Welcome to the Gallery

Imagine is set in the Suffolk village of Long Melford.
This is an attempt to record the daily trials, tribulation and pleasure of running an art gallery.

Monday, 10 January 2011

I have never made a New Year resolution before as I know that I would be incapable of keeping to it [whatever "it" was], but this year I did.
"My resolution is to finish that bloody picture", I told myself.

The picture in question was a photograph that I had taken about two years ago.
Well really it was a collection of photographs, as I was trying to build a finished picture from
thirteen different shots.
I may have mentioned before that at times people have commented that some of my photographs
look like paintings, as a result of this I decided that I should never consciously try to reproduce a painting of any kind but that I should just let things develop by themselves.
I have broken this rule once already, this was when I tried to re-create the painting of
based on the famous painting by John Everett Millais.
I had loved the painting so much I wished that I had created it, so I did in my own way.
Another favourite has always been
'The Lady of Shalott', by John William Waterhouse.
I find these paintings so very moving and romantic, and so clever in their execution and use of light. They may be old fashioned but I still find them beautiful.

Having been lucky enough to find one model to play "dead" in a winter stream, I was now even more fortunate to be friends with another young woman [Sarah Day] who not only didn't
mind modelling for me but who also owned her own boat and enjoyed making re-creation clothing.
Added to this I had an offer from a lady who visits the gallery
"if you ever want to use my home for your photographs you are welcome".
Her home is an old mill, set beside the river and with its own weir and large pool.

So, one summer day I set out with the intention of trying to once again create my version of an old painting.
Perhaps I should mention here that I don't actually enjoy taking photographs, I find it very hard
technically [especially with limited knowledge] as my own expectations of what I would like to see are hard to produce.
Many times I don't bother to take a picture when the opportunity comes as the thought of having to work out exposures, choosing the right combination of filters, and making sure I have covered every angle tends to take away "the moment".
Any real photographer wouldn't understand this, but they would be more qualified than I for the job in hand.

This time everything was ready.
Sarah had made a dress in the style of the painting, and even taken her boat to the mill pond
the previous day.
The sky was clear and the sun shone, what more could I ask for?

From the outset I had known that I couldn't take the picture with one shot as I wanted to finish
up with a large file [over 200 mg] and this wasn't possible with a camera like mine.
So it meant that the picture would have to be a montage of different shots.
Also I wanted to create the 'spirit' of the painting, my version, or what might have been the painting under different circumstances. So I knew that many pictures would have to be taken
so I had enough to choose from and to "build" with.

For an hour or so Sarah paddled or drifted her boat about the pool.
I knew what I was looking for but creating it or capturing it was a lot harder and I spent my time scrambling about the bank side or wading into the shallows [I had my boots on] trying to get the perfect shots.
Luckily Sarah has been the 'star' of many previous photographs of mine, so she knew what to expect, what to do and how to react to my vague prompts.

Eventually I announced "that's it I must have everything by now".
Understanding what was required Sarah reminded me that I hadn't taken any pictures of reeds.
The main reason for this being that they were in deeper water and too far away.
"Climb in and I will paddle us out there", she told me.
I had wanted to go out on the boat so I jumped at the invitation.
I jumped into the boat and immediately capsized it, turning it over with us both in it.
My first thoughts were for my camera.
Standing waist deep in the water I realized that it was immersed.
"The camera, I must save the camera".

I waded to the bank side, climbed it and run to the house.
I had to dry the camera, and quickly.

I was fortunate, fifteen minutes later after taking it apart and blasting it with a hair dryer it was working again.
Crisis over.

Oh! I wonder what happened to Sarah.
[You understand that at times I'm not the kind, considerate person I pretend to be, and this was one of them].
But luckily she was aware of this and after dragging the submerged boat to the bank by herself she somehow upturned it and drained the water out before squelching her way back to the house.
" You poor girl, come in quickly and have a hot shower, you must be frozen".
No, that wasn't me that was the lady of the house.

One week later, having chosen what photographs to use I had made a "rough" by putting four of them put together.
This had taken two days.
I understood then that this was going to be a very long process so I put them aside and got on
with life.
Every now and again I would play with the picture a little and move it forward, but not very often.
Eighteen months later it was finished.
But only for a few minutes. It was as if my computer had had enough of it.
The screen went dead never to come back on again, with it went all of the pictures that I had created over the past few years.
Some were of course saved onto Cd's but not all, and certainly not
Lady of Shalott.

Recently I had a lot of the contents of the hard disc recovered, but the finished picture was gone
for all time except in my head.
I managed to get back some of the original photographs, including a picture of a soaked Sarah.

Sitting looking at this I decided that I must finish that picture one day,
just for her sake if no other reason.
We have kept in touch and indeed produced other pictures together, and she has never once
bothered me or complained about that picture.
So that was my resolution, to finish it,
and I decided that I would not write here again until I had.

So it's finished, I am unhappy with it and will one day go back and start again with the pictures I have, but at least for me at least it captures a little of the atmosphere we set out to create.
Thanks Sarah.

Above are the finished [for now at least] picture, the beautiful original painting which inspired it. An early start picture using six images, then another about a week and several changes later,
and of course my star on route to the shower.


  1. This is really beautiful, and what a trooper for a model!

  2. Waterhouse is one of my favorite painters. I had that painting as a poster on my wall back in my salad days, along with a poster of "Hylas and the nymphs." Loreena McKennitt has set Tennyson's poem to music:

  3. What a wonderfully convoluted tale concerning such a beautiful image. I'm so glad I'm not the only one who has umpteen unfinished projects squirreled away in various files on my laptop. Sadly none of mine are as good as yours.

    Kate :-)

  4. Thank you for your lovely comments.

    Dan, I think mad, rather than trooper. She must be to put up with me.

    WOL! I wished you hadn't reminded me of that painting.
    Sadly, I think that it is beyond my powers of persusasion to find the models for that. Which is a shame as it is so beautiful.
    But innocence doesn't seem to exist any more.

    Kate, I'm so pleased that you even responded. I greatly enjoy your own pictures. We will have to have a talk some time.
    As for projects? I have more that have been on the "back burner" than I will ever finish, but at least thinking about them is good.