on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Weald – David Higgs

An Exhibition Review by Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

Paul Mitchell

Paul is a self employed graphic designer with a passion for photography. He is a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and respected judge and lecturer.

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I have known David and admired his work for a few years now though our mutual connection with the filmwasters.com forum. During that time I have followed the progress of David’s 5 year project to capture the essence of the Sussex Weald and was eagerly awaiting the culmination of this project - an exhibition of 51 superb platinum/palladium prints at the Ashdown Forest Visitors Centre.

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While I was hoping to attend the official private view on the Saturday, a prior engagement delayed my visit until the Sunday. I had arranged to meet David outside the visitors centre at 11am, unfortunately the person with the keys was nowhere to be seen! After a flurry of calls we were informed that it was not to open until 2pm. Fortunately David then suggested we take a brief tour of his favourite areas of woodland. As well as enjoying this beautiful corner of East Sussex it also gave me time to talk with him about his inspiration and working practices.

David’s equipment comprises of a Graflex Crown Graphic 5x4 camera with an assortment of old Ektar and Petzval design lenses. Shooting almost exclusively with black and white film the resulting images are then scanned, adjusted in Photoshop and used to create 10x8 digital negatives. It is the last process that even David himself describes as the most crucial to the final piece. These negatives are then used to create the final platinum/palladium prints on Fabriano Artistico watercolour paper.

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His inspiration is best summed up in his own words - “Woodland is an escape. A break from modern life. A place to regain perspective. In the life of the wood, my existence is fleeting. The trees are far older, they will still be there when I am dust. They cast no judgement, have no memory and for a moment I can join their peace.”

The exhibition itself is situated in a large rustic barn within the visitors centre and is divided between the ground and a mezzanine floor, a fitting venue for the subject matter. Walking round one immediately is struck by the uniformity of the print colour and tonality, the platinum/palladium process having a beautiful warmth and depth, yet each image is unique. The relatively small size of the prints within simple black frames is perfect.

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I am not going to list all my personal favourites (of which there are many!) but suffice to say that I am in love with the very shallow depth of field and ‘swirliness’ of the fast large format Zeiss and Petzval lenses – ‘Hornbeam’ and ‘Awakening’ being perfect examples.

I am in love with the very shallow depth of field and ‘swirliness’ of the fast large format Zeiss and Petzval lenses
Recently, David has introduced a slight mechanical slant to the predominately organic subject, these take the form of old and forlorn agricultural tractors. Applying the same shallow focus and made under dank, damp conditions they are serene with just a touch of melancholy.

I make no apologies for being totally biased towards David’s collection of WEALD images, I know it’s a tad clichéd but I genuinely would love to have made them and have them hanging on my wall!

I will just end by saying that working on a series of images, rather than just one stand alone photograph, can be very rewarding and in David’s case, leading one to a greater appreciation and understanding of one’s chosen subject matter and printing technique. William Eggleston, when he was once asked about his personal photography, simply said, “I think I’m working on a novel”.



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