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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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Medieval dowelling - an animal bone has been used as a dowel to bond stone together at St. Mary's in Sandwich. (Probably a sheep's bone).


'Taking pictures is savouring life intensly, every hundredth of a second.'

Marc Riboud


Between the pixel and the plaster

'The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera' Dorothea Lange

I'd forgive you if you thought I might be going a bit off the rails here but, over the years, I've realised that the human mind has a remarkable capacity to garner understanding and intuition by forming relationships with the inanimate things that surround us.

My photography seems to amplify the relationship.

Environmental psychologist, Lily Bernheimer, says that buildings and places communicate with us:

'....the dialogue of our built environment has parts of speech. But this language has window panes instead of letters and garden paths for punctuation. Once we learn the language we can use these letters to build words of rooms, the paragraphs of buildings and the books of towns and cities.'

From the buildings that I’ve photographed over the years, I’ve come to realise that there are certain visual combinations that give me a particular charge.

It’s difficult to explain, but my eyes seem to act like cruise missiles - spotting a potential target and then locking onto the detail. In Sandwich, Kent, as I’m walking through the town, it happens again. Once I see it, there’s a static charge between the subject and me that amps up when I start to compose it in my lens.

My lens is framing a flaky, worn out detail on an old timber building that holds a mingling of the things that appeal to me most: the archaeology; the modern intercessions; the silvered oak, the dowels and pluming nail stains. And then I see the mortar keys and lapsed lath; the geometric shapes, the negative and the positive, the imperfect render, the daub of brick in the shadows.

Myfanwy Evans wrote that the artist Paul Nash was fascinated by ‘the accumulated intenseness of the past as present,’ and in that vein, I notice the cobweb ends on the jettied beams, which in themselves hold a story.

Years nine to eleven were a good time for growth - I can sense the sunshine in those rings. In all the beams there are ripples with similar concentric patterns, they were neighbours in the woods as well as neighbours in the street. These walls are voiceful. They are appealing because they arise from 'the material logic of their immediate surroundings.'*

But, like the plaster behind the lath, there’s more that lies beneath. We have a tendency to form relationships with compositions (a photograph or a painting) that tell us something about ourselves.

Still waters run deep, for buried within my photograph, is something that resonates with me on so many levels.

It is here, between the pixels and the plaster, where the electric charge lies, where I am seeking without what lies within. As well as the story of the building, when you look closely at the themes running through the photograph, it holds within its framing a narrative that touches us on so many levels. It speaks of exposure, hardship, vulnerability, endurance, survival and, ultimately, the timeless continuity of the human spirit.

*Nikos Salinagros

'When gifts are given me through my camera, I accept them graciously.' Minor White.

I find that photography is an intuitive way to help with wellbeing. The best approach to photography (and any other arts based subject) is to develop ways of seeing. You can find more of my articles on ways of seeing below:

ways of seeing - Andy Marshall’s Genius Loci Digest
In the late 1990’s I had a breakdown that ultimately led me, through a journey that took me away from depression, to a new career in photography. What made all the grit of the dark days worthwhile was that I was left with something that felt like a pearl - a new way of seeing and interacting with things - more sensual, emotive and visual. These posts explore different ways of seeing and experiencing our world.

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Sandwich, Kent

Philip Gaches.

Size doesn't matter: Philip Gaches proudly bears his smallest float.

It would be no surprise to me if I walked into a Jacobean pile and found Philip Gaches had plastered himself into the strapwork and the pendants of the ceiling. He has such a deep rooted respect and understanding of the complex and nuanced art of traditional plastering.

I'm over in Sandwich working with Sisk Productions. Ken and Victor are lining up the cameras to record Philip and his team at work in a medieval house for their YouTube video series Wood, Stone and Steel.

As well as creating a new decorative ceiling, Phil is also teaching skilled plasterers about the fine details of his craft. He tells us that decorative ceilings were seen as cheap magnificence and that one of the first ceilings of its type was at Acton Court of 1480. Ceilings were firstly fashioned with wooden ribs and then plastered in-between and then painted.

Photo: Wooden ceiling at Lavenham (from my own library)

Pargeters (plasterers) then brought their technology and skill indoors to supplant the lengthy process of installing wood.

Phil is working from simple geometric shapes - but to transfer this to a wonky medieval room is the real skill.

✨Members can see a time lapse I took of Philip and his team putting the base plaster on the lath and then marking out the geometry here:

Time lapse video of the Sandwich Ceiling from platering to laying out the geometry
The church is a wonderful example of C15th-C16th perpendicular architecture and, in the early morning light, presents itself like a richly inlaid jewellery box.

To shape the ribs they use a wooden mould.

