We Are a Camera


HorsesThe Cotswolds is known for its picturesqueness - a word that is a bit twee for its own good, narrowing and diminishing the beauty of the region into something static and lifeless, a great disservice to somewhere that is filled with colour, light and movement. It is astonishing how we can be conditioned into shutting out the evidence of our own eyes. For myself, used to walking the paths and tracks of the several counties that make up the region, I see beauty not merely in our gilded villages but in their location – the valley slopes, the symmetry of the hills, the pattern of the fields and the trees that fringe them, the change in texture from season to season. And there is beauty, too, in the detail, from the white of sheep on the green of pasture, or a church spire emerging from a froth of mayflower, to a tiny, ancient arched bridge over a sliver of a stream. Absorbing all these things is to inspire the spectator with the urge to embrace it in some organic way; to capture it in paint or film or in words, or in any way you care to imagine. But it is remarkably difficult to do this successfully. Nothing could be easier, you might imagine, than taking a photograph on a flawless May day, say, of a view along a street of stone houses refulgent in the sunlight. All the ingredients for a perfect postcard-like picture are there; and yet, the result is often a disappointment. The essence of this seemingly straightforward scene is elusive. There is a certain flatness in the photograph, an absence of the vibrancy that was there when you were on the spot – something vital has gone missing. That something, unless you are an expert, or fortunate with the combination of subject, light, composition and camera set-up, has to be sought out and manipulated. That, I suppose, is art; and it is striking that an area as captivating and frequently majestic as the Cotswolds has never really inspired an artistic or literary school. Artists have lived here, and still do, but rarely, as far as I know, have felt inclined to celebrate it in their work. It is almost as if the ethos of the Arts & Crafts Movement, wonderful though it was, wrung some of the creativity out of us. Poets and artists – we need you.

For those that would like to learn more about how to make the best of their photographs, Cotswold Journeys is offering you the chance to have lessons with a professional, local photographer who specialises, among other things, in landscapes. More details will be appearing in the tailor-made section of the website.

NewsKatharine Mabbett