Driving across the Brecon Beacons in July or August of 2015 I came across this. How anyone would think it was a good idea to tip their rubbish here of all places is beyond me. White objects in the Welsh landscape are more usually sheep or the carcases of sheep – bones bleached white by the sun. For some reason I can’t look at this picture without thinking of a line from the poem, Welsh Landscape by RS Thomas ‘worrying the carcass of an old song’.
Taken on a beach on the Gower Peninsula when every other photo I took that day was of the landscape. Then I turned around and saw the wind whipping up my friend’s hair, saw how her arms were crossed in a gesture which suggested she was cold, while the young man with us raised his camera in readiness to take a photograph and I pressed the shutter.
I suspect this is a photograph taken near Swansea. It seems to show three layers of landscape – in the foreground is a wilderness of weeds and cow parsley, in the middle distance a row of plump trees seemingly planted in a straight line, then finally on the right of the picture running off into the distance is a dual carriageway or motorway with its concrete structures and lampposts and streams of traffic.
It’s just a tree. A tree with a rope hanging from it. This picture is not just a landscape photograph – that has value as the description of something beautiful and natural. I had a teacher who took the most astonishing landscape photographs with a large format camera – the few I saw were the equal of Ansel Adams – but I always knew I just couldn’t take photographs like that. My pictures always seem to include the human – even if as here the human is absent only the rope he or she has thrown into a tree remains.
‘If your photos aren’t good enough, then you’re not close enough’ so said Robert Capa. I must have gone out one Saturday for a walk in the park and because I’d taken my camera I was looking for something worth photographing. But what is worth photographing? Nature itself? Or something that is social or human? I aimed my camera at the kids on the rope swing because it seemed like something. But I never bothered to print any of the images, they were not close enough, not focused enough. Reviewing the pictures years later I find I’ve grown to like this image as a sort of anti-landscape; the kid with the Motorhead patch on their denim jacket flying into and disrupting what would have been a banal pictorial image of trees in the flat light of ordinary day.