When going for a walk on weekends or in my spare time I tend to explore always the same spots. There’s a handful of tracks that I usually prefer to walk along. In a way it’s relaxing to know what’s coming next. You don’t have to look on a map continuously to find your way or not to miss the next turn. I fell into the habit of listening to podcasts while walking, so these little timeouts are refreshing for the mind as well as for the body. But honestly besides the weather, which can be quite different all through the year, there’s not much happening there. But I enjoy this unagitated calmness.
I realize that I become more focused on the little things, the tiny details, while I’m always aware of the same bigger picture. Most of the things I find during these walks are mundane. There are many trees as I tend to walk somewhere in the forest. There’s the gravel under my shoes. There are bushes and from time to time there are a few flowers as well. Sometimes I meet strangers with their dogs or with their bikes. Sometimes I’m completely alone for almost an hour.
1/99 s, f/2.2, ISO 80, 64 mm, iPhone 12 Pro Max
I guess in an environment like this even the smallest things or changes become little sensations. So I was quite excited as one day some big machines were working alongside my way digging in the earth for some roadworks. They do similar things like this from time to time. The forests here are usually used as commercial forests, over time and piece by piece all the trees are cut down and later are reforested again. So they are building roads and tracks through the forest to keep the wilderness there accessible. Which certainly is good for people like me who want to take a relaxing walk through the forest without having to make my hands dirty while paving my way.
1/99 s, f/2.2, ISO 80, 64 mm, iPhone 12 Pro Max
The really interesting part for me happened when all the machines were gone again a couple of days or weeks later. Then it was possible to have an unobstructed view on the soil which in this region is often pure, natural clay. As I came closer to have a look I could see all these different colors of the clay. Some parts were just red, other parts where more yellow, even golden or silver. It was slightly raining on this particular day, so the colors were even more shimmering and crisp. This tiny little event was so fascinating to me. It felt to me that there’s so much beauty underneath what’s usually hidden and unaccessible. I started to take many photos of these different shades of the clay. I was really hooked.
I don’t know if this scene was really that beautiful and exciting but to me in that specific moment, it certainly felt remarkable. Remember I’m usually quite familiar with all the bits and pieces alongside these trails. And now something like this building site happened. The big diggers and trucks were gone and while I was already preparing myself for some annoying conflicts of nature versus machine I found new, totally unexpected beauty in these newly shaped holes and trenches alongside my way.
1/99 s, f/2.2, ISO 160, 64 mm, iPhone 12 Pro Max
And I couldn’t get enough of them. With the camera in my hand I almost felt like a painter continuously framing new pieces of art. I ran up and down these newly shaped trenches and tried different angles and distances. Later at home I found out that I haven’t taken a single shot of the whole scene, so my set was completely out of context, almost out of this world. Looking at all my images they also could be taken on Mars or some other distant planet. But I was so focused and concentrated on all these tiny color changes, the different shades and forms that I completely forgot to take a step back and capture the location itself. To be honest the location is pretty boring, especially for me, as I’m very used to these views. So you don’t have missed much.
Later at home while browsing through my photographs I thought of food and different flavors and very instinctively came up with names, personal names, of what I saw in front of my eyes. That’s where the original idea for this “clay” series comes from. For whatever reason I came up with British and French names as they seemed to sound like these very old textures of the soil. They felt like history, like reading in an old book and learning about some ancient times, places and conditions that are now long gone. I came up with names like “Mortimer”, “Francois”, “William” or “Victor”. Interestingly I stuck with male names exclusively, I just couldn’t think of any female names that would describe what I saw and felt. I guess if I would have taken pictures of beautiful flowers it would have been much easier for me to think of female names, but in this case my feelings were more serious, old school, full of dignity in a way. And male names just seemed to fit here.
For this post I decided to strip away the lower text parts of these images and just show the plain textures to focus even more on those things that have fascinated me so much. On my social media accounts I have already shared parts of these images, but only with the additional text portions. So I hope you enjoy this writing here, explaining in more detail why I got hooked so much on these images.