Tuesday, May 25, 2010

around Combe Martin

Most photographers will look forward to sunshine, the weekend, or a time of day like sunrise or sunset. I look forward to the full moon and the new moon and note these in my calendar. A day or two after these moons heralds the highest and lowest tides, or spring tides, which occur every fortnight. A spring low tide, which always falls around 1 or 2pm in North Devon, gives me access to places at the waters edge that would be impossible to get to on any other day or time; places which are often totally hidden under the waves.

At the end of April on such a tide I went to the Combe Martin coast where the following images come from. The inspiration for the trip was an old postcard of Briary Cave at Watermouth. Postcards of caves are rare, this being the first I’d seen, and although I’d photographed this cave before I find that every time I explore a space the image comes out differently. Often this is because of that ever changing tide, light, season and the wave action on the interior of the cave.

The Combe Martin area has a very long history of mining. These 2 images were former mines, which probably starting out as caves before they were mined for silver, lead or manganese. They’re accessible, like many others, from the beach. The interiors of these ex-mines are often are usually rougher and more textured than a cave which is carved out by the force of waves throwing boulders against it’s interior.

This was a rich day’s photography for me. Usually I’d be lucky with one good result, but here I have four; and there were three other failed attempts also. These four images where made from 121 separate photographs in total. The overcast day and wet cave walls helped with the balancing of highlights with shadows. I was forever using bits of my hands as a shield to prevent light flare spilling into my lens, which nearly always points towards the light.

Three of these images will be part of my exhibition at Schooners tea and coffee shop in Appledore for their Visual Arts Festival 3rd – 6th June. I’m really exited about being a part of the festival which has an appropriate theme of ‘Coastline’ this year. If you’re reading this and want to know more you can download a flier at the following link: http://www.greengallery.co.uk/invite.jpg and come and chat with me in Appledore.

The image above is from a huge cave very near to Briary Cave. The headland seen through it is Great Hangman the highest sea cliff in England.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Potted History of Bideford

I’ve got really interested in history since living in Bideford; its history is heavily tied up with Art and America, two of my biggest passions. Bideford prospered in the 17th and 18th centuries through trade with new American colonies (it helped to set up) importing tobacco and exporting pottery. In the Autumn I shall be accompanying my wife Sadie on a research trip, sponsored by a Sir William Churchill Travel Award, to North Carolina and Virginia. She’ll be finding out where Bideford’s pottery went and making contact with artists, arts orgs and networks close to Bideford’s twin town of Manteo on Roanoke Island. For more information about her trip follow this link:

I’ll be looking out for visual similarities and differences between the two communities and environments. I’m hoping to find traces of North Devon in the old sea port towns, did our ships ballast, alien rocks and plants, get dumped on the beach, was it used as building material? Was anything else exported at the time, ball clay etc? I’ll be listening out for traces of local dialect with Devon words or pronunciations. Appledore smocks? I’ll be doing the same when I get back home, are there common place things here in North Devon that originated from the USA which we’ve forgotten about through generations since they got imported.

Also, in support of Sadie’s research, I’m photographing pottery. I started examining this craft when I was commissioned to photograph the ‘kiln in the park’ firing just before Christmas 2009. I’m now keen to make a good documentary record of potters who are still making slipware and using the sgraffito effect with red clay and white slip carrying on the tradition of North Devon pottery.

‘Bideford Pottery’, a family business of Harry Juniper, his son Nick and daughter Sue is the only pottery in town making pots instantly recognisable as North Devon ware. Everything is made by hand in a similar way to how it would have been done in the 17th century. So far I’ve been photographing Nick throwing mugs and a pitcher and also decorating the jug. Close by is the studio of Doug Fitch, another young potter with a huge respect for the local tradition who even sources local clay which he digs out. Doug also has a collection of old pots and shards from the time when pottery in this area was as big an industry as it was in Staffordshire. The images in this post are the start of the documentary which I intent to take with me to North Carolina to share with the arts community and potters in our twin town Manteo and throughout the State.