Avebury Project - Photographer's Statement

As a photographer I have always prized the atmosphere of my images above all other considerations. All the technical photographic perfections that are meant to be so important like absence of grain, corner sharpness, lack of vignetting, correct use of the “law of thirds” and so forth, have never been my guides, never seemed worthwhile as long as my images felt atmospheric to me. I want to prove to myself through my photographs that the world only appears dull when I am being lazy, not looking hard enough, failing to see the true wonder of what is in front of my nose at that moment. I have not always found that task easy.

Which is why my discovery of Avebury has been so very important to me. I have never been anywhere so incredibly redolent of other times and other worlds as this. Avebury is nothing if not atmospheric, visiting at night has been like leaving the planet and going somewhere completely new and unexpected, and strangely finding a welcome there. This large and freely accessible site was built in neolithic times by 30 generations of people whose outlook, religion and concept of art are so very different to our own. Exploring any site at night means to some extent abandoning our normal rational and complacent vision and sense of security, and instead opening ourselves up to the true spirit of an alien place. At Avebury this means being highly aware of the ancestors who stamped their personality on this landscape, and also having a sense of being accompanied by the magical characters so subtly carved into the stones all around. Indeed while photographing at night at Avebury it is very difficult to feel that you are ever completely alone.

The very existence of sculpture at Avebury is controversial. Some archaeologists deny that the stones incorporate any man made images at all. But the visitor to the site can hardly escape the feeling that there are faces all around. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that neolithic sculptors took raw sarsen stones that had some natural resemblance to figures in their folklore, and then modified the stones minutely and subtly to bring out characters under different lights and at different times of the year. The more imaginative visitor can easily believe that they are continually surrounded by neolithic gods, spirits, icons, heroes, fertility symbols, animals, star-gazers and constellation figures. At night the restraining reason of the day is no longer a fetter on our minds, and the ancestors and their pantheon of characters seem ever present.

I hope that my photographs contain some echoes at least of these mystical accompaniments, but I am anxious that my work not be seen as a catalogue of stones, but instead an attempt to celebrate the intimacy, scale and diversity of the monuments, their congruity with nature and the ancestors' celebration of the feminine creative force that they so clearly worshipped.