on landscape The online magazine for landscape photographers

Book Reviews

Valda Bailey and Linda Bembridge

Tim Parkin

Tim Parkin

Amateur Photographer who plays with big cameras and film when in between digital photographs.

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Most photographers have experimented with intentional camera movement or multiple exposures at some point. Usually just setting a long exposure of a few seconds and waving the camera at some exciting subject matter. The results can be engaging and are an easy way to transition from studied, static exposures to a form of creative expression. So it would seem anyway. However, without investing a great deal of time in developing the craft to produce work with a personal signature, the work often falls into one of a few set visual memes.

However, the list of photographers who have taken these techniques and created a truly personal style is small indeed. At the top of that list is undoubtedly Valda Bailey. Her work follows the pattern of many true artists where a personal investigation into an idea or process is allowed to develop and blossom into something unpredicted. In Valda’s case, the spark of the technique was from Chris Friel, whose expressive long exposure work itself stood head and shoulders above other practitioners. Valda was inspired by these expressions and ended up creating her own images that took the technique and style to a whole new level.

Valda’s first book, “Fragile”, showed a set of photographs that were wholeheartedly connected with the landscape. From trees and forests to textures of lichen and flowers the images deconstructed our recognisable views of the outdoors into planes and textures. The images remind me somewhat of John and Ann Blockley or Joan Eardley.

We May as Well Dance - Valda Bailey

It’s been some time since Fragile was published and there has been a marked progression in Valda’s work in this new book. The images are still mostly inspired by the landscape but they are often more abstract, almost to the point of occluding their origins. We see the influence of her friend Paul Kenny occasionally sometimes in set piece, abstracted floral arrangements. Sometimes the photographs echo the creative work of Vaughn Oliver (look in your record collection if you have an 4AD albums such as the Cocteau Twins - do we still have album art?) or Nigel Grierson.

“But is it landscape?”, “But is it photography?”, “But is it Landscape Photography?”

This is something you’ll have to answer for yourself, but in my mind, most of the work is created in the landscape, and it uses a camera as the tool with which to create. That qualifies it enough for me to pay an interest in it, and the resulting work can’t help but be inspiring, given its range and depth. The range of work may well be its one weakness, though. The collection gives me a bit of a feeling of ‘greatest hits’, which, while excellent for enjoying individual images, breaks up a sense of progression or movement as you browse the sections. I’d love to see the individual albums these hits came from and have a sense of the development and discovery that informed them. That’s me being overtly picky, though, but every review needs some negative stuff in, doesn’t it? And now I’ve given the ego a little kick I can return to say to offer some positive assertions that the book is excellent; printed well, editorial insertions sparse and timely, Kozu have created a wonderful addition to their catalog and if you’re interested in the extent to which a camera can be used and abused in the creation of art from the landscape, the book will be an interesting addition to your library.

If you'd like to buy a copy, it's available directly from the publisher at Kozu Books.

Believe - Linda Bembridge

Between Valda and her workshop co-leader, Doug Chinnery, they have inspired a great range of photographers. Even if you’re not interested in using some of her techniques, the approach to photography as a creative art should not be underestimated. However, many people have been inspired by the use of those techniques such as our other book author, Linda Bembridge.

Her book/project is no as landscape oriented as Valda’s. Most images are constructed from photographs of windows and wall textures. Both Valda’s and Linda’s books document a period where Covid has created constraints on their lives and Linda’s images are more often constructed at home by layering parts of a single source image. The work has a sense of visual play about it and in some ways it’s what I would have liked to see from Valda’s book - a sense of a deep exploration of a vein of creativity. The results of Linda’s discoveries don’t inspire me as much as Valda’s do - but as examples of what can be achieved at home from a single source image, they’re quite fascinating.

Linda's book is available from her website at lindabembridge.me.

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