When I wrote and posted my previous introduction for the initial ‘edition’ of my Essex album back in June, we were around half way through the long hot summer of 2018.
It was spectacular and, as far as my memory goes, the purest and longest summer I had experienced since 1976. It had a massive impact on the scenery that I regularly visit on my dog walks and was indeed the freak weather that I referred to when largely ripping into Essex in the initial version of my overall website intro (not any more though I hasten to add).
Actually, when I posted the first intro it had been my intention to incorporate photos from Suffolk as well but I abandoned that as an idea early-doors as it felt and feels like Essex is quite enough on its own and has turned out to be a better and more logical ‘fit’ with what you might loosely call my project.
So, what you will find here is just Essex, albeit (largely prompted by the freak summer) split into seasons…and one significant place.
The fundamental reason behind this album has remained the same over the last 6 months or 7 months (I’m writing this on New Year’s Day 2019) – in the prolonged absence of any of our ‘big trips’ to more dramatic locations, it was a wish to challenge myself to find a different type of photography, both in terms of subject and technique / style. I recognise that, in a way, it’s become too ‘easy’ (relatively speaking) for me to take big-hitting, slow-shutter speed photos on remote dusk or sunset kissed beaches (sucker though I am for those) and I needed to both make myself work at it more and to find a way of turning the arguably mundane into something more special.
I was more driven to do this when I was reading the June 2018 edition of my photo magazine of choice (‘Outdoor Photography’) and I came across an article and photos by Darren Ciolli-Leach that caught my attention with its reference to how Darren ‘wasn’t frightened of examining the commonplace in search of a deeper beauty…there are no famous landmarks in his landscapes, no people, no clichés…’.
I extensively checked out his website (www.darrenciollileach.com) and I found much of his work both compelling and inspirational in its simplicity and lack of huge drama – I thoroughly recommend you give it a look.
So, it made me think about both my approach to photography and my approach (prejudice you might say) towards the relatively low-key landscapes that surround me in Essex.
I’ve lived in Essex my whole life so far (60 years no less) and, since I first started photography in earnest, I haven’t really devoted much attention to it at all, largely because of (I admit it) that self-same prejudice that it was nothing but boring and un-inspiring scenery-wise.
However, my opinion has shifted pretty radically now and this is down to two major factors.
The first, and most significant of all, was down to my discovering how well the deliberate blurring of photos (ICM as it’s popularly known – Intentional Camera Movement) worked for me in terms of achieving the kind of ‘ethereal’ and impressionistic look that I craved and took the most satisfaction from. This may be a throwback to my distant interest in painting and, especially, to my love of the work of Turner.
The second was down to the edges of the River Blackwater between Tollesbury and Heybridge (taking in, particularly, Goldhanger and Osea Island) and the many, and long, walks I did with my long-suffering dogs on the sea-wall there over the Christmas / New Year period of 2018/19.
What dawned on me, in a kind of photographic epiphany, was that, with a bit of fortune via weather and tide, the place is stunningly beautiful; there might not be mountains or vast beaches, and there might be a lot of marsh and mud-flats, but it is unique, very wild and strangely spectacular in its own right.
So, what that all means in terms of this Essex album is that it is split into 3 parts; Summer, Autumn / Winter and, because it deserves its own recognition, Osea / Goldhanger / Tollesbury December 2018.
I must admit, in terms of giving the latter their own ‘mini-album’, I like the parallel with the only other place that, so far, I have felt deserved a similar privilege; Cable Beach in Broome WA. The two places are, in almost every single way, diametrically opposed (as they are in the type of photos I’ve taken at each) and yet they are both united by their unique beauty and, for me, how special they are in my heart.
It would be very remiss of me not to say one final thing about Essex – it has proved me wrong and I’ve learnt that it has parts that are unique and well worth the attention of both photographers and, indeed, anyone generally. To walk the marshes that surround much of its coastline gives you a sense of wildness and freedom that is, based on personal experience, right up there…and I’m not sure you’ll find too many other places like it.