Friday, October 20, 2006

A Writer's Photography

Used to be that I took pictures to illustrate travel stories. For many years, I published in travel sections of newspapers and magazines like Travel & Leisure, some women's magazines, Family Circle, etc. It was never my favorite part of the work. I didn't feel confident that I had what I needed in the can.
Now, working on research for my biography of painter Elisabeth Chant, I'm shooting for documentary purposes, and for descendants of hers who have been helping me track down her story. Plus, of course, these days I can look at the back of the camera and see how the photograph is going to look. I'm still no Brassai, but these will show a bit of where I'm seeking my subject.

The trip was to Somerset in the southwest of England, where Chant spent the first eight years of her life, in the shadow of such sites as Glastonbury and Cadbury Camp, an alleged site of Camelot. She came back to this area in her mid-thirties. Throughout her life, she was much affected -- in fact, formed -- by the history and myth and natural world that surrounded her here.

These are a few of the 298 images I collected. It seemed like a thousand at the time I was shooting. These show:
*The ruin of Glastonbury church. The original rough hut of a Christian church here is alleged to have been the first in Britain and possibly in Christendom, established shortly after the Crucifixion. The ruin in the photo is also held in legend to contain the graves of King Arthur and Guinevere, and has a marked site on the grass within.
*Glastonbury Tor, the steep and weirdly conical hill that is both a Christian and Celtic pilgrimage site. The open arch is the base of the tower at the top of the hill-- what's left of a more than 500 year-old church. Looking through it, as I stood at the top of the Tor was like looking out to sea. There's a semi-straight path up and down the Tor, as in the photo, and a path that winds slowly around the sides, forming a giant labyrinth.

Some have called this spot "the holiest earthe of England."

And then there's the 16th century Mermaid Inn where I stayed for my week of archival research and exploring. Miss Chant continues to lead me to some intriguing places.


billie said...

Fabulous photos...! Each one is inviting in its own way... perhaps when the book comes out you can lead a "Miss Chant" travel tour. :)

There's actually a travel agency that offers "sacred journeys for women" and one of them is a Mists of Avalon tour!

A whole new niche for the author who likes to travel.


Peggy said...

The tour idea sounds lovely. Especially for Somerset. As long as I don't have to do the nuts-and-bolts travel managing for a group of more than two. My temperament is not well-suited to that; would result in bouts of chaos.

scobur said...

Peggy, looks like a great and productive trip. Photos are excellent. I want to go.

Peggy said...

Hi scobur, I highly recommend the place. I've discovered I really fancy treacle toffee. Glad you like the pix.