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I'm an architectural photographer. I travel around Britain recording and interacting with special places that have a spirit about them. I work from my camper van called Woody and I share my experiences via this digest.
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Hexham Abbey: this tomb to a Roman standard bearer is around 2000 years old and shows the mounted Flavinus riding over a barbarian. It reads: Here Lies Flavinus A Horse Rider of the Cavalry Regiment of Petriana Standard Bearer of the Troop of Candidus Aged 25, of 7 Years’ Service.
I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley
Walking with Romans.
The moor at Mastiles is a vast undulating expanse of green, pinned down by shake holes. Around these parts, I am hands in with the flat-earthers - for there is nothing here that hints at the curve of the earth.
I feel like a fly upon a finely upholstered seat. Cut into the knap is a snaking ribbon of a lane, that, in terms of deep time (the time that percolates through the gnarl and gneist laid down in the ice age), is a late arrival.
This is the kind of lane where I can sense those that have walked before me. It is set so high and wuthering that the membrane to the past is permeable. Like the Gore-Tex on my jacket, this membrane is breathable - it allows a kind of communion with the past.
"This is the kind of lane where I can sense those that have walked before me."
After an hour of walking, I'm caught up in this place so much, that I feel as though I'm standing still and the Roman road is moving beneath me; as if I were on a great stage with rollers beneath. Each step moves the landscape rearwards, and draws down bilious clouds from fluffy heights above me. As if to affirm my stage-set prediliction, a charm of goldfinches roll along in front of me, flitting amongst the teasel for a half mile, or so.
On days like this I'm reminded of Rebecca Solnit's words:
"The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. This creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making. And so one aspect of the history of walking is the history of thinking made concrete — for the motions of the mind cannot be traced, but those of the feet can."
Mastiles lane was first built by the Romans - a route of dominion that is cut in two by the rectangular mound of a Roman camp, the bounds of which can still be seen. The plan reveals the mindset: tightly measured geometry branded on top of a seething organic moor. It is an algorithm of sorts: a pre-ordained equation of intent. The same might be said for the walls and setts that furnish the road, which were added a thousand years later by the Cistercians from Fountains Abbey, for dominion over the flock.
And what of my generation's dominion?
After some thought, whilst stood next to God's mortise, I find the answer on my device. I look at a satellite map of the area where I'm stood. Set on top of the map are incisions from my own time. It's another piece of geometry upon the Roman square and the medieval rectangle, but this time it's digital.
My device is both a distraction and a revelation. It marks my presence upon the moor with invisible lines and tells others of my journey. I think of how impressive my digital age is - how far we have come. Then I think of the Romans and how they thought themselves superior above all others, and then I think of the Cistercians and how they subjugated this land in the name of God. Then I think of Ozymandias.
I switch my device off, put it away and shake myself down as if to shed my digital skin. I become human. My hubris is nothing next to places like this where, like developing a photograph in chemicals, the tangible world around me is revealed little by little, in fits and starts, in air and sound, in colour and tone, in texture and taste.
After the isolation of the moor at Malham I visit Grassington and it's alive!
Grassington is dancing - it is the 1940's weekend, and I take it all in but, instead of feeling elevated, I feel a moment of retrospection. It is here in front of the 1940’s revellers that I realise that there is still something being held back.
After all we’ve been through, the horrors of the pandemic and Ukraine and the environment, I’m finding it difficult to let myself go and enjoy something for its own sake.
And then it happens.
The frivolity and energy of the spectacle before me (rent large against my pent up reserve), moves its way through my body in waves of emotion until, after a short while, it gathers pace and resolves itself into a solitary tap of my left foot.
“There”, I think to myself, “for me that’s the official end to the isolation of the pandemic. “
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I lodge the van in a nook of a hill that straddles between Malham and Grassington. I pitch up the rear awning and drive away tent.
Wherever I go, I always adopt a building to photograph. There is a longhouse behind me, and I watch it change in the light throughout my stay.
I throw the drone up to try and get a sense of the landscape around me.
Of course, the first thing I do is to get a new perspective on my adopted building: the longhouse..
This is such a beautiful part of our world, dotted with farmsteads and field barns.
Members can view Wharfedale (try and spot Woody) in glorious virtual reality (taken from my drone) by clicking the box below:
The mornings are bright and the coffee is good.
On the way here I stocked up at the Keelham farm shop near Skipton.
Needless to say, I ate well.
I don't often show the other side of my work - the commercial and commissioned work. Here's some photography that I took in January in Chipping Campden. Now being used in a case study:
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