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.
North Wales is one of my favorite places in the world – quite possibly my absolute favorite – and I’ve had the good fortune to visit many places. The wild mountains, mystical valleys and magical woodlands of Eryri hold an enduring allure that I find captivating. However, it’s an area that’s incredibly difficult to photograph.
More often than not, I simply go there to raise my spirits and nourish my soul. This isn’t as frustrating as it may sound – in many ways, this still feeds into my creative process, helping me grow as a photographer, even if I don’t come back with any photos.
I suspect part of the problem is that, as you will know if you’ve read some of my other columns, I’m not easily seduced by the traditional, classic way of making landscape pictures, so I avoid this approach. Perhaps the wild landscapes of north Wales are just too beautiful for my aesthetic. However, I still take my kit in the hope that something will resonate. Every once in a while, it does, and a scene conspires or unfolds in my favor.
With this image, taken in the gardens of Plas Brondanw, near Porthmadog, I feel as though I’m getting close to the essence, or at least my essence, of the area. The gardens were created by the great Welsh architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis, who is perhaps best-known for the Italianate village of Portmeirion, which is nearby and also worth a visit if you’re in the area. This scene seems to capture how I feel about the region’s topography – as if the land is loaded with a mystical, almost surreal vibe, with a sentient entity lying dormant in the depths of the earth.
The recently trimmed hedge reveals a forest-like scene that alludes to the idea of another world that lies beneath, while the top half of the image, with the distant mountain tops and topiary bush, simply adds to the surreal vibe.
• Other articles in the Art of Seeing series