“It was a crisp, freezing cold winter day, with a beautiful low-raking light that spilled into my camera's lens”

Art of Seeing by Benedict Brain
Boundaries can be good fuel for the creative process. Set yourself a challenge like this and see where it takes you. Fujifilm GFX 50R with Fujifilm GF45mm f/2.8 R WR lens. 1/125 sec at f/8, 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.

Recently, a bunch of artists, myself included, were invited to journey to the Blackdown Hills, a quiet rural landscape on the Devon and Somerset border that is designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Despite the relatively close proximity to my home, I didn’t know the Blackdown Hills. However, it was well-known among artists from the Camden Town Group, a collective of post-Impressionist artists who came together in London in 1911. It still exists today under the revised name of The London Group. 

In the early part of the 20th century, artists such as Spencer Gore, Charles Ginner and Robert Bevan spent time in the Blackdown Hills making work. As a creative springboard, I was given The Hay Harvest, Harts Farm by Robert Bevan to respond to. It proved an interesting foundation to engage with a location. 

It was a crisp, freezing cold winter day, with a beautiful low-raking light that spilled into the lens when I happened to visit – a magnificent day. I found the right farm, and after a brief introduction was given free rein to explore. Signs of hay were obviously not evident, but I think I found the right field and set about making work. 

Soon, I was seduced by the semi-industrial farm machinery parked at the bottom of the field. The monster-like shapes took on an imposing and sinister vibe. In other parts of the area, old farm buildings that would have been there when Bevan was present also caught my eye. Together, these two images, presented as a diptych, seemed to work well together, and spoke to the spirit of the pace as I encountered it. 

I’ve talked about boundaries in this column before, and how they can actually be a useful catalyst for the creative process. It feels kind of counter-intuitive, but I believe it to be true. Even though the work I made could not be more different for Robert Bevan’s painting of the hay harvest, using his painting and the location fuelled me in a way to make images that I wouldn’t have made had I just been wandering aimlessly with my camera. If you can think of a way to incorporate this way of working into your image-making, I’m certain you’ll benefit. 

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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.