I have accompanied David on a number of occasions to witness the capture of some of these stunning images. Carrying the heavy plate camera in a rucksack, with his tripod over his shoulder, he sets off, sometimes walking miles.
He carries only two dark slides which hold four 8 x 10 inch negatives. These images are not ‘snapped’ as something catches his eye. These images have been given the utmost consideration; scouted-out, pre-visualized and timed to capture the perfect light, composition and weather conditions. Because of this the actual process is over fairly quickly, partly because David knows exactly what he wants and partly because he is such a consummately skilled photographer.
David has grown up knowing the woods and forests of North Yorkshire, walking, camping and even climbing amongst them; he has developed an intimate understanding of these trees. By grounding himself so firmly in the place he has been able to adjust our focus on the general to the specific, allowing him to communicate his deep respect for the environment.
We live in a disposable society: the ubiquity of digital imaging means we have become more detached from our surroundings, ‘snapping’ everything without really looking. By using an antique camera and an even older photographic process embodying carbon, these images are not just connected to the place; they are physically of the place. The carbon printing process itself means that these images are made to last: as such they are timeless.
The influence of abstract expressionism seems evident; Franz Kline and Barnett Newman spring to mind. However, in subject matter, they recall haunting images of battlefields from an unknown war zone. This, I believe, is the power of David’s images: their abstract compositions reflect the destruction of the past, yet they are made in the present and perhaps they are a premonition of what our future may hold if we do not care for our environment.
‘The clearest way into the universe is through a forest wilderness’ – John Muir