Tuesday, 13 October 2015

A SIMPLE PLAN by Stephen Segasby - Part Two

A SIMPLE PLAN by Stephen Segasby
12th October 2015 - I was drifting in and out of sleep, looking at my watch and willing the time to pass. I had woken early to drive over to Chichester on my annual pilgrimage in memory of my darling sister, Janet, who had died on this day 19 years ago. As usual, it had been an emotional trip but, as I have said many times before, the emotion I experienced at the time of her death was so deep that it was beautiful. I think part of the reason for my annual visit to the places we used to walk together is to open up and lick the wounds that were inflicted at that time as well as to be with her again. Anyway, enough of all that - if you would like to know more then watch "Sister".  The point of mentioning this is to explain that I was sleeping off one experience to ready myself for another -  that is, my shoot with Steve Segasby. Finally, the train pulled into Preston where I had to change and the ornate wrought-iron bannisters on the stairs leading to the exits reminded me of the visits to Preston previously, first to to meet the lovely Pat Moss for our shoot and then to see the framer who made the frames for the Southport Exhibition; the framer who, when he was asked to make 55 frames, thought it was for just another show but quickly realised that it was something completely different when these amazing prints began to arrive at his door.

I caught the train to Penrith and, within an hour, I found myself chatting to Steve and Al Brydon in the car on the way to Steve's sister's house in Keswick where we would all be staying. It was early evening by the time we arrived in Keswick and, after dumping my stuff off in the bedroom I would be sharing with Al, we walked round to one of the local pubs and I had what the 64 year old version of myself would call a skinfull or maybe half a skinfull i.e. three pints and then returned to the house for some delicious bottled beer provided by Al. The next morning we were all up pretty early and Steve provided a wonderful cooked breakfast before we set off to the Tibberthwaite Valley. All this time, Steve and I were slowly getting to know each other as we swapped stories of our respective families, relationships and photographic projects and Steve listened patiently while Al and I purred over the three shoots on which we had both collaborated. I came to the conclusion quite quickly that Steve is a good man searching for peace in his busy life to enable him to get the time to concentrate on what he really loves - his photography and printing. He loves other things too - his daughters especially, the Lake District, History, bacon sandwiches and 'The Misfits', the little coterie of photographer friends of which he is a member - but Photography is his passion. I decided against going down into the main quarry at Hodge Close but we found another nearby with beautifully chiseled walls of different shapes, hues and colours as well as a little shallow pond which I ended up stepping into naked for one of the first shots.

I love watching a large format camera being set up and loaded and all the little knobs being twiddled. I have no idea what it all means but what I do know is that, when it ends with a click of the shutter, I feel a part of history; the history of Photography, the history of that particular camera and, in this case, a part of Steve's story.

We spent quite a time in this quarry but none of us were too fussed about this. All we had in mind for the rest of the day was to get some shots in the Cathedral Cave. Cathedral Cave - sounds wonderful doesn't it? And, do you know what? It was fucking amazing. After we parked in Little Langdale, we took a short walk along a track and then up a steep slope to a hole in the hill leading to a short tunnel which then opened up into this glorious hall of slate the roof of which was seemingly supported by a rude rod of slate stretching from the floor to ceiling and bathed in the light from a huge hole at the top out of the edges of which sprouted leaves of the brightest luminous green; the same green with which special lakeland painters must venture out at night and decorate the landscape in this extraordinary part of England. My England. For all its problems politically and socially, I feel blessed to have been born in this country and to live here as I feel blessed to have met Steve and Al and Rob Hudson and Alex Bamford and others who have taken me to places I have never seen before and enabled me to breathe in the pure air and to touch trees and rocks and sand and put my hands, feet and body into streams and walk barefooted on grass and sometimes without clothes in these magical places. And here I shall end because although we did more that day (e.g. met Alastair Cook, photographed a telephone box, had more beer, talked a lot more and then the next day, Steve and I said goodbye to Al and spent a glorious day doing more at Hope Close and ate Cow Pie in the evening in front of a fire in the pub), I want to end on magic.

Magic is defined as ''the power of apparently influencing events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.'' Is anything more mysterious than the meeting of two quite different minds moulded and influenced by different genes, surroundings, familial pressures, loves, desires and yet brought together by the magic of photography to create the photographs you see here? And yet these images are not supernatural or alien in any way. These places exist. Steve photographed me in them. But they look magical. They feel magical. He captured all this by a combination of his skill, his passion, his love, his need to communicate. How do I know this? I know because I was there.

Postscript - I have chosen the image at the top to represent Steve in my project. It is simple, direct, strong, silent and full of history. One day, it will be on the wall of a gallery in an exhibition of Over the Hill and I shall look up at it and feel very, very proud.

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