The Tree

About five years ago, whilst I was still very much learning how a camera worked and how I, as a photographer, worked, I decided to photograph this tree over the course of a year. So, every Sunday, I would drive over to Uffculme from Dartmoor, park in the narrow lane and take three photos of the tree. I’d then post them onto Twitter and I set up an Instagram account for the tree.

At the time I was a holy mess. Gripped by PTSD I was chaos in a 6ft, balding frame. But the tree became a totem. However fucked up I might be in a particular week I would journey to Uffculme, sit in the lane with a coffee and endless cigarettes and, at some point, take three photographs. The discipline of doing such taught me vital lessons both as a photographer but also as a person. If I could commit and deliver on this project then perhaps there were other aspects of my life which I could also commit to.

-Rant begins I have opinions on landscape and the environment. You can not have a ‘relationship” with a landscape. A landscape can not “heal ” you. A landscape is utterly indifferent to you. Similarly, you may have a relationship with an environment as you are a part of that environment but it is that of a grain of sand to a beach. People need to credit themselves more and stop thinking of “Nature” as some sort of healer and solver of our individual problems. – Rant ends.

The year went by, people enjoyed the photos, the process, and then it came to an end. Project done.

So I deleted all the images.

Last weekend we went to Cardiff and the National Museum of Wales to see Gary Fabian Miller’s exhibition of “The Seascape” – 40 images taken over the course of two years from his bedroom window when he was but a young lad looking across the Bristol Channel towards Wales.

Remarkable. Both as individual images but as a set. What particularly struck me was the huge variation between what are ostensibly the same viewpoint. The light, the time of day, the nature of the sea, the nature of the sky, the time of year, the wind direction. Whilst a viewpoint may be constant the image produced will never be the same.

– Sidebar…I know that Miller is lauded for his cameraless photography, his techniques of shining light through various liquids to create imagery. I know this is very clever, very creative, and to be lauded but, honestly, it leaves me entirely cold. Within the exhibition was one of these creations that depicted sea, horizon and sky. Tbqhwy it was the least impressive of the the works hung.

I’ve lost my photographic discipline. Distracted by participating in exhibitions in Bristol and Exeter, distracted by trying to get included in other exhibitions, I’ve forgotten that exhibiting photographs does not make you a photographer. You need to take photographs. On grey, wet, shitty days, you need to haul your ass off the couch and away from the keyboard and take photographs.

I’ve decided to resurrect the tree. Given the tree has existed for at least 180 years that’s a more than a little self-important but you get what I mean. So, for the next year, maybe two, I’m going to go to this little lane in Mid-Devon and, at all times of day and night and in all weathers, I’m going to record the same viewpoint but then celebrate the very different views that it will produce.