There’s a feeling I get sometimes, but only occasionally, when viewing photographic essays featuring people and their place, that is very distinct. It’s a combination of familiarity and novelty that’s beautifully seductive. A mix of “I know these places, these people……well, I know places and people a bit like them……but I’ve never seen these particular places and people before”. It’s almost nostalgia, but at the same time fresh and new. It grabs you and pulls you in.
It was like that this week, when I stumbled into the website of New Zealander Lottie (Charlotte) Hedley. A lawyer now turned photographer, and recent VII Photo Agency intern, Lottie, quite simply, takes beautiful photographs. And then weaves them into some of the most elegant and compelling visual narratives I’ve seen in a long time.
Hedley’s own farming roots clearly informs her work, providing insight and understanding of the sacrifices such a lifestyle choice demands, and the value of ‘community’ it inevitably fosters. On her site you’ll find ‘Unbroken’ and ‘Rural Harvest’, two splendid explorations of the lives of people who have chosen to work closely with the land. ‘Unbroken’ follows an Amish family and their reverential stewardship of their soil in order to share its harvest with their neighbours. ’Rural Harvest‘ is a lyrically beautiful b&w series on “the institution of the family farm”. Having gained access to the lives of Jim and Megan Gerritsen and their children Peter, Caleb, Sarah and Amy in Bridgewater, Maine, Hedley has produced a warm and deeply personal record of these people’s lives.
The sense of place and the intimate relationship with that place that manifests amongst certain communities is captured in the series ‘To hell with the fish, where’s the beer?’ a story about folk with sheds on ice! The Garden Shed is a noble British institution, one we all know and love in these damp islands. But transplant one to the frozen lakes of Maine and swap (insert your choice of passion: model railways, motor cars, motor bikes, gardening, or bicycling) for ice augers and fishing kit, and you have ice fishing. There’s something quite wonderful about a rickety wooden structure that has another life in a different season, as chicken coop, store or just plain abandoned, but which in winter takes on a new role as cozy shelter, youth club, sporting facility, and social club. Oh, and of course sometimes there’s even fishing too. And beer.
The essay ‘Barber Shop Babies’ is a delight. Humour, careful observation and affection shine through this series of colour work about Beaver & Sons Barber Shop, Savannah, Georgia. The short introductory essay will paint an eloquent word picture of the place, but the images will simply light up your face. I smiled all the way through this portfolio. There are some beautiful portraits and a striking use of light and shade, colour and composition.
And I’ll flag up ‘The Speedway’ and ‘The Quarry’ series too just so that I can pop in at least one more fine image! Both essays are very tightly edited, and all the more impactful for it. The humour in ‘The Quarry’ is delicious!
As you can perhaps tell, I thoroughly enjoyed exploring Charlotte’s work. There’s quiet humour, insight and accomplished storytelling – a great combination, and with her inspired use of light and composition, I think her work shines.
But don’t just take my word for it, take some time out of your day and have a look, I think you might enjoy it too.