I am constantly blown away by the beauty of the natural world, and by the beauty of the landscapes and creatures of our lovely woods. How is it possible to convey this to other people, so that they can see what I am seeing? This has been a question occupying my mind since I started my photography course way back in 2009. Now, approaching the end of this course, I have committed to put on an exhibition of images that attempts to do just that.
The problem is that beauty really is in the eye of the beholder. What one person perceives as beautiful may pass another by, in favour of a completely different aspect of the same scene. Beauty is ephemeral, transient, and depends on the emotions that a scene evokes in the person who sees it. Beauty is also more than the image itself: it depends on the sounds, smells, temperature, wind, humidity and the whole experience is much more than what somebody sees.
So how can I convey some of these additional aspects of what I experienced when I took these pictures? There is so much more to an image than just the pixels on the final print. For me, looking at these images is an emotional experience because I know what I felt when I took them. It is also emotional because it is tied up with my love for the woods, and for their wildlife. I feel a deep-seated connection with the woods after spending many hours over the last five years in their presence. You can feel small changes with the weeks, months and seasons, and how those seasons vary from year to year. You can sense little creatures in the undergrowth, notice small changes in the paths that they take, become aware of what makes a particular perch attractive for a butterfly or dragonfly.
What I have been busy with, and hence has taken my time away from this blog, is trying to put something together that shows this connection I have with the woods in a limited set of images. What was obvious from the outset is that these images have to be show outdoors, in the context in which they were taken. They have to be seen in the changing seasons of the wood, and with the viewer immersed in the smells, sounds, wind, rain, sunshine, warmth and cold, wet and dry of the woods. The sound of a buzzard, the rustle of a stealth vole through the grass, the buzz of a bumblebee, the joyful watery twittering of the goldfinches feeding on thistle seeds, the smell of damp grass and wood sage, the wind on your face and on your back – all of these will enhance what you see when you see the pictures.
Likewise, I hope the pictures will enhance what the viewer sees when they are in the woods. Coming across a picture in its natural setting will, I hope, make people think of what they are looking at and see something of the detail that is there, if only you look for it. I hope it will also help people to see how things change with seasons, time of day, weather and all those other things that can make the woods such a different place from hour to hour, day to day, season to season and year to year.
When I picked the pictures up from the printer I was almost shaking with excitement. What I hope is that some of that feeling spills over to those who see them, such that the viewer can get into my eyes, into my head, and see what I saw, and feel what I felt when I took those pictures. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I hope that this beholder can now share some of that with other people.
The exhibition “The Eye of the Beholder” is opening on August Bank Holiday Sunday and Monday 26/7th August 2012, and will also be available for viewing on our final few Open Wednesday evenings of the year (until 2nd week of September), as well as on our September 23rd, October and November Open Days. Please come along if you can and take a look. If you can’t there is a brief taster on our YouTube slideshow.