Benches in the Landscape

by Ann de Bruyn

Adrian Cann

Adrian Cann

As a brief introduction, I am a forty something year old photographer, originally from Coppull, a small village in Lancashire but I have lived on the Isle of Anglesey for the last seven years. I studied for a degree in photography at Blackpool Fylde College, back in the days when spending hours in a dark room was the equivalent of Lightroom and Photoshop and you had to savour every frame taken on 35mm or medium format film!

The days of shooting on film have long gone for me. However I do have a special affection for my Fujifilm cameras, the design, usability and colours produced from these camera is incredibly reminiscent of the days shooting film cameras.

adriancann.co.uk

This is a photographic project, which I started during the first lockdown of March 2020. It is a collection of images, born out of the restrictions placed upon us all during those first strange, abnormal changes to our daily lives.

As landscape photographers we were no longer able to return to our usual locations to capture that elusive light and morning mist, we weren’t able to capture cloud covered mountain ranges or those life affirming coastal sunsets. Chasing the light, as we all do, was no longer an option. Unless that light was within the daily allowance of an hours exercise which had started and ended at our front doors, highly unlikely for the majority of us.

Adrian Cann Beaumaris Bench 01

Just four weeks prior to the nationwide lockdown I‘d moved to Beaumaris, a small seaside village on the Isle of Anglesey. As a landscape photographer, I was excited to have moved to a new area. With such all year round fantastic light, I’d had plans of exploring the surrounding locations, especially the photographers hotspot of Penmon Point, a lighthouse at the North East tip of the island.

Instead, my only option was to slowly explore the area during my daily exercise, of course always taking my camera with me. And this is where the project began.

On one of the daily walks with my partner, we ventured to the outskirts of Beaumaris. The weather was grey and overcast, the kind of weather we all dread as a landscape photographer. Still, I took my camera with me ‘just in case’, as I always do. We reached a small clifftop, overlooking the water towards the North Wales coast, with slightly overgrown grass and a lone bench. We sat on the bench, taking in the view.

And this is the cliche ‘light bulb’ moment.

Adrian Cann Beaumaris Bench 03 Adrian Cann Beaumaris High Tide

It didn’t matter the weather was poor. The bitter cold wind in our faces is an accepted part of living by the coast. But sitting there, it felt incredibly calm and peaceful.

The expectation of landscape photography is to have the best light, the perfect leading line through the image, the immaculate reflection in the still water of a lake, the list of ‘conditions’ required for a landscape goes on.

As landscape photographers we need patience, we need to sit down and wait for the light (which may or may not appear), we need to take time to perfect the composition. This is the aspect of photography I love, being forced to take the time to slow down, retract from our day to day lives and focus on the image.

But this all takes time.

As landscape photographers we need patience, we need to sit down and wait for the light (which may or may not appear), we need to take time to perfect the composition. This is the aspect of photography I love, being forced to take the time to slow down, retract from our day to day lives and focus on the image.

Adrian Cann Menai Bridge Flood

However, my ‘light bulb’ moment got me thinking that we shouldn’t always need to wait for the ‘perfect conditions’. In fact, the ‘perfect conditions’ of an image can often lead to an unrealistic view of a location.

So in stark contrast to the norm of landscape photography, in these images I haven’t waited around for the best light or weather conditions and the compositions are very simple.

My intention is to document the solitude and quite often the beauty of the view which the bench provides at that particular moment in time.

Where possible I've excluded any people in the photographs, in order for the viewer to be able to imagine themselves sat on the bench, deep in their own thoughts or in some cases being witness to some dramatic cloud formations.

I continued to photograph any bench I came across. The relaxation of restrictions in the Summer of 2020 meant I was able to travel further along the North Wales coast and discover more benches and their views. It became apparent that with all the benches which I’ve photographed, there have been seldom any duplicates. All have different designs, different views and different purposes.

Adrian Cann South Stack Holyhead

There are benches found at rural beaches, flooded landmarks, seemingly random grass covered crossroads, views towards snow covered mountains, town centre allotments, the list is seventy strong (and growing) so I won’t bore you with you them all!

But the common denominator is that they are there to serve a general purpose. They’ve been put in that particular place to provide somewhere for us to sit, for us to take in the view.

And this is the aim of my project. I want the landscape, in which the benches are found, to be viewed as if you were sat on the bench yourself.

If I’ve sat on the bench and it’s been pouring down with rain, I'm afraid that’s the view you’ll get in the photo!

But the common denominator is that they are there to serve a general purpose. They’ve been put in that particular place to provide somewhere for us to sit, for us to take in the view.

Adrian Cann Traeth Llydan Rhosneigr

My project is ongoing, I can’t see there being an end to my obsession with benches and their locations. Even more so now that we are all in a position to be able to travel.

My project has been exhibited at Found Gallery in Brecon, Wales during May/June of this year. It has also had a feature in this issue six of Offline Journal.

I hope you all enjoy the images and if you’d like to see more of my project my website has an extended section with more benches and locations.