009 (Enclosures, badlands and borders)
David George never imagined being a photographer. It was only when a bad motorbike accident left him out of action for months that he quit his job at an oil refinery to pursue a degree in fine art and photography. Before this, all he knew about the subject was that his father shot one roll of film on a Brownie camera on summer holidays and another at Christmas. But his old workplace must live on in his mind, merged in the formative influence of photographer Edward Weston and his epic depictions of the American landscape, its people – even its vegetables.
Before becoming famous, Weston spent all his money on film; apparently he only used food as a subject so he could eat it afterwards. It’s a Calvinistic approach to the medium that has fed into George’s own sparing use of shots, even when using digital cameras. His skill, gleaned from 20 years in the business, makes him selective; though he concedes that with today’s technology, it doesn’t take much skill to take a good photo. But it does take a lot to make a great one.
George won’t be drawn on whether he sees this as a great photo; he’ll only say that he thinks the image is part of the ongoing narrative on the sublime in the English landscape, first defined in the 18th century by Edmund Burke. His memories of taking it are less so; a slightly drunken chat in a pub about a decommissioned power station in Kent leading to a late night stumble across the fields at 2am, and having to fight off territorial cows with his tripod. The painterly quality is evinced from the long exposure, making a distinction between the inanimate man-made and animate nature. But for the sublime, look to the strange, slow bleed of electric blue on the horizon; to this day the photographer is at a loss to account for its origin.