Liminal Landscapes

liminal 1. relating to a transitional or initial stage of a process. 2. occupying a position at, or on both sides of, a boundary or threshold.

"Soot and ash. Snot and Spume.

Quag and sump and clotted moss.


The Gallow's Pole, Benjamin Myers

Mid February 2018 I borrowed a friend’s car and booked myself into a YHA and set off with my camera and associated necessities (hand warmers, tripod, various filters and a willingness to freeze my t**s off) for the Norfolk coast. I was writing an article about Liminality and wanted to explore the marshlands and creeks of the region. As a photographer and writer, I wanted to be there in varying weather conditions to experience the sights, sounds, smells and the feel of watery places. Not many tourists venture out at this time of year, so at some points I was completely alone.

'You either get Norfolk, with its wild roughness and uncultivated oddities, or you don't. It's not all soft and lovely. It doesn't ask to be loved.' Stephen Fry

I arrived with a thrilling sense of freedom - two whole days just me and my camera. You’re probably thinking I mustn’t get out much (Norfolk in mid-February), but recently, the opportunities to do this have been very rare for one reason and another. Apart from missing my other half and my little black shadow (Patterdale Terrier) I was feeling blissful. So, I spent a lot of time Creek Squelching and sand worrying (that horrifying sound of sand being stuck in the thread of your ND filter) trying to keep my tripod still during long exposures of the incoming waves, whilst being wary of over exuberant Cockapoos.

Ombré Reeds captured in a tidal creek using ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) & an ND filter to enable longer exposures

Whilst studying archaeology at uni the concept of liminality came up quite frequently as artefact deposit sites during the Bronze and Iron Ages. People placed 'votive' offerings of great value, weaponry and sometimes people into bog land, lakes and rivers. The odd find, became an assemblage and a pattern started to build. One theory is that people saw watery, especially Liminal watery places, as sacred places, ritually depositing items of value possibly in veneration of nature or the gods. Examples of ritual deposits include weaponry in Lake Neuchatel in Switzerland. The Iron Age 'Celts' (link to an article I wrote about Iron Age identity) saw water as a sort of gateway between this world and the next, and it was here that they perhaps offered tribute to their gods, sacrificing their most precious, elaborately decorated objects to the watery depths of the Lake. When you are there you can imagine why these liminal places were seen as in between worlds. Marshland and bogs preserve organic matter very well, therefore suspend the interred object/body in a semi-preserved state. These places are neither wet nor dry - in-between places. Almost like a 'limbo' world or even purgatory.

Some of this work was taken on the Cumbrian coast, again in mid winter, and some in the Tarn Valley in France (in the warmth for once), but the inspiration came from visiting the Norfolk coast. Mainly, because I had a lot of time on my own to think and day dream.

Liminal times include equinoxes when day and night have equal length, and solstices, when the increase of day or night shifts over to its decrease. Many stone structures & earthworks built during the Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age are related to the Winter and Summer Solstices e.g. Newgrange Passage Tomb In Ireland, Maeshowe Chambered Cairn in Scotland both having relationships to the sun during the Winter Solstice and both built to house and venerate dead ancestors. I took this image of my sister in the river on Mid-summers Day.

A river and a pool of light was enough for me and my sister to get in the water. At one point I made her lie down in the river with her hair spread out (mimicking Shakespear’s Ophelia) I had to hold on to her legs as she kept floating off in the current. All of those shots I kept for the memories. We were laughing far too much to take it seriously. I wanted to represent our connection with water; growing up, we were always wild swimming in lakes, rivers and the sea.

Music has always been a great inspiration to me in my writing and art. A song lyric will always come to mind when I observe places and people. Sometimes it gets annoying. When I took this shot I was humming ‘Killing An Arab’ by The Cure from the album 'Three Imaginary Boys'. It’s loosely based on the novel L’Etranger by Albert Camus. It features the lyrics “Standing on a beach with a gun in my hand, staring at the sea, staring at the sand” This album has an exotic Middle Eastern sound in places e.g Fire in Cairo and reminds me of a beach holiday, in France, we took when we were kids (slightly gothy teenagers). There is a photo of me sat on the beach in a long black skirt and tie-die over-sized t shirt reading a book in 35 degree sunshine 😎. So this is Staring at the Sea - a nod to another Cure album and that willful but sensitive (hopelessly in love), pale and interesting teenage me.

It is thought that our teenage years are a liminal period bookmarked by Rites of Passage events to transition us from childhood to adulthood such as being able to have sex legally, marry, drink alcohol, pass our driving tests etc...

These days I'm more likely to listen to underground techno and more eclectic music. My soundtrack for my trip to Norfolk featured mainly Kangding Ray. His music, to me, is like a soundscape and I always imagine flying above looking down across countryside, the sea and cities when I hear it.

Whilst driving along quite a busy road in Norfolk I spied a marshy field full of dying or dead trees, their silvery bark reflecting the sun beautifully. So, as you do, I risked life and limb walking up a busy road then through a very thick hedge, only to get to the spot to find another two photographers there, grrrrrrr.....