Whilst I watch progress (we make a second visit on the final day) I notice how much the ceiling brings the room to life.

Philip and the Wolf

And then it happens - a moment I've always imagined but never experienced.

Whilst I'm visiting historic locations across the country I get to see patterns in the decoration: a particular style of mould, or a newly introduced device.

Sometimes I'm able to record with my camera the slow spread of an idea or a style across the country, say from London to Manchester or Edinburgh to Carlisle. Ideas move across the country like blossom in the spring.

Until Sandwich I had never seen the 'live' transference of an idea. During a break, I overheard Philip talking to the other plasterers about a decorative item to be added to the ceiling. They were to install a wolf motif and there was much deliberation about how it should be styled.

'We'll take the basic motif from a house I finished in the Cotswolds ' said Philip

'It looks a bit sharp - we'll soften it around the edges.' said another.

And there it was - the jump from Gloucestershire to Kent - and then, perhaps, to be used in the locales of the other plasterers attending that day.

The seeding and spread of an idea.

✨ Members can see a beautiful VR 360 image of the ceiling part way thr0ugh installation here (viewable on any device):

Be there: Installing a traditional ceiling by Philip Gaches
We’re inside a medieval building with panelled walls - the scene is part way through the installation of a traditional ceiling with decorative ribwork and motifs.

The Buildings of Sandwich

Sandwich is a psycho-geographer's delight. A stroll in any direction reveals a rich tapestry of both vernacular and polite buildings.

Sandwich was one of the Cinque Ports, and was a major port for the wool trade with the Continent in the middle ages

St. Peter's

The gorgeous onion dome of St. Peter's can be seen from all over the town. The church originates in the C13th with additions most centuries after that. It has a marvellous medieval crown post roof and a C13th crypt - thought to have been a charnel house.

For me, the delight of St. Peter's is the dutch-gabled vestry - it was possibly used as a chapel for Dutch Protestants in the mid C16th - thus the local Dutch vernacular.

Fisher Gate

Fisher Gate (below) is the only original town gate that survives - and is a scheduled ancient monument. The lower portion dates to 1348 and the top section with diaper work is a mere pup at 1578.

Richborough House - What Lies Beneath.

I'm so glad I approached this house from the side street. From there it slowly revealed its personality, and also, intriguingly - a connection with other countries that spans thousands of miles and two different continents.

Here is a ghost facade of delightful texture with limestone rubble and flint with the outline of the gable on view. The triangular shapes are known as brick tumbling. The only place I've seen it before is in the East Riding (and North Lincolnshire). It shows how much the east of England was connected to the vernacular traditions of Europe. These buildings are both English and European.

Compare with the 'brick tumbling' of the Friary at Beverley, East Riding in Yorkshire, below:

And just like Philip's wolf - it seems that these things spread upon the wind - or in this case - upon the sails: for this tradition can also be seen in Hudson Valley, New York. From Europe to England to the USA.

Old Dutch Gable
An old Dutch gable complete with old Dutch vrouw gazing miserably from the window. Albany County, New York, 1930’s. The form of brick course on the gable is known as ‘mouse-tooth’ and is found primarily in Holland, East Anglia, and the Hudson Valley of New York, though also here and there in the

Step around the corner and the wonky old vernacular of the gable is gone. The front of Richborough House is all polite and Georgian. An upgrade.

But, above the front door, with all its carefully orchestrated hierarchy, is a clue as to what lies beneath: a medieval timber framed building with herringbone brick nogging. One is an 'international style' found all over the world and the other is the local vernacular - specific to this place, with bricks fired from clay tugged up from the earth nearby.

Pure Scroll (no words) - More buildings of Sandwich

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.


Plasterers of Historic Buildings Since 1948
‘Nothing has really changed’: letters from 1719 reveal familiar worries of London life
From expensive rent to efforts to keep up with fashion, a young man’s missives on display in Cumbria are relatable to today
St Peter’s Church, Sandwich, Kent
A landmark church that still rings a curfew. A church from our finest shortlist.


Time lapse video of the Sandwich Ceiling from platering to laying out the geometry
The church is a wonderful example of C15th-C16th perpendicular architecture and, in the early morning light, presents itself like a richly inlaid jewellery box.
Be there: Installing a traditional ceiling by Philip Gaches
We’re inside a medieval building with panelled walls - the scene is part way through the installation of a traditional ceiling with decorative ribwork and motifs.
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4 Confirmed Sites for Member Powered Photography!

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  1. Pembrokeshire
  2. North Yorkshire
  3. Monmouthshire
  4. Devon

🎉 🙌 We reached 120 Members which means another site is available for free Member Powered Photography.

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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.