“And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”
Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil
In my years as a photographer I’ve taken certain pictures in which I’ve recognised a reflection of something inside myself – a feeling of both being trapped and floating endlessly in time and space, a mixture of hope and despair, desolation and beauty. The sense, perhaps, of what it is to live a finite life in an infinite universe.
It was in the hope of recording this dichotomy that I first began carrying a camera with me. I grew up in an isolated corner of the Kentish countryside with only my imagination and the surrounding woodland for company, and soon found myself rising at dawn to capture a certain trick of the sunrise, a play of light on the forest floor, desperately hoping that when the pictures were developed they would turn out to have captured something of the immense beauty and sadness that I felt life lent to the natural world.
Sometimes the pictures were successful, other times less so. As the years passed I learned through necessity to begin turning my fascination with photography into a career, but I never completely let go of my childhood belief in a world behind this one, hidden by a veil that every now and again slipped to reveal the infinite to those willing to look, and to the photographer quick enough to capture it. And occasionally I would find myself looking at pictures – some of them landscapes, some of them portraits – and feel that same sensation I’d known as a child.
These are those pictures. Each captures something of what the Swiss art historian Beat Wyss, in his discussion of Caspar David Friedrich’s The Monk By The Sea, called ‘the defenceless, top-speed collision between the ego and the cosmos’. They are pictures that, to me, hint at the unfathomable scale not only of the universe, but of life itself. They are instances in which, by accident or design, I have found myself staring once more into the abyss, and the abyss has momentarily returned my gaze.