I've lately been pondering why I make landscape photos, and thinking through some of the things which I see and feel, in those depictions. Somehow it almost sounds concerning. I look often for landscapes which represent, mystery, loneliness, something which I might call for now 'emkemptness' (or at least verging on it), and something of the elementary forces of nature. Much of my work is done in the winter - or at least the work that really means something to me, and which touches me inside (which must be one of the main reasons why artists create anything, I postulate!).
But it's not all about things and places which are forgotten, abandoned, without hope. No, looking through much of my work, the pictures which I love most often also depict some pointers to the struggles at the margins of human existence on the Earth, where anthropogenic endeavour, and the forces of nature meet. I guess I’m interested in the ways in which we use, inhabit, exist in the natural world, and the ways that we shape our environment, and are shaped by it.
I know that when I travel in the Moroccan Atlas Mountains, the places that hold my interest and fascination the most are not the mountains themselves (where our human influence is most limited), but the inhabited valleys. These are still wild in their ways, albeit also tamed, in other ways. People have created, diverted, and channelled watercourses to stream irrigation runnels to water their crops of barley, walnuts, almonds. In the Atlas mountains these little channels resemble the famed acequias of Andalucia, and may contour a mountain for many miles before the water finally gets 'used' (I use inverted commas here, because I am not certain that is the right word - it almost feels as though borrowed may be more appropriate in the context of the environment of the Atlas mountains!). But it is somehow of import to me that those watercourses still give away some leaked water – human endeavour goes so far, but nature also takes something back.
I get a similar feeling when I gaze upon many of our very own, British, ancient trees. The wooded pasture of Hatfield Forest in Essex is a product of human endeavour, and the ancient trees within it are a product of this. So, enormous pollards stand tall and stand proud - wild in their way, but only as a result of having been actively managed in days gone by. Thus they have a formed compact crown from which their magnificent life-force of growth emanates. Natural beauty grows from human-induced cuts.
Recently, though I have been spending time in the marches, and the Welsh country around the Brecon Beacons. Amongst my favourite places in Britain, I love it for the mixture of wilderness and human endeavour. I particularly love at the moment the ancient hedge-wall-banks (or, perhaps almost easier to pronounce, Cloddiau) for this same reason. Once upon a time, perhaps thousands of years ago, people built those banks from what was available at the time, They formed them around a 'drystoned' wall built up with earth. Some of them are likely to have been about since the late Neolithic. An amazing over 80% of all flowering species in Wales have been found on these banks – and this surely represents one of the very best of human endeavour and nature coming together! For me they often look forgotten, lonely as they tramp across empty raggedy grassed fields, dotted with the occasional wildly-leaning windblown thorn. There's something forlorn about these old boundary markers. But something compact, solid, rounded and almost, warming, about their presence. And for me right now, there's something about them that touches me deep inside, and thus, for me at least, excites me, and inspires me to my photography.