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End frame: Skyfall by Valda Bailey

Gilly Walker chooses one of her favourite images

Gilly Walker

I live in Newark, Nottinghamshire, and love to write, photograph, and practice qigong, and I’m at my happiest doing these things in wild spaces. The intersections between photography and other subjects - especially psychology, philosophy, and art - are something I enjoy exploring. My own photography has suffered a bit of a hiatus in recent years, but I’ve been inspired recently to adopt a more art-based approach, experimenting with ICM, multiple exposure, and other techniques, and can feel new possibilities begin to open up.


Choosing the photographer was easy, but choosing the shot was far more difficult. It could have been almost anything Valda Bailey has created, as I love it all. But I’ve settled on this one, which is a bit more representational than some of her other work and, in that respect, perhaps fits a little better into this slot. Valda may not seem to be an obvious choice here, as she isn’t known as a landscape photographer, but a great deal of her work is inspired by the landscape.

Her background as a painter shows strongly in her images, and her creative process is almost the polar opposite of a more traditional photographic approach – where the latter is often meticulously planned and relies heavily on being in the right place at the right time, Valda works with whatever is in front of her and is led by intuition and instinct. To quote from her website: ‘my workflow is an instinctive, stream of consciousness ramble through shape and colour, light and shade, rhythm and flow, and unbridled imagination, where each decision I make is predicated on the result of the last one. It’s a totally immersive process where the possibilities are seemingly limitless.’

In this image, we have a small tree with what might be a waterfall in the background and spray or rain all around. As Valda works with double exposure and layers, it’s most likely that this is a composite of several shots that come together to form an impression – this is not a landscape you can visit, but a landscape of the imagination that exists on a different level.

This image satisfies in so many ways. First, it’s beautifully balanced. The white column of what might be a waterfall is counter-balanced by the upright form of the dark tree, but the distortion and assymmetry of the little tree adds interest. The white spray at the top left counterposes the movement of the right-hand branches of the tree and again adds balance. The textures are also wonderfully satisfying, from the white ‘scratches’ of the spray to the intricate textures of the rocks and scree in the foreground.

The image is square and the waterfall (if that’s what it is) and tree together sit at its centre, although individually they are off-centre. This could have led to a rather static image, but instead it works to stabilise the wildly whirling spray, wind, and rain that surround the tree.

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