A few weeks ago we went to photograph the Burryman as part of an ongoing project that Sylwia and I have been working on, bit by bit, over the last couple of years - eg. the pictures we took of Beltane which I blogged about here. Part of the project is about survival of folk traditions in Scotland today, and the Burryman is a particularly odd looking one!
The sky went dark, leaving just a sliver of sunshine where a boat was anchored out in the bay. I'm missing that feeling of perfect happiness that comes from being on a sailing boat, anchored out in the protection of a peaceful and beautiful estuary, having a cup of tea after a tough sea crossing.
North Berwick was famous for its witch trials at which over a hundred witches were accused. It all started because James VI, while returning from Denmark in a ship, was hit by a storm. Many of them confessed under torture to meeting the Devil and attempting to sink the ship, and were burned. It was reputed that witches sailed to sea in a sieve. Or as Shakespeare wrote in Macbeth:
“Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed runnion cries.
Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o' th'Tiger;
But in a sieve I’ll thither sail,
And like a rat without a tail,
I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.
© Sylwia Kowalczyk and Simon Crofts
Last night Sylwia and I caught a glimpse of the Green Man resting in the forest. Well okay, we took his portrait. Joe was utterly charming and patient with us while we experimented in the forest on tank traps left over from World War Two.
Every time I take the train to London. I look out of the window of the train as we pass Alnmouth and always think "I must go there one day'. And of course, never do. Well today, we did.
An impromptu Rembrandt-style portrait of Sylwia in nearby Ellingham Hall
The harbour entrance is idyllic
When we arrived, we joked that there was bound to be a big white van parked in the middle of the harbour view. There always is. So we went for a coffee, sitting outside in the cafe's yard with a view out across the golf course to the coast. And a minute later, look what parked in front of us (and incidentally on top of the 'Keep Clear' sign)
A football pitch, Northumberland style
I must down to the sea again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship, and a star to steer her by
The trail is actually from a horse:
... who wasn't welcome on this path:
Many houses in the town suffer from obsessive-compulsive hedge trimming. While we loved the town, and the hedges were truly impressive, we're glad we live in a nice big city.
We had a chat with a local who asked where we lived, and of course we told him Edinburgh. We turned the conversation to Alnmouth, and told him how lovely it was. Every time we did, he nodded in agreement, then added wistfully: "Edinburgh's nice" and "I really like Edinburgh" and "I do love to visit Edinburgh" and "how long does it take on the train to Edinburgh?"
Maybe we won't move just yet.
I have made a small selection of some of the pictures that Sylwia and I took of the preparations for Beltane. An enormous amount of effort, dedication and organisation went into the weeks in the run up. It is fascinating to see these Celtic pagan traditions being kept alive, and reinterpreted, in a modern context - Beltane is not a historical reenactment, but a living, constantly evolving collective experience: All images © Sylwia Kowalczyk and Simon Crofts
Last week Sylwia and I photographed Beltane, the ancient Celtic festival welcoming the onset of summer (or spring, depending on your point of view - anyway, the relatively warm part of the year) as part of a project that we are working on at the moment. We photographed some of the preparations as well as the night itself - I'll do a separate post with a selection of preparation images, but here are some from Beltane night itself. The whole thing was an impressive and extraordinary spectacle, and an awful lot of fun to take part in, hard work and exhilarating at the same time, and an interesting technical challenge - because for most of the night there is very little light except that from torches and bonfire. All images © Sylwia Kowalczyk and Simon Crofts
A handfasting ceremony under way:-
I like this philosophy in photography: Keep it Simple, Simon. Or for that matter, Sylwia. Talking of which, this is a portrait of Sylwia. Actually, it was a test photo for another picture, with Sylwia standing in to test the light. It doesn't matter why it was taken, I like it for its simplicity and honesty, the lack of manipulation, the strands of hair that have gone astray, and of course a pretty girl - my wife!
Whenever I passed this window in Krakow and noticed a change, I took a photo, starting nearly ten years ago. Styles have been subtly evolving (and the sign placed in the window reads "we buy cut hair"). I haven't photographed it for about four years now, but plan to pass through Krakow in June hopefully, and will do so then. It'll be interesting to see what's changed in the last four years.
The recent snowfall reminded me of this, taken a bit earlier on in the year
When we get hungry taking pictures, I noticed we start getting interested in taking pictures of food. In this case, I was already becoming very thirsty when I thought I saw an oasis:
Tanya has the unenviable job of letting people know the results of their HIV tests. This is the room where she tells them, called the 'Trust Room'. Because of discrimination against people with HIV, people lose their jobs, can be ostracised from society, and even lose access to social services such as healthcare if news of a positive status leaks - so the testing and the results have to be confidential. "Here in this Trust Room I conduct before and after testing consultations. Anyone who wants to can come here and be tested – either anonymously or in their own name...
The most important thing is to tell them what HIV infection is, the means of transmission and prevention. I recommend taking a test for HIV, as it is extremely important to know one’s status so as to take treatment at the early stages. Sometimes 15-20 people come every day. Some come also for post-test consultation.
It’s difficult when someone received a positive diagnosis. It’s difficult when a person realises that he/she is HIV positive and must fight it. The most important thing is to explain that life carries on. So that they don’t withdraw into themselves. To find a person who could give support.
It’s very difficult for yourself, you yourself live through it with that person. On the one hand, you feel sorry for them, on the other you try to make sure that they keep going. My first patient was a girl. Of course it was difficult. She was of my own age – young."