Productions (USA) filming some of Britain's traditional crafts for a series called Wood, Stone and Steel. Ben Naylor from Jack Badger is also with us - he has a close working relationship with Bob.

Ken has a way with people and is a natural in front of the camera, whilst Victors attention to detail is mesmerising. As well as working with them, I'm observing and learning so much from them.

And yes, when I first saw Bob's coming to meet us from his brooding gaff, I did think of a particular quote from a particular film:

"I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for ransom I can tell you I don't have money, but what I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you."

But, Bob Garlick's forge is magical rather than threatening - full of the tools of the trade, many of which, have been fashioned by Bob. This place is a visual palimpsest of an artisan craftsman that could be from any period.

It represents the accumulation of materials over the period of an artists working life - much like my spark image matrix. In that way, for me, it is a museum, art gallery and workshop all in one.

Bob in all his humility from his humble forge has produced some of the most beautiful decorative items that adorn some of our greatest historic buildings.

And the item he was making on the day? He gave me a cast off as a gift for Woody - but the rest became part of a sunburst decoration on a door (with a medullary ray that sings) in the Cotswolds.

The Three Stags' Heads, Wardlow, Buxton, Derbyshire.

It was a bitterly cold day when we filmed Bob at work. Ben Naylor's suggestion that we reside to a local pub was heartily received, but it wasn't as local as I expected and we reached it via a labrynth of roads.

It's always the case that places like the Three Stags' Heads can only be accessed by a dream state of winding lanes; for, beyond the roughcast, this place is the closest anybody can come to time travel.

The interior retains the domestic scale of the mid C18th farmhouse that it once was.

A wonderful photograph on the wall of a previous landlord exudes the atmosphere of the place.

There is a spirit here (other than the one's on tap)- a genius loci that is rare to find other than in the Peaks.

And, of course, we were regaled by a little folk music.

But, perhaps the biggest instigator of the bonhomie in the room was something that was found within the walls when they punched a hole through to create a door.

A mummified cat

A mummified cat was thought to be used as protective measure to bless the buildings and all that pass through it.


Woody is our base and transport and has temporarily become the base for all the film gear.

Van Life Gallery
My van, Woody, is my time-travelling machine, taking me to some remarkable places that have altered my mind like wine through water.



Barendina is a subscriber to the digest and has written a wonderful article for The Critic on artist Eric Ravilious.

The Boy who never grew old | Barendina Smedley | The Critic Magazine
This article is taken from the March 2024 issue of The Critic. To get the full magazine why not subscribe? Right now we’re offering five issues for just £10. In the instructive tale of Eric Ravilious’…
Cosmic cleaners: the scientists scouring English cathedral roofs for space dust
Mini missions are being launched amid the spires – a haven for dust particles that may contain clues about the cosmos and the early Earth
Vandalism on rise at historic English sites amid cost of living crisis – report
Graffiti at medieval church and removal of York stone from bridge among incidents cited


Bob Garlick's Hammer and Anvil

and a particular set of skills...


York Minster Residency

Members can follow my process and backstory at York Minster from the 24th March (Palm Sunday) until the 27th March here:

York Minster during Holy Week - Members Only
Save the page and come back for some insider shots of the Minster during one of its most important times of the year.

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In essence I’m offering my professional services for free to historic locations in Britain.

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Digest Membership Sponsor: Leisuredrive Campervans Ltd.
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What have Peanuts, Bruce Springsteen and the Isle of Wight got in common?

Ken Sisk's first film from his series Wood Stone & Steel is now available on YouTube - about a Stone Church in the USA that has strong links to the Isle of Wight.

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Photographs and words by Andy Marshall (unless otherwise stated). Most photographs are taken with Iphone 14 Pro and DJI Mini 3 Pro.