Inside this issue
A year of nature connection on Hollesley Marshes
I am a landscape photographer based in Suffolk. I love exploring hidden landscapes that are not often photographed and am passionate about promoting a connection with the environment through my work.
This photography project began as a piece of work to document a year in the life of Hollesley Marshes. It is an area I have been fascinated with for a while and one I walk to every morning with my dog. It is somewhere I have learnt so much about simply by observing the landscape and its wildlife on a daily basis.
In March 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic overtook all our lives and my project turned from a straight documentary to one which detailed my connection with the landscape through the constraints of my permitted daily exercise. The images portray fleeting moments captured during a morning walk. They were not pre planned, were mostly shot without a tripod or filters and represent my reaction to a scene at a particular moment in time. They are accompanied by text and are intended to be viewed as a visual sketchbook of a special place.
My project was initially inspired by my love of the Suffolk Coast. I often see this part of England portrayed in magazines and it is always the same locations that get featured. I have always wanted to redress the balance and show off what I consider to be the real Suffolk in my images. I chose Hollesley Marshes because it is on my doorstep and I have come to know the area really well. I wanted to explore the idea that familiarity, instead of breeding contempt, can actually enhance your photography. I believe that knowing a landscape intimately can really help capture the essence of a place.
I had always planned to produce a book of the project but in the beginning, it was going to be full colour (because that is what I love) and a seasonal guide.
This changed the focus of my project and the thinking behind it.
Once lockdown was in place I walked to the marsh every day with my dog as my permitted daily exercise and very soon this became my only reason to leave the house. I did not feel I could go with all my photography equipment and set up a tripod for long exposures or spend any length of time out with the camera because that seemed to be outside of the rules. So initially I felt that I would have to abandon my photography project for 2020.
However, the more I thought about it the more the constraints appealed to me and I decided to take my camera with me on my morning dog walk and capture what I saw.
There is something freeing about being out with just the camera, without the tripod and filters and just being able to react to a scene in front of you. I also found I was using photography as a way to escape what was going on in the news. When I was out with the camera, observing the wildlife and the light on the landscape I was completely absorbed and happy and so immersed that I forgot what was happening in the wider world.
This has always been my way of staying grounded. Anytime I have a bad day or am struggling with a problem I will take my camera and go out for a walk. An hour is usually enough to reset my thoughts and it was this ethos that I now felt I wanted to explore in my project.
I am not a nature photographer but I love nature. I wanted my project to portray this by focusing on my observations. I used a 70-200mm lens for most of the shots but this wasn’t really big enough for some of the things I wanted to shoot such as the barn owl that accompanied my walks most mornings or the marsh harrier that soared over the reeds. So I began to write down my observations in addition to taking the images. Together I wanted the words and pictures to build a sketchbook of the landscape I was walking through. I wanted readers to feel they were there with me walking in my footsteps.
The process of recording my walk in words and pictures was completely immersive and I felt such a strong connection with the landscape while I was out there.
When I came to put the book together I initially split the work into habitats. The marshes join the coast and are backed by farmland so I split the first part of the book into sections which followed the path through the landscape, the marsh itself, the fields, the river and the creek. The sections after that became about how the world changed as the pandemic evolved and how this impacted on the landscape.
My interaction with Hollesley Marshes helped me stay positive and grounded throughout the pandemic. I wanted to incorporate this into my story but I also wanted to show how the landscape changed during the year as a result of human activity.
In the spring the area was so quiet and full of wildlife, but by summer this had changed and the coast was full of tourists making the most of their freedom after lockdown. As autumn approached and the pandemic took off once again peace returned to the landscape particularly as the second lockdown took effect.
The images that I took for this project are not my usual landscape images. I love colour and most of my images are colour shots. With the time constraints on this project and the story that I wanted to tell I felt that the images were best shot in black and white. This portrayed the sketchbook feel I wanted for the book and was the most appropriate choice to accompany the text I had written. Although it is not my usual way of taking pictures I felt it was good to come out of my comfort zone and produce something different.
I hope that my project captures a special place on the Suffolk Coast - one that I feel is overlooked in favour of more iconic locations. To me this is the real Suffolk landscape; an amalgamation of grazing marsh, salt marsh, river and creek which has provided me with some of my most immersive times out in the landscape. I treasure my daily connection with nature in this small corner of Suffolk. It is something that I feel is vital for my wellbeing, it makes me feel alive and helps put everything else into perspective. In a turbulent world this is the place that keeps me grounded and I can’t imagine my life without it.
You can buy the book from Gill's website, £28.