Modern Christian artwork in the ancient St Hilary's Church in the Vale of Glamorgan, mainly built in the 14th and 16th centuries, though at least the Norman arch dates from the 12th century. It is the only church in the British Isles dedicated to St Hilarius of Poitiers in France. The church also has the stone tomb of one Thomas Bassett of Old Beau Pre, with a carved knight in armour lying atop, inscribed 1423.
Sunset scene from the road between Llanuwchllyn and Dinas Mawddwy. I seldom set out to do landscapes. I just don't have the patience to sit for several hours waiting for the clouds to part to get the light 'just right'. No waiting required for this scene, though. Several people have asked me if the sky really was such an intense colour or was it achieved in post-processing. No, it really was that colour. Fuji Superior 100 produced accurate, vibrant colours and it's such a pity it was discontinued a few years after I captured this scene.
A re-enactment of the human chess game from 'Checkmate', a scene from the 9th episode of the 1960s surreal British cult TV drama series, 'The Prisoner'. Photographed at the 50th anniversary celebrations at Portmeirion in April. More of my images from the celebrations can be found here
Number Six: Where am I?
Number Two: In the Village.
Number Six: What do you want?
Number Two: Information.
Number Six: Whose side are you on?
Number Two: That would be telling. We want information.......information.......information.
Number Six: You won't get it.
Number Two: By hook or by crook, we will.
Number Six: Who are you?
Number Two: The new Number Two.
Number Six: Who is Number One?
Number Two: You are Number Six.
Number Six: I am not a number! I am a free man!
Number Two: [laughs]
Number Six: I will not make any deals with you. I've resigned. I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed, or numbered! My life is my own!
If none of the above makes any sense to you, you are definitely not an aficionado of the British 1960s surreal cult TV series 'The Prisoner'. For those who do understand what this all about this image was captured in April 2017 in the village of Portmeirion, Gwynedd, Wales (where the series was filmed), on the 50th anniversary of the first episode, including a re-enactment of the second episode. The rest of the images from that day can be viewed here.
Photographed in St Twrog's Church, Maentwrog. I much prefer ancient churches when they're empty. They have a wonderfully still, quiet ambience and the windows concentrate the light so well. But they can be very cold, even in summer.
I found this old David Brown tractor from the early 1960s near Penrhyndeudraeth. It immediately brought to mind 'Cynddylan on a Tractor', a memorable early poem by one of my favourite poets, RS Thomas, perhaps a decade earlier. It begins:
Ah, you should see Cynddylan on a tractor.
Gone the old look that yoked him to the soil,
He's a new man now, part of the machine,
His nerves of metal and his blood oil.
Many of my images captured in rural Wales have been inspired by Thomas' poems and his earliest work often commented on the emergence of mechanised farming in Wales. He pokes semi-anodyne condescension at Cynddylan the farming yokel for emancipating himself from being a slave of the soil to something Thomas considered far worse, a slave of the machine; his very own 'rage against the machine' born at least forty years before a certain popular American rock group.
When he was in his mid-80s, RS Thomas lived for a couple of years in same Welsh parish as I do and his legendary curmudgeonly manner did not wane with age. The first time he went to the local shop he complained that someone had spoken in English. Most fine days his gaunt frame could be seen slowly making its way up the hill past my house, stopping often to take in his surroundings. The first time I spoke to him was on one of these walks, thanking him for the poems in my all too obvious, non-native clumsy Welsh. He took one look at me as if I was a lunatic from Mars, let out a loud harrumph! and proceeded on his way, lest I ruin his walk more than I already had. Probably a good thing I didn't ask for his portrait. Though in hindsight, an opportunity sadly missed. He left the village and died a couple of years later.
Although I hold no belief in a deity and find the very concept of such both philosophically suspect and empirically unevidenced, I do confess to enjoying both the historical and ambient aspects of old churches. And they don't get much older than St Tanwg's church, sinking into the sand dunes just outside the small village of Llandanwg in North Wales. The stone building has been dated to the 13th century but the church is much older than that, attested by the presence of inscribed stones from 6th century, while St Tanwg himself is said to have lived a century earlier. It's rarely used for church services nowadays, but it's nearly always open during daylight hours and, if you're lucky enough to be alone, a place of great calm and moody photography.
In addition to Veronica, patron saint of photographers (and, apparently, laundry workers), photography and Christianity share two important concepts, that of light and darkness. In Christian symbolism, darkness reliably conveys the notion of evil, death and the unknown. In contrast, light conveys only positive aspects such as life, goodness and hope. For example, Genesis tells us that God not only created light, he also saw that it was good. The New Testament describes Jesus as the light of the world and the visionary revelations of John depict Heaven in terms of light. The medieval use of coloured and stained glass within European churches is probably the best physical example of Christianity symbolising the goodness of light; as if the colourful light of the heavens floods the interior of the otherwise dark church with goodness.
Although it appears as if Christian symbolism deals with light and darkness in rigid ways this is not always so. Some sects of Christianity view evil and good, not as polar opposites, but in relative terms, evil being the relative absence of good. This is not unlike how photographers see things. A dark scene can be illuminated but an illuminated scene is not made darker by adding darkness, only by reducing the amount of light. An underexposed scene can often be post-processed to reveal physical features but a grossly overexposed, blown-out scene has lost all such features to the light. Thus to the photographer, darkness is not a thing in itself, either physically or symbolically, but a relative, and eminently measurable, degree of light. And, of course, photography cannot exist without some light, for without at least some photons hitting film or sensor, no image is captured.
Photographers are able to manipulate the light and darkness in a scene in two ways. First, symbolically, they might purposely include a large amount of darkness within the frame (labelled, fittingly, as negative space) to convey the notions of evil, trepidation, unknown, horror etc. Second, they might also include negative space or relative darkness simply as a means of diverting attention to the subject of their image.
As an atheist, I view Christian imagery and iconography wholly as depictions of mythology and consider them to convey stories and ideas and perhaps some abstract truths, but not necessary literal truths. This gives me much to play with in terms of interpreting the imagery as photography because I feel no onus to deal with the symbolism according to tradition, or to present Christian imagery in the ‘right light’. Consequently, although I freely use Christian imagery concerning itself with death, I do not naturally equate the symbolic use of darkness with evil. Rather, I sense solitude and calmness, ignorance, or the unknown, all of which are able to be dispelled by the light.