I still can see the window and the scratches on the glass made by a diamond ring – I feel there was maybe some sort of tragic story of the scratches but I can’t quite remember. We were on a school excursion or perhaps a family outing I don’t know, that I cannot remember but I was very young when this started - maybe around 6 or 7 – and what I do remember is the feeling of intense curiosity and sometimes joy of being in an old house and feeling regret when I had to leave. This feeling has stayed with me and now, whenever I have the opportunity I indulge it.
Some old houses that have not been lived in or are on their knees with failing stumps have a smell. It is not pleasant. It makes your nostrils flare and your face scrunch as you stand in the hallway marvelling at the way the light comes down the hall through the screen door or lie on the floor to capture the peeling wallpaper or looking at kooky little trinkets that past tenants have left behind by design or accident and wonder at sconces and light fittings. A laundry with cooch growing up into the louvres, a shed with cobbler’s equipment and hammers draped in spider webs, old doors, flaking paint, quirky 50’s tiles in an outdoor loo, hand prints on the walls, a built in cocktail cabinet in a door and wallpaper made to look like Florentine tiles – I could go on and on because I am quite delighted by these little objects and details they are like little post it notes from the past. They don’t quite tell a story but they really do.
Old houses, abandoned sheds and buildings you will find me creeping about with my camera in hand – carefully of course, treading loose or rotten floorboards with extreme caution and watching for things that may fall on my head – like the fox that sprang out of the roof cavity of an abandoned house once scaring the bejesus out of us both in the eerie and complete quiet that is an abandoned or ruined house.
So, by now you will have worked out that I am a huge fan of the National Trust and will happily spend hours looking, reading and imagining the people and their lives. You see, I have found that to really get the most out of this obsession I have to be alone and not with other people who just want to rush through or can’t appreciate the significance of these buildings or feel they must talk about everything – because when you are in a house or building that has been relatively untouched by time it is a remarkable thing. It is a rich and full experience that must be taken slowly and never rushed. For maximum enjoyment I find that it really must be done solo and quietly so there is plenty of time to read the information if it is there or just stand in a room and take it in and try to evoke the past that wisps at the very edge of your senses.
So what does this have to do with photography you say?! As a photographer you are an observer and a dreamer of dreams with wild imagination and vision and, you see, I love the experience of being in these old houses because they are so empty but are so full all at the same time. gx