This photography project started in the autumn of 2011. I’d wandered and explored the nature reserves of Chorlton Water Park and Sale Water Park, and a little around them. What I hadn’t done is walked along the connecting River Mersey and in the ‘wilder’ areas such as Chorlton Meadows.
‘Wild’ is a relative term. Some say, and I agree, there are few if any ‘wild’ parts of Britain. Go to the most remote parts of Scotland and you will find a bothy which shepherds may have used, and evidence of walkers if not walkers themselves: tracks, paths, and people like you sleeping there in tents. There are a few places renowned for their wildness: Knoydart, Letterewe, Fisherfield. Last year in spring I walked to the edge of Fisherfield and it now tempts me, like a dream, like the experience depicted in the Alain Fournier novel Le Grandes Meaulnes. You remember it, but only just, and really want to go back there and see it again.
In fact Le Grandes Meaulnes makes no sense as a literal reading. This puzzled me in my youth, when I didn’t understand symbolism and layers of meaning. You say one thing, mean something else, and even construct an entire novel around that structure: can you do that? If you don’t understand what’s happening, it has a peculiarly enticing appeal. You sense it’s important, but don’t understand why, exactly like the central protagonist Meaulnes and his search for the lost domain.
Unlike Meaulne’s lost domain and the girl he falls in love with whom he finds there, wild places do exist. Fisherfield exists. Letterewe and Knoydart exist. Buttermere, Ullswater, Eskdale and the Nant Gwynant valley exist; so more poignantly do the Alps and the Pyrenees. My first experience of big mountains was a school skiing trip to Switzerland. I felt it then: a peculiar sense of home, but homelessness, because I was there, now I’m back, I was happy there, but that was partly because I knew it was transitory and that was why I loved it. All of this gets associated with mountains. They may not technically be ‘wild’ but they correlate with wild parts of the imagination and are correspondingly seductive for anyone who wants freedom, tastes it in the hills, and wants it again. Because wildness is free.
The nature reserve of Chorlton Meadows is further less ‘wild’ than Scotland. But ‘wild’ is imaginative; not, ultimately, physical. And wild is what we need. Einstein was wild. Columbus was wild. Edward Abbey was wild. Bruce Lee was wild. John Coltrane was wild. William Shakespeare was – in parts – wild. And he understood the oppositions of nature and society, the wild and the court, depicting it for example in Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest.
I think ‘wild’ is our true nature. It is unconditioned and free. Not in a regressive Freudian sense, but in a more subtle sense. Society mitigates against this. Jobs trap us into slave labour and we are treated such as Engels called “useful objects” subjected to stupidity and confines other people create, institutions, and corporations. Jean Paul-Sartre was right: hell is other people.
Matter equals energy. The world is round not flat. The most simple propositions are the greatest and this principle applies when we regard the operations and beauty of nature. I photograph tiny walkers at Chorlton Meadows – people like me – immersed in softly blending grasses, colours and textures.
When I can, I walk big hills. When I cannot, I walk in parks and local nature reserves. When it rains, I edit and show my photographs on the internet.