I have this hopelessly romantic notion that ‘spirit of place’ is a metaphysical reality; that as humans we can be in a place and somehow communicate with our surroundings, allow ourselves to feel the emotion that’s wrapped up in the ‘spiritual energy’ of any given location. Could it be that inanimate objects like rocks, the ground beneath our feet, or our surrounding atmosphere, harbor an ‘energy’; is it even remotely conceivable that they might directly influence human feeling? Cosmological evidence is mounting for the existence of previously unidentified forms of matter and energy that permeate all space, so such a romantic notion might not be entirely impossible. However, until science reveals more evidence, perhaps it is sensible that such paranormal parallels for the creative influences of ‘dark energy’ remain hypothetical.
Landscape photographers often recount an inexplicable affinity for certain locations; sometimes more negative emotions prevail and there is an overwhelming sense of trepidation. I always feel quite humbled by the gravitas of Glen Coe; my flight of fancy, as I stand there on the peat, is that I am somehow feeling the historical pathos of what has gone before. In reality, of course, such beliefs have myriad mundane explanations, from the subconscious recall of sequences from films like ‘Braveheart’ to more subliminal, but no less moving, memories of feelings evoked by poetry, painting and music. Whatever the explanation, our current belief is that the sum-total ‘feeling’ comes entirely from within, and is at best, an interpretation.
I had no prior visual or historical knowledge of this Norwegian fjord, photographed during a week of particularly inhospitable arctic weather. The location was a new discovery, a fresh experience without the distraction of any pre-conceived sense of place. I was creatively free, to drink in the scenery and allow myself to be enveloped by the atmosphere, to feel the ‘energy’ of this wild, beautiful location. My interpretation hopefully emphasises the empty fish-racks, an unintentional art installation, revealing the hand of man amidst this unforgiving, cold mercurial seascape. The relatively flat and diffuse silver-blue light from the overcast sky, revealed the character of this place in a visually honest way, without any significant need for post-processing. My experience at the fish-racks, while not quite ‘metaphysical’, was definitely magical.