Northumberland

Posted on April 25, 2015

16


I have just returned from a few days photographing the landscape of Northumberland. The focus was on its coast line. I must say I enjoyed the place a great deal. Northumberland’s coast line is steeped in the history of the many conflicts which have been enacted there. The many castles were defences against invading Vikings and Scots and Northumberland was for a long time a bastion of Catholicism standing out against Protestant England.

I went to Northumberland to enjoy being in the landscape and freedom of expression photographically. It was a great experience and would certainly go back there again some time…not sure if I will though.

A few days is not long enough to do anything other than make exploratory work. My approach to photography these days is firmly rooted in developing a conceptual basis for my projects and in producing images in series. A number of themes did start to develop as I allowed myself free expression.

The first and very obvious theme (cliche even) was to photograph the coastline itself with its rugged shores and castles. Dawn and sunset were also obvious times to do this when the drama of the place is enhanced through the light. Here are three images in this vein…

Hunstanburgh Castle at Dawn.

Hunstanburgh Castle at Dawn.

Bamburgh Castle at sunset

Bamburgh Castle at Sunset

Towards Holy Island at Sunset

Towards Holy Island at Sunset

These photographs are eye candy, but I still enjoy the experience of being in these places at such times. The sunset in the last photograph was quite breathtaking. Arguably I might have better experienced the event if I had simply sat and watched the after-effects of the setting sun, but as a photographer I find it impossible to stop myself from trying to capture the image…

The second set is more of an exploration of place. The place in question is the beach at Spital, on the south side of Berwick. It is a curious and fascinating place with stratified red sandstone rock. On the day I took the photographs it was foggy with soft light, adding an etherial quality and enabling me to simplify the images. Spital is a place to which I would return time and again, but the likelihood of this is quite low given that it is 300 miles from home. The images I made are about a ‘sense of place’. I can see how these few images could be developed into a series exploring my emotional response to the place.

Spital -1 Spital -2 Spital -3The images have a softness and consistency that I like. I would not title these images, preferring to allow them to speak for themselves. As a series the work might be prefaced by a simple text. I am not sure what this might be. I have a sense that it might be poetic, emphasising the lyrical nature of the images, and the place itself.

The final idea I had is more conceptually based. I was struck by the liminality of the coast. There are transitions between marram grass and beach, beach and sea, rocks and sea and so on. I became interested in how this liminality might serve as a metaphor for transitions in life more broadly. I have not resolved what my underlying concept might be, and would be interested in how others might interpret these images…Such is the nature of conceptual work.

Liminal Places 1

Liminal Places 1

Liminal Places 2

Liminal Places 2

Liminal Places 3

Liminal Places 3

Liminal Places 4

Liminal Places 4

The aesthetic of these images is high key, simple and understated, drawing attention to the transition between marram grass and beach/sea and sand.  The lines of the grass are echoed in the shadows and striations on the sand, implying [to me] that in life’s transitions some things change, but others continue on. The sea and sand merge into one another as our lives move seamlessly from one state to another.

A thoroughly worthwhile break and a place to which I would readily return.

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