Willows of Wallingford
My search for the spirits of the willows near the Thames in Wallingford began almost by chance when, in summer 2017, I was learning a new photographic technique.
With my origins in film photography, I used to make multiple exposures by not winding on the film having pressed the shutter. Most of the resulting images were completely overexposed but those that worked for me had a particular feel about them. Nevertheless, I moved on to more instantly gratifying photography, yet those ethereal images stayed with me. Fast forward several decades and I was on a photo shoot with a photographer friend who was making multiple exposures of trees in his camera but this time digitally. His images had the spiritual feel that I remembered and I resolved to try out this new technique when I next upgraded my camera.
Thus it was that in summer 2017, clutching my new Canon 50Mp digital camera, I set about photographing Wallingford Castle Meadows by taking up to nine successive exposures of individual trees as I circled them whilst avoiding cow pats and other obstacles. I experimented with taking individual images and processing subsequently in Photoshop and also with processing the images directly in camera. Almost always, those processed in camera were far closer to the spiritual feel of the earlier film images and so I adopted this as my preferred method.
I had photographed a favourite willow near the Thames on many occasions and this tree became one of my subjects as I honed my technique. It seemed to me that multiple exposure and willows are meant for each other and so what had once been part of another project now became the major one. Willows have an affinity for water and it was no surprise that the willows I was photographing were to be found near the River Thames in Wallingford and thus ‘Willows of Wallingford’ became the natural title for this work.
As I photographed the willows, what was becoming apparent to me was a feeling of connection and that the multiple exposures were exposing the essence or spirit of the trees in the context of their surroundings. I mentioned this to a friend who drew my attention to those dryads or tree spirits which have a strong association with willow trees. This made me think about ‘the spirit of the tree’ and ‘the tree spirit’. I leave it to you to think about this as you experience these images...