Thursday, 21 April 2016

LIGHT AND DARK by Cathy Pyle

LIGHT AND DARK by Cathy Pyle

This was a good day.

I had seen Cathy's photograph of her daughter in the Portrait Salon exhibition in November 2015. It was ablaze with natural light which rested gently on her young face and on blond curls but you cannot have light without darkness and the shadows on her skin and in her hair made the image rich and full. It shone out from its place on the wall amongst all the other incredible images on display. I noted down Cathy's name with a view to contacting her which I did a few days later. She responded confirming her interest but pointing out that, due to her childcare commitments, the shoot would have to be near her home in Guildford. We arranged to meet first and I went to Guildford by train. It was strange going back there five years after our move away from the area but Cathy met me at the station and once we had said hello and I had got into her car and started chatting, any sad feelings melted away. We went to her house and chatted about my project and her work, our respective families and love of home and family. She provided lunch and then, as her children's school day was getting near its end, she drove me back to the station. This meeting certainly helped to strengthen our relationship in that, when she arrived at my own door for our shoot on 21st April 2016, she wasn't a stranger and we just took up where we had left off. I showed her around the house and she settled on one or two locations and we chatted as we worked and we worked as we chatted and it was all very easy and smooth. We walked down to the sea - the sun was shining and although there was quite a breeze, it wasn't too cold and we sat near the edge of the beach eating a plate of chips each. Then it was time for Cathy to go and we said goodbye. I don't recall asking why she had decided to travel all the way over to me but I think she recognised that it was essential for her to photograph me 'at home'.

I received a set of photographs from the shoot which Cathy has since published on her website under the heading of "Hiraeth" which is a Welsh word for which there is no direct translation in English but which Cathy describes as basically a homesickness for a home to which one cannot return, a nostalgia, yearning or grief for the lost places of one's past. We had spoken a lot about my previous homes, both my childhood home in West Wittering in Sussex and our family home "Ravenswood" which we had to sell in 2010. Indeed, she suggested that we might conduct the shoot in the latter but I explained that I had vowed never to return there - it would be too painful.

So, what of the photographs? It seems odd to talk about them after dipping into the sadness surrounding the memory of Ravenswood but they made me happy, very happy indeed. I love all of them because I remember how I felt as Cathy took each one. I felt that here was a person who understood. I chose this one because of the light and because of the dark which combine to create a picture not unlike the one of Cathy's daughter. The light pours in through the window and even the black T shirt is highlighted with flecks of grey. The rise and fall of the terrain of my face and arms is created by skin, flesh, muscle, vein but becomes all the more interesting when tinged by the light from the window. It is a photograph by Cathy Pyle, a warm and beautiful person who paints even the dark side with a light touch. She understands her subject, that is clear but what is also clear is that this compassion is allied to a deep knowledge of how to use a camera to tell a story.

This photograph tells of a good day. A day of Light and Dark.

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