She Flirts With You

Part of the 'West of the Sun' series. B&W analogue landscape photography by Toby Deveson. Taken with a Nikkormat, a 24mm lens, Kodak TMax 400 & Fomatone 532. January 2001Much has been written about the relationship between the photographer and their subject.

From the intimacy of portraiture, to the depth, compassion and involvement of reportage. Or