Photographic Assignment at Berkeley Castle - Photographed by Martin Billings
Faint Shadows Of Uncertain Light And Undisclosed Sensations
I had always wanted to explore the relationship between powerful historic fortified edifices and their inhabitants. But more precisely the way women could be portrayed within impregnable walls, lofty halls and monumental interiors. Pastiche was not what I sought, nor was architectural imagery. I wanted a set of images that evoked rather than tell, to suggest rather than explain. The passage, "The delicate and refined play of the imagination", by the eighteenth century author and orator Edmund Burke led me to the title of the complete portfolio, it contained the philosophical precision I needed.
In October 2008 I approached the owners at Berkeley Castle, Gloucestershire asking if I could photograph and produce a portfolio of images that conveyed the castle's continual relationship and dependence upon people past and present. It seemed a perfect location. An ancient fortress home lived in by the same family for over nine hundred years. It's rich heritage is part of English history. I received a rapid, positive and supportive response, and I am grateful to the family and staff for their overwhelming encouragement and assistance.
The pictures took three visits to Berkeley to execute and compile. Each shoot proved rewarding, one to discover and expose visible treasures of the building that embody its fabric and antiquity reproduced as iconic tetratyches, and two for creating sensitive and impetuous photographs of two vivacious women. An agreeable tranquility emerged when photographing the models that became an inherent reassurance as if we were emulating similar moments from preceding years. Did our style, panache and impertinence match that of past generations without forfeiting the essence of the castle? Perhaps you will draw your own conclusions.
The photographs are sensuous, expressive, and some people may say erotic, full of self-confident femininity. My penchant for using available light has been sated, and a tad of mischievous irreverence applied to some pictures. I'm absorbed with the completeness of the surroundings and merely fulfill a role of exposing the experience. My photographs continue a visual record of the castle and offer a peaceful, gentle meander through a subjective perception of human life. I also confess to being inspired by the photographic work of Clementina, Viscountess Hawarden who from 1857 until her early death in 1865, was a pioneering woman of British photography producing over eight hundred photographs of her adolescent daughters in the isolation of her London home.
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