When I was a child we had a Picture Post Annual in the book case and I used to pore over those black and white photographs, glimpses into other places, other lives. I loved the way each image opening my imagination to a narrative. Otherwise, with few exceptions, I confess to being unmoved by photography – especially landscape photography. I don’t know how to judge a good photograph, or have much interest in carrying a camera around with me. The mobile phone is adequate for recording the butterfly landing on my hand, or the cat navigating her way to a resting place on the bookshelf – that fragment of life, the moment caught, suspended. Otherwise I miss the human touch – the dynamic expressed through the action of drawing or painting – for the art of drawing and painting must be akin to movement. Landscape photography seems too cold and removed, and ironically too distant from the real thing.
Some years ago, however, I was moved to tears by an exhibition of Kate Bellis’ photography – Derbyshire Hill Farmers in Crisis. For five years Kate lived amongst sheep farmers in the north of Derbyshire, becoming immersed in their lives, so that she could record their world with empathy, from an inside, informed perspective. Later she moved to Moor Cottage Farm, Wirksworth Moor, recording the last year before the farm, the land and all the out buildings sold, and were converted into expensive living accommodation. Her photographs show a way of life that is alien to most of us – an everyday connection with the land, the seasons and weather, birth and death that we’re rarely touched by. These glimpses into lives lived, in a world that has all but disappeared, move me profoundly.
I’ve recently found another photography gallery that really touches me – this time online – Sylvia Selzer’s photography and storytelling website. In her most recent story, a little child, Nokuthula, who lives in Soweto, dances in the sunlight, with such energy and joy. What more to say?
Tricia Durdey dances, writes, and teaches Pilates.