These Three Photographs – Nature Reclaims

Time for episode four in the ongoing series called These Three Photographs, where I share three photographs of a similar theme, and talk about what they mean to me.

The theme this time is Nature Reclaims.

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No shock to anyone familiar with my work that this is a(nother) gravestone photograph.

And in many ways it represents all gravestone pictures I’ve taken in recent years.

What I like about this one is the double edged attack of nature.

The rain, snow, sleet, wind, frost and sun have gradually, in collusion over decades, been peeling away the surface texture of the stone and the painted letters.

Furthermore, strands of ivy are sprawling up too, as if trying to pull the stone back down into to earth below.

As well as this reassurance that nature will reclaim all things (including the body beneath, which judging by the decay of the gravestone would have occurred many years ago), is the almost nostalgic and timeless feelings the materials bring. 

This image could have been made 10, 20 or 50 years ago and probably wouldn’t have looked a lot different. The absence of anything dating to these modern times with us all saturated in plastic is comforting, at least to this photographer.

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Even more irresistible to my eye than a weathered gravestone, is a weathered door. 

Again on an aesthetic level, the appeal is the delicious textures and contrasts on a single surface, compared with when it was new.

In fact the door is so weathered, its individual wooden panels are beginning to bow, as well as the paintwork gradually peeling.

Again, a reminder to me that whatever man may construct, nature will seek to take it back. 

I also like in this shot that part of the door handle is missing. The first step in making the door unusable and nothing more than a wooden panel punctuating bricks in a wall.

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Ah, back to the churchyard. This photograph was taken in one of those I’ve frequented most.

Indeed the village, Highbrook, is where we chose to have our wedding reception in 2015. It is to me one of the most idyllic and rural places to walk and to be in Sussex.

Anyway, this unusual wooden gravestone has been thoroughly ravaged by the elements over time and has gorgeous inviting textures to photograph.

For this shot I wanted to capture the whole object also, to show how distorted it had become – originally both ends would have stood proudly and perfectly vertical.

Although not particularly close up, like many of my texture shots, the camera and film did well enough to portray the grooves in the wood and the lichen amassing. Again that twin pronged natural attack of plants and the elements.

When I returned maybe a year after this was taken, the gravestone was missing.

A few trips after that, where I ventured inside the church, there it was. It had been removed to prevent any further decay, as apparently it’s a very rare example of such a wooden gravestone, according to the text now displayed beside it.

What drew me to photograph it originally was that again it’s a wonderful example of how nature seeks to reclaim all things back to the earth.

Another decade or two outside, and this once sturdy and new marker would have been nothing but fragments of wood scattered amongst the grass, sweet sustenance for untold insects.

Do you enjoy photograph decaying stone, crumbling wood and flaking paintwork? What are your thoughts on nature reclaiming materials to the earth?

Please let us know in the comments below (and remember to tick the “Notify me of new comments via email” box to follow the conversation).

Thanks for looking. Please share this post with others you feel will enjoy it too. If you’re interested, this is what my photography life looks like right now.

 

21 thoughts on “These Three Photographs – Nature Reclaims”

  1. I love doing doors too. The older the better!

    But no gravestones yet…. will have to try those.

    Anyways, eveything nicely weathered is definitely worth a shot

    1. I visited a new (to me, but very old) church today and it has the most wonderful decaying wall in the grounds. It looked like it was originally brick, then with a layer or two of plaster over the top. Over the years more and more of the plaster has cracked and fallen off, and the bricks underneath have disintegrated at different degrees too. The textures in the bright sunlight were mouth watering… I’ll post a shot or two in due course with upcoming posts.

      1. I think the mystery and symbolism is heightened so much when the weathered surface is a door, so much can be read into where the door leads to/from and the world(s) it opens.

  2. Nice images Dan and I always appreciate something that shows well how time it trying to send it back to where it came from or to redefine it in a new way. For me it’s rust and how that can metamorphose things from what they were intended to be.

      1. Definitely a theme of my photography that I have been trying to fathom and one that there will be more of

        1. I think it’s good to have themes like this, gets us away from always organising and grouping photos purely by the camera/lens they were made with.

  3. Anything that’s old, weathered or covered in years of paint layers, I drawn in. Must be careful though, don’t want to get stuck in a rut with those sorts of images so I tend to be very choosy on final edit which I might use.

    1. Yes, I’ve come across certain doors where I could have made 50 photographs of different sections and angles, all with equally delicious textures.

  4. I have been for years but one of the things I have learned from following your blog is that I never got close enough, maybe still don’t. There is a very old burial ground near here that I cycle past often so I think I will try again soon. I just did notice an interesting thing about close up shots, the film photos I took of wildflowers last year are not nearly as good as the digital pictures I took this year of the same flowers, the colors are much more accurate in the digital photos, with no editing. Where I live we have nine months of winter, and three months of poor sledding, so I have to get out there while the sun shines.

    1. Jon, the sun makes a big difference with film and digital, but I would agree to get the best from film especially you really need great light. Digital seems to suck up the light better, even with older cameras where you need to stick to ISO400 or less to get the best from them.

      When I was shooting a lot of film I gradually learned to be restrained and not bother shooting when the light was poor, because I knew I’d be disappointed in the final look. When the sun is shining though, film really comes into its own and sings, especially with a fine colour film like Superia 100 for example.

      Regarding getting close, I’ve also love the intimate close up details of subjects. The major restriction of my Pentax Q is how close it goes – close but often not close enough. The two Ricohs I have both focus down to an amazing 1cm so they’re fantastic for close work.

  5. As I don’t photograph anything I can’t fit into a photobooth, you might expect I’d have little to say on photos of decay. But no!! This girl loves a chat! These images all scream memento mori to me – remember that everything “dies” in one way or another and remember to make every day count before we become dust. Nature reclaiming materials to the earth is comforting to me and beautiful when explored photographically. No matter what mess we make of this planet, even to the point where we destroy it for human kind’s future survival, nature will again take over and evolution will replace all the animals and environments we have destroyed. The decay you photograph is more like documenting a process of a return to an original state and renewal in that sense.

    In some ways my photobooth project is an exploration of decay. It is documenting the decay of myself, I guess. Well that is when I’m not dressing up in silly costumes!

    1. Love these thoughts Kate…

      Yes I’ve long had a fascination with how nature reclaims abandoned buildings and objects. The woods near me has a collection of random items dumped, many from an old fairground including three or four dodgem/bumper cars and a Suzuki jeep. I’ve been visiting for some years and each time they’re a little more overgrown, a little more reclaimed to the earth.

      Fascinating about the decay of self. I don’t take many self portraits, and rarely conventional ones. It does intrigue and amaze me how evocative a portrait photo can be (even of a stranger).

      When my wife was pregnant with our son about six years ago I wanted to take a weekly or even daily photo, then compile them at the end to see how she (and the baby) grew. She wasn’t so keen. Maybe next time if we have another one!

  6. I really like these sort of images, both looking at them and taking them. Old gates, walls, rusty cans, old junk. Partly it’s about texture and colour/contrast to make interesting abstracts but also about imagining the story. A battered old metal chair in the middle of the woods with car tyre for a seat … makes for an interesting image in the snow and mist … but also how did it get there and who used this makeshift seat and why?

    1. I think I’ve always liked them Tim, even when I was half the age I am now! In terms of my own decay, see Kate’s (Photobooth Journal) comments above.

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