Project News, Summer 2019

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything here. There are several reasons for that, but the main one is because 2019 has been a year of photography, and I post about that over at chrisroutledge.pictures. Since deciding to concentrate more of my time on visual art late in 2018, around the time of Carousel, I’ve had several projects on the go.

Liverpool Art Fair, 2019

Firstly, I have work at the Liverpool Art Fair, which is being held this year at Liverpool’s Metquarter shopping mall, a space with remarkably good light for looking at pictures. The five pieces I have on show are all Liverpool based, and four of them come from my ongoing “Reflections on Liverpool” series. The fifth is the popular “Futurist” print shown here. I was interviewed recently for a short Q&A on the perennial subject of ‘photography as art’ over at the Liverpool Art Fair website.

There is a huge variety of interesting work on show at the art fair, all of which is for sale, and I highly recommend having a wander over to the Metquarter if you have some time to spare in Liverpool this summer (the show closes on September 1st).

Indeterminate Land. Heaton Cooper Studio Archive Gallery, Grasmere, October 9th-November 3rd.

My main project for the autumn is “Indeterminate Land,” a solo exhibition and book exploring our relationship with the landscape of the Lake District through the aftermath of ‘Storm Desmond’, a violent and destructive storm that struck Northern England and Southern Scotland in December 2015. I began photographing a short section of the river Rothay, near the village of Rydal during the storm, and in the months that followed, and the exhibition will include around 30 pieces of work looking at changes made to the landscape by the storm, and severe flooding. Working with various approaches to image making, including pinhole photography, I have also tried to explore the feelings of shock, and to some extent trauma, that followed from the storm, and to think about how the much mythologised landscape of the Romantic poets and painters manages to defy myth making. More information about Indeterminate Land is here. A signed and numbered limited edition book based on the project is now available to pre-order.

Indeterminate Land runs from 9th October to 3rd November 2019 at the Heaton Cooper Studio Archive Gallery, Grasmere.

Summer’s End on the Rothay

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Goosander chicks in June.

It is the beginning of September, and all of a sudden, at first light, the birds are back. They have been almost silent through the summer, and reticent too. This is not the dawn chorus jamboree of Springtime though, with the promise of nests to build and young to rear; at this time of year, birdsong is serious, end of summer talk. And this is still very much the end of summer, not Autumn proper. Most of the school holiday tourists have gone now, so there are fewer oversized cars parked obstructively in narrow lanes, but although there is still a feeling of a few more weeks of warm weather, change is coming. There are ducks rooting around the riverbank, but until today no sign of the Dippers, which seem to have been driven away when the river was made threadbare by the heatwave. We watched them raising young back in May, the adult birds racing off downstream to get food, while the young squabbled on tree roots, or practised diving among the big stones. I’d also quite like to know how June’s Goosander chicks have done; the original brood of eleven was down to just seven in July. Of course the leaves are still on the trees, and despite the drought of early summer, everything is green. But the river isn’t right until there is a white bib dipping, and a little black bird flashing past at high speed, just above the water.

After the Flood

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The River Rothay, back where it should be.

I have many reasons to be thankful and among them last weekend was that the storms and flooding that hit Cumbria on Saturday December 5th did no more than inconvenience my family and me. It’s true, we lost our car, which was already stranded and beyond saving in the early hours of Saturday morning, before “Desmond” actually arrived. The River Rothay finally swept it away up the road just after dark on Saturday evening. But the insurance has already covered that and, well, it was just a car, and not a particularly special one.

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Road and river.

Compared with the people of Carlisle, Cockermouth, and many other places, we got off very lightly indeed. Rather unexpectedly we had heat, light and broadband throughout the weekend. Besides a slight worry that the floodwaters would eventually reach our elevated front door, and the frustration of being marooned, all we had to think about was just how extraordinary the rain was, and how awesome, in the proper sense of the word, nature can be. My memory of that Saturday is of darkness, and relentless rain. The air became mostly water. It is also full of the noise the river made as it barrelled down the valley, carrying with it large branches and the root balls of gigantic felled trees. There were few opportunities to take photographs–being outside was just too unpleasant and it was far too dark anyway–so these pictures were taken before the worst of the flood hit.

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At its peak the water came up almost to the bottom of the sign on the gate.

That roaring sound was everywhere, all the time. It is no great revelation, but true nonetheless, that the world we make for ourselves–the comfortable, carpeted, indoor world–is a lot more precarious than it seems.

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Tourism is a major part of the economy in this beautiful part of the world, but there are businesses of all kinds, from art galleries, gift shops, and shops selling outdoor gear, to cafes, breweries, and of course farming. They are suffering: please use them. Visit if you can: don’t cancel that hotel booking if the hotel is still open. If you can’t visit, why not buy some of your Christmas presents from Cumbrian businesses online?

If you can spare some cash, please also give to the flood appeal.