A sense of place
I live and work in Uplyme, a small rural village just over the Devon / Dorset border from the resort of Lyme Regis, in southwest England. I earn my living as a parish clerk, technical writer and web designer, but pottery and photography are an important part of my life, fulfilling my creativity in a way that sitting at the computer doesn’t. In this article, I explain why I spend so much time taking local photos, rather than looking for new locations.
I’m really interested in photographing my home ground, and feel that there’s a lot to be said for exploring familiar territory for fresh images rather than frantically travelling in search of the new. At one time, people lived in, and were intimately familiar, with their home village or town. But in today’s hectic Western lifestyle, the idea of making the most of one’s immediate surroundings seems to have been largely lost. I like the idea that I can build up a detailed record of life in my small corner of the world, and along the way, get some images that may please other people as well.
Sometimes, I may wait days or weeks for the perfect light, tide or sky to present itself – but the reward for my patience is in seeing a photograph where everything I wanted comes together. I’m used to odd looks from visitors in Lyme as I crouch on the beach or stand braced against the wind on the Cobb wall, camera glued to eye awaiting the right wave.
This approach has also helped me develop what I hope is a distinctive style. I can take the time to explore my favourite themes: the beauty of arable fields throughout the year, the ever-changing reflections of light on the sea, beach huts and seaside caravans, or inexplicable objects washed up on the beach for example. By confining myself to small areas, I’m forced to look hard at what is there and see the possibilities that might be passed up by the casual observer.
I’m well aware that my photos only capture one element of a location – a pale imitation at best. When I’m taking a photograph, I have all my senses to appreciate the place. I can hear the wind soughing in the corn and the lark singing overhead, smell the buttery scent of ripening meadow hay or the iodine tang of seaweed, taste windblown sea salt on my face, or feel the beach pebbles shifting under my feet.
You can only see my visual interpretation of the scene – but I hope my images can be the starting point for your imagination. And, if you have visited my part of the world, perhaps they will be pleasant mementos of your stay here.