One that got away

Landscapes and light lines


Tree trunks I, diptych, 2011

Of the various images I have sold copies of these past few days, the one above is the one I'm particularly pleased about. 

A discerning customer in the US has bought a canvas print of it - and unwittingly becomes the first person to have acquired the first example of a new departure in my photographic work.

With hindsight I can see that I began thinking along these lines (as it were), and working on these photographs, some time ago. They are a convergence of various key ideas:

  • I have always liked lines in landscapes, the incongruous juxtaposition of straight edge and fractal - as typified by, for example, architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house. 
  • Photography is ultimately about light. This is so obvious it may seem banal but is worth restating, as so many people seem to think that framing a scenic view is what constitutes a landscape - whereas without good or suitable or dramatic light, it is at best just a postcard. The essence is the light.
  • So, why not reduce the landscape image to its essence, in lines of light?  

Two works illustrate the way these thoughts have been developing. The first, Tree Lines I (below), depicts a line of trees in silhouette on the edge of a lake - in fact the sea loch, Loch Linnhe, in the west of Scotland.


Tree lines I, 2011

The scene was virtually monochrome to begin with, as shot; the pattern of light and waves in the foreground water lent itself to an extrusion into lines.  I freely acknowledge this as my own response to others’ efforts to scrape or ‘smudge’ elements of a suitable digital image into lateral lines. My own technique is different and I prefer it. 

The second work I would identify as central to my thinking is the one at the top of this post, Tree trunks I. I took this, predominantly vertical, representation of a pine wood and distilled it by abstracting a line through it that picks out all the various colours and tones. The natural and abstract images each stand alone quite readily, but work best side-by-side I feel.

The initial abstraction of Tree Trunks was essentially (not entirely) random. I have since pondered taking the image apart, one line of pixels at a time, and rendering each line into a separate abstraction. These could then stand as a series of some 3,000 discrete images (the original is a 3,296 pixel high crop). I may be getting ahead of myself - but I shall make more of these, because I'm fascinated to see what comes out

Reeds-266x400Thinking about it, Reeds in the mist (right), which I made a year ago, naturally prefigures all this. It is a figurative image that I especially liked precisely because it is so naturalistically abstract.

Now, I'm no historian of photography or art but even I can understand that other people have been here before. I can see that this might be a form of geometric abstraction in a long line through Mondrian and Bridget Riley, for instance. I don't know how Bridget Riley's work has evolved - I shall find out - but to me it doesn't matter because I got here independently, which is what interests me, or as independently as anyone can who functions in a highly visual world. 

All this thinking predated the record-breaking sale of Andreas Gursky's The Rhine II. I did not know that image until it hit the headlines, but I have to say I love it; I find it mesmerising. If you've persevered this far you can probably see why I might. 


Talking of sales, which is where this post began, I've just had an unusually good week. It is peculiarly gratifying when people come along, by whatever route, and buy something that you have created - and I am duly grateful. 

So I'll end with a photograph I made on a very unpromising morning on the north east coast of England. I had gone to Saltburn by the Sea - which is where I grew up, as it happens - to see what the dawn would be like. Not hugely interesting, in fact, because of the relentless 'grey duvet' that had descended on the landscape and stayed throughout my visit to the area, in September. 

But, looked at optimistically, there was a certain liquid charm in the early morning light. I made a few photographs overlooking the shoreline, and a few more half way along Saltburn's pier - just at the line where the limpid little waves began flopping onto the beach.

One of them, looking up the coast towards Teesside's industrial outpourings, has just been bought by somebody - which makes me very happy, because it's a subtle image and I'm glad they appreciated it. I hope they like it when the print arrives. You can find it here in my Photo4me portfolio.


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