Sunday, 11 March 2012

A green thought in a green shade










The landscape is glorious, isn’t it? Inspiring, even. It has been captured by lenses and written about in books, with a whole genre: pastoral, dedicated to it. Analysis surrounds the compulsion of the artist to re-create every detail  – from the majestic to the obscure – in different, creative forms. 
In the words of Margaret Drabble: “The desire to turn landscape into art seems a natural one, though it is hard to say precisely why painters and writers should labour to reproduce in paint or words what each of us can see with our own eyes. But we all see differently, and the writer’s work is a record both of himself and of the age in which he lives, as well as the particular places he describes.”
The idea of vision and, more importantly, how we perceive the world in which we live is one that has been nagging me for some time. It is apparently the duty of the artist and author to attempt to tell the truth, but the idea of deftly sculpting something realistic is daunting. It is perhaps the reason why so many like to merely imagine themselves as a writer – the ‘perfect’ novel remaining safe and intangible in their mind, rather than precarious and tasking on the page. The process of writing is often compared to birth, with Virginia Woolf observing the challenge of trying to produce an idea “entire... as it was conceived”.

Similarly, it's a struggle to evoke the subtleties of the light on the fields, or a hush between the trunks, without falling into one of two traps – cliché or over-extended description. Clichés are like the fruit most easily picked from the tree, requiring little more than a nudge to fall into the hand. They are accessible, lazy and creep in when we’re not thinking. How many times have we heard “swaying grass” or “glittering lake”? These reduce the landscape to flat statements, reinforcing what the reader already recognizes, rather than suggesting something new or exciting. At the other end of the scale, there are lines after lines of description – perhaps perfect on their own, but overwhelming when read en masse. To return to the tree metaphor, these branches are so heavy with fruit that they could do with pruning and cutting back. Of course, there are exceptions to the rule, where rich imagery increases the effect of the story. Nevertheless, the author must do more than just place pretty pictures in the head – they should observe, collect and arrange the real world in a suitable form. There's a process of selection, from the choice of characters and setting, through to the themes and structure.

In the same way that we romanticize the past, I think there is also a certain amount of idealisation extended to the landscape in literature. Folk tales and myths favour rural settings – filling them with imaginary highwaymen, goblins, gypsies, knights, enchantresses and fairies. They are places of magic and mystery, where anything could lurk beyond the next corner of the lane. Of course, the reality is more one of tractors and crops – the countryside is a working community, much like anywhere else. And yet, even the practices of farming have been re-imagined in the novel. Pastoral, as mentioned above, busied itself with shepherd boys and milk maids for many, many years. These archetypal characters were entirely fictional – many of the hardships of cultivating land and animals hidden beneath the perceived idyll of the hills. And it is, in part, an idyll. Where else could I return from college, put on wellies, and be standing in a field within three minutes? Petty worries are put aside when staring up at the sky - a concave roof pinned at the edges – or when watching the sun disappear behind trees.
Much like a city, the countryside is a place full of contradictions and juxtapositions. Decay of indigenous communities happens alongside the stunning views of villages; teenagers sit on bikes at bus shelters, scrawling graffiti while a photographer admires the church down the road; milk quotas make work hard for farmers while the enthusiast cultivates an organic vegetable patch. Like life, it is a jumble of differences. Maybe it is important to celebrate both the realities and fantasies linked with any place; acknowledging the negative while celebrating the best and most brilliant parts.

The photos above are of my very beautiful friend Lettice, who allowed me to style and snap my camera at her over the Christmas holidays. We spent the day padding around a nearby wood – seemingly conforming to the idea of a picturesque landscape - with bags, clothes and her ukulele in tow. The clothes are all mine, apart from the purple draped dress and floral skirt, which are hers (as is the elephant necklace – an item of jewellery that belonged to her late aunt, which she always wears). 

The title is from Andrew Marvell's 'The Garden'. 

34 comments:

Rick Forrestal said...

These are extraordinary location portraits.
(The standing pose w/blue ukele is extraordinary....my favorite.)
Nicely done.

alexandratherese said...

I've read several books containing description of the landscape that is completely different to anything I have ever read before. Owen Sheers, as I think we both know, has a real knack for it. Both in Resistance and in his poetry collection A Poets Guide To Britain he displays real creativity for conveying his vision of the landscapes both physically before him but also in his imagination. Roger Deakin is another - never has water been presented in so many different similes and metaphors as in Waterlog. Writing like this is so refreshing.

Your paragraph about the countryside being full of contradictions and juxtapositions is so true. Tourists often see country villages through rose-tinted glasses, only viewing what they want to see. You only need to watch the film Tamara Drewe (which I did at Christmas and was really disappointed with it!) to see the negative side of living in a beautiful area.

Lovely photos as always Rosaind - I actually managed to get outside and take some outfit photos today in the sunshine which hasn't happened for a while so hopefully they will be on my blog soon! Really trying to keep a regular posting schedule through all the exam revision now.

Have a great week, Alexandra xx

Carys said...

These pictures are amazing! Your friend looks gorgeous in every shot, and you are such a good photographer!
From Carys of La Ville Inconnue

Vix said...

I adore your description of the countryside with the teenagers loitering at bus stops whilst a photographer captures an unspoilt idyll. Your words never fail to capture my imagination.
Lettice is a beauty, her eyes are captivating and that picture of her with the ukele with the folly in the background could grace any living room wall. x

Polka Princess said...

I always marvel at the beautiful locations of your photos & the awe-inspiring landscape in most of them.......your words just re-iterate my sentiments!

Oh! And your friend looks so sweet!! :)

Natalie Anne Bourn said...

What lovely location photographs!
www.theorangewalls.blogspot.com

Jean at www.drossintogold.com said...

The photos, the styling, your beautiful friend, and your thoughts= divine post.

Natalie Suarez said...

wow! these are just stunning!! I LOVE THIS! xx

natalieoffduty.blogspot.com

Katrina said...

These photos are stunning. Your beautiful friend Lettice seems so at ease in front of the camera (unlike me sometimes). I adore the styling as well, gorgeous clothes and scenery - really beautiful.

>'.'<

Jodi Wade said...

Beautiful photos. I wish it was warm enough here to spend some proper time outside.

the nyanzi report said...

great location, great subject, great writing.

sacramento said...

Thank you so very much, my dear friend for being there, and for bring so much beauty into my world.
XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Fashionistable said...

Like Vix I to loved the image of the photographer photographing the church while ignoring the present. Lovely gentle reminder to to be open to everything. Your friend is beautiful and the styling is perfect for your posts theme. What an amazing location the Romany caravans and the Russian spires I feel we have been transported to another time and place. Xxxx

Izzy/Bella said...

I loved this line in particular:
Maybe it is important to celebrate both the realities and fantasies linked with any place; acknowledging the negative while celebrating the best and most brilliant parts.

That was a lovely read. It's true its all in the details. Have you read Italo Calvino's "Six Memos for a New Millenium"? There are only five memos in it but it's all about details in stories really. Picking those details based on qualities of lightness, quickness, etc. I think you'd love it!

As for the pictures, well done! I particularly loved your friend's beautiful smile in the headshot. That could be a professional headshot if she's an actress? She had a lovely emotive quality and you captured it very well.

Best,
Izzy
www.misadventuresofme.com

Zoé said...

Beautiful photos and lovely scenes - I especially love the one with the ukelele because... well... ukelele's rock!

Soccer Mom Style said...

I'll have to come back to read the post but just wanted to leave a comment regarding the photos. Lettice is beautiful (and what a beutiful name too!) Love the last photo with a shawl.
xx
Maya

Stephanie Hoff Clayton said...

lovely location and lovely model! the shots of lettice with the ukulele are especially nice. she has the most angelic face.

Ash Louise said...

Girl, your photos are AMAZING! Seriously, I've been looking all up and down your blog and you're out of this world good!
I'm following you now...
And I hope one day you do make it to Prague, it's absolutely beautiful! And how much more fun if you're part Czech... I'm sure there are a lot of fun adventures awaiting you there :)

Ash Louise said...

ps. Can I ask what kind of camera you use?

CMA said...

loving your blog!!!

-COSMICaroline
www.COSMICaroline.com

adrielleroyale said...

The fourth from the top is my favorite - and she looks so lovely in that purple dress!

LPFashionPhilosophy said...

So pretty!

PS. We’ve a $100 Giveaway to Vantage Point Vintage on our blog! Check it out, if you’d like :)

ox from NYC!
davie+erica

LPFashionPhilosophy

Rand T said...

beautiful!these photos are so lovely!:) x

The Foolish Aesthete said...

Delightful gypsy scenes here (where ever did you get that caravan?) and Russian onion domes. These are beautiful portraits of your friend too.

Clichés are definitely the lazy writer's low hanging fruit ... and something I often succumb to when I am hurried, which is quite often these days! Such an easy thing to do in the blog arena, whenever we are tempted to do the quick post. The reason I love to read your blog is that I sense the time taken with every word as it rolls off the keyboard. It leaves me savoring the text -- much like a delicioius morsel melting in my mouth! xxx

Thea vintage said...

Lovely! Gives me a nice stylish gypsy feeling about it all!

Emma Litton said...

Such beautiful dreamy photos. You look like a lovely gypsy.

xo,
Em

vintage process said...

Great pictures! I love it!!

Zorian said...

Rosalind, the photos of Lettice are wonderful. You, have conveyed very subtle aspects of the quality of her heart. They move me deeply.
The gentle blending of the tones, creates a tranquility and serenity that Lettice moves with in, effortlessly. Excusite.

SabinePsynopsis said...

I love the lighting and your styling, Lettice looks so very gorgeous and the photos are beautiful.

I'm never quite sure if writing needs to be realistic - but it's certainly a birth process.

xoxo

Pearl Westwood said...

These are absolutely stunning, I adore the one where Lettice is sat by the tree in the leaves. The location is beautiful with the old caravan!

Emily, Ruby Slipper Journeys said...

This was an interesting read. I think there is a great deal of idealization of landscape (and even city landscapes--one of my colleagues in my Masters wrote his dissertation on the "Urban Pastoral"), but I think the best art and literature has always shown a glimpse of the reality behind the pastoral (Thomas Hardy, for example). And I certainly think it's impossible to overstate the importance of our own particular landscapes in the psyche of a community or an individual. My own childhood summer spent in Yorkshire and Ontario have left a lasting effect, and my home city (Vancouver) is so defined by its landscape that it's difficult to imagine how the people would be in a different setting.

And speaking purely of backdrop... was is those marvellous St. Petersburg style towers behind Lettice in one shot?

Our Youth said...

gorgeous :)

Pins, Needles & Fashion said...

Just awesome and beautiful photos!


www.pinsneedlesfashion.blogspot.com

Rebeccak said...

I always catch myself falling into cliche's in my blog writing - too easy for a lazy post written in haste.

I love the way you have used purples and blues against the green of your landscape. Really stunning photos.