Dream come true…

The woods are beautiful.  There really is no way of improving on nature.  But despite knowing this, I have had a frustrated urge to try and do just that over the last few years.  In early 2010, I started studying a professional photography course, and have set many of the images for my assignments in or around the woods.  It struck me that it would be wonderful if I could actually hold an ehxibition at the woods.  Pictures of the woods set in the woods where they were taken.

This weekend, my dream came true.  My final assignment was to hold an exhibition.  For the last year I have been taking pictures with this aim in mind.  What I really wanted to do seemed impossible:  get a set of images that, when placed in the woods, would both enhance the woods, and be enhanced by their setting, so that both were greater than the sum of the whole.

Entitled “The Eye of the Beholder”, I wanted people to see the woods through my eyes.  There is so much beauty in the detail, and by setting images of the details of the woods  – the insects, butterflies, damselflies, flowers, light and shade, colour and texture – in the place where they were taken, I hoped that the eye of the beholder would be drawn into the image, through the image, and beyond into the woods themselves.  Drawing people through the image into the reality beyond, and helping them to connect to the woods, and learn to see nature, and its beauty, in a different way.

So much work!  Picking the right pictures, selecting the right spot (and then finding I couldn’t put the picture there because of buried stones, the need to turn the tractor, or simply poor lighting), finding the right kind of print that would be weather and UV resistant…and then bashing in the stakes (thank you, Stephen!) and mounting them.

Was it worth it – was it a dream come true?  Well…this weekend we opened the exhibition (which will stay in place until November 2012), and 63 people came along to see it.  And I think it worked, judging by some of the comments.

I don’t think I can ever make people see the wood through my eyes – but I DO think that by careful use of art in the landscape, the relationship between the viewer and the landscape can be made to change.  These pictures don’t do the same thing when they are indoors, on the walls – nice though they look.  Placed outside, in the environment where they were taken, they can improve the connection between the person, photographer and the natural world.  Photography in its real element.  A dream of mine, and a dream come true.

If you’d like to visit, we are open on Wednesday 29th August and 5th and 12th September between 6-8pm, as well as on our Open days on Sundays 23rd September, 28th October and 25th November.  If a group would like to come, then please contact us and we can sort it out.

And if you’d like to see the video of the exhibition with music – well, here it is.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

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.