Faversham, 16 February 2014
I hope this finds you well. 200% average rainfall and the wettest January since 1910 has made walking around Faversham invigorating over the past month or so. It’s been bracing, muddy, cold, peppered with sideways rain, gusts of wind, and cloudbursts of hail. Something I hadn’t expected about walking in the winter is that I don’t much mind going out in any weather these days, as long as I’m in the right clothes – or not, actually, as in these pre-Christmas pictures. I’m sure Mr F. was pleased with himself when he saw these on the 22nd of December.
His genius Christmas gift of waterproof trousers (and warm socks) have been a consistent source of delight since!
Sometimes, I wonder why I bother trying to take pictures in such saturated conditions. As I’m ducking under the relative dry of a dripping hedge, wiping the face of my phone with a spare sock drawn from a soggy pocket, and trying to input text with damp fingers, I think – why take pictures at all? Is this really necessary? I’m walking every day, which was my objective when I started out almost 8 months ago. Why obsess with the picture taking?
Well, here’s how the walking thing grew into a walking and picture taking thing.
I decided to keep track of each day by making note of the time and length of my walk on my smartphone’s calendar. On one of the mornings of that first week, something caught my eye, and taking a picture seemed to be a good way to make note, too. After all, I am a visual person. I use photography in my artwork as a tool, like I might use a brush or a pencil. I use it in my work as a photographer to record the details of special moments and days. Until I started walking and taking pictures of Faversham on my phone using Instagram everyday, all of my photography was for something else.
A few months before I started walking, I revisited and used slide photographs from travelling across America 25 years ago for a project called Medium Memory. Working on this reminded me of an engagement I had once had with photography that was more about looking and seeing – about being in a place, really noticing my surroundings, and trying to catch a memory with an image. Instagram allowed me to rediscover the immediacy of photography as a way of seeing. I love it, and I think of my walking photography as a kind of visual sketching exercise with Instagram as my sketchbook – keeping my eye in, making me really look at where I live like I am a visitor, seeing it for the first time. After living in Faversham for nearly 14 years, that’s pretty magical!
The magic is set to expand into Swale and Medway this summer, thanks to funding for a Small Experiment from Ideas Test. Looking forward to seeing even more of where we live!
Here’s to some drier days – write when you can!