“I was in deep rural France, where the elements, nature and the cycle of life felt heightened”

Art of Seeing by Benedict Brain
The stark simplicity and subject matter of this shot speak to the broader events taking place at the time of shooting. Fujifilm GFX 50R with Fujifilm GF 45mm f/2.8 R WR lens. 1/125 sec at f/16, ISO 100 (Image credit: Benedict Brain)
About Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain with camera

(Image credit: Marcus Hawkins)

Benedict Brain is a UK-based photographer, journalist and artist. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel. He is also a past editor of Digital Camera Magazine, and the author of You Will be Able to Take Great Photos by The End of This Book.

Coming back from a fleeting visit to France in late 2021, I realized it had been the first time I’d left the UK since autumn 2019. How wonderful it was to be on the road again. I’m not sure why it feels so liberating – but for me, it does.

This was a functional trip that required flying to southern France and driving back. I always like these brief journeys, even though I’m not really on a photography ‘mission’. More often than not, I find that I make interesting work. I’m not really sure why this is, but this time I wasn’t going to waste the opportunity, and I went prepared.

I needed to travel light – hand luggage only – but I still decided to take my big Fujifilm GFX 50R, a 45mm (equivalent to 35mm in full-frame terms) lens, and a small Godox flash. This is my absolute go-to kit.

There is something about being on a journey in unfamiliar places that opens one’s eyes to see the world differently. Maybe this is why I find that these trips stimulate my creativity.

I discovered this dead blue tit one day, and felt instantly inspired to photograph it. To me, it felt nuanced with metaphorical meaning. I was in deep rural France, where the elements, nature, the cycle of life and the fragility of existence felt heightened against the encroaching winter. These feelings were exacerbated by contemporary events, dominated at the time by Omicron fears and tragedy in the English Channel.

The delicate beauty and hues of the bird’s features were in contrast to the starkness of the cardboard, and this tableau seemed in a way to speak to my thoughts on the world around me at the time. The harshness of the unflinching glare of the on-camera flash intensified this contrast.

I ended up with about 15 images of the journey; this is part of a set that I think hangs together well, despite the disparate subject matter. Sometimes it’s good, better even, to work on a project quickly, within the boundaries of restricted time. 

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Benedict Brain

Benedict Brain is a UK based photographer, journalist and artist. He graduated with a degree in photography from the Derby School of Art in 1991 (now University of Derby), where he was tutored and inspired by photographers John Blakemore and Olivier Richon, amongst others. He is an Associate of the Royal Photographic Society and also sits on the society’s Distinctions Advisory Panel.

Until July 2018 Benedict was editor of Britain’s best-selling consumer photography magazine, Digital Camera Magazine. As a journalist he met and interviewed some of the world’s greatest photographers and produced articles on a wide range of photography related topics, presented technique videos, wrote in-depth features, curated and edited best-in-class content for a range of titles including; Amateur Photographer, PhotoPlus, N-Photo, Professional Photography and Practical Photoshop. He currently writes a regular column, The Art of Seeing, for Digital Camera magazine.