In late 1970 I began to explore the Peak District, looking for areas where I might continue my landscape work. The first site of interest that I found was a small stream, Linch Clough, in north Derbyshire.It became the focus of my work, I photographed there from 1971 - 1976. I was also still developing the 'Wounds of Trees' work.
Linch Clough became the source of my second sequence "Metamorphosis' and later 'All Flows'. The stream is small and unspectacular (image 1). Looking at the map it is about two miles long. For most of that length one could jump across , with wellingtons being sufficient to avoid wet feet. In my years working there I never reached the source, working on the short stretch of stream below the moors.
Many of the strategies that informed my later landscape work were developed whilst working at Linch Clough. Photographing water presented new problems, new opportunities. Movement, constant change, variations in flow - turbulent after rain, slow in times of drought became things to consider, changes in exposure time producing very different effects in the final image. I was fascinated by the myriad sounds of running water in response to which I began what I termed 'silent sitting'. To sit eyes closed for fifteen minutes after choosing an area to examine intently after I opened my eyes. I found that this both allowed me to become attuned to the space and to 'see' with greater intensity.
'Metamorphosis' explored the small and intimate spaces at the stream's edge, patterns of flow, the shifting relationship of water and rock, water becoming ice in the cold of Winter. After three years I completed the sequence and considered my work at Linch Clough completed, but I was to return.
The 1970's saw extreme change in photography in Britain. In 1971 Sue Davies opened 'The Photographer's Gallery' in London. In 1972 Val Williams and Andrew Sproxton opened 'Impressions Gallery' in York. Spaces dedicated to the exhibition and exploration of photography as a medium worthy of consideration. 'Creative Camera' edited by Colin Osman began to show work that had previously had no forum for display. Workshops dedicated to the exploration of an alternative way of working to the camera club aesthetic opened. First Paul Hill's 'Photographers Place' in Derbyshire followed by Peter Goldfield at Duckspool and others.
In 1972 the Arts Council of Great Britain began to offer funding to individual photographers to develop their personal practice - a new era had begun. I was feeling a certain unease in my way of working. I lived in the city and occasionally I would dash, brigand-like, into the landscape, returning with my stolen treasures. I wanted time for a more considered, a more intimate way of working. I thought that an ACGB grant could buy me that time. In 1974 I applied for a grant submitting 'Wounds of Trees' and 'Metamorphosis' and was awarded my first grant. Between 1974 and 1979 I was given four grants which resulted in the exhibitions 'Stand before the world', 'Spirit of Place' and 'Lila' and in 1979 a small monograph was published as part of the ACGB's publishing venture British Image 3 John Blakemore ISBN 0728701073. At first I found the award a burden. For four years I had been producing work purely for myself, suddenly I felt beholden to an outside body! I behaved in an uncharacteristic manner.I dashed to areas unfamiliar to me. I made work for which I had no feeling. After a year I felt very disillusioned and had I not already spent the money I would have returned it and resigned the commission!
What to do? I decided to revisit Linch Clough. I didn't really expect to make significant work but felt at least I would be at peace and on familiar territory.I had developed certain rituals in my approach to landscape.I liked to be out before sunrise.I valued the moments of absolute stillness, the quiet, the hush before dawn. If I had decided to go out, I went whatever the weather, experience having taught me that all weather conditions had visual potential.The morning I decided to return to Linch Clough was dismal with pouring rain - I set off. I arrived in the dark, rain pounding on the car roof. I sat and waited drinking coffee.With the light the rain stopped, the sun rose, the world was a gleam and a glitter!The previous week I had bought new pair of waterproof boots, I decided to try them out. When I reached the stream I did not walk on the bank as I had always done previously but waded up the stream. The shift in viewpoint was magical and I began to make photographs - 'All Flows' was begun! Among the images was image no 4. I was intrigued by the lines of sunlight on the moving water which suggested a kinetic energy. I wanted to explore this phenomenon more fully on my next visit to the stream. I knew, from my notebook, that the required exposure was 1/4 second. A problem the image had been made on the Bronica. I had decided to work only on 5x4, to change from Tri X to FP4.When I returned to the stream my indicated exposure was not 1/4 second but 1 second. What to do? I sat on a convenient boulder to think about it. I decided that the answer was multiple exposure. I broke the 1 second exposure into increments of 1/4 second, giving six exposures to allow for the latency effect. It worked even better than I had hoped, highlights were multiplied, areas in shadow softened.
This was my first use of multiple exposure. I have subsequently used it in my 'Wind Series' and in several series of still life.I see no virtue in multiple exposure for it's own sake. It inevitably creates problems of revisualisation. I have only ever used it to solve a particular problem.
The 'All Flows' sequence also helped clarify my intentions in the landscape work, I wanted to explore ideas of the landscape as energy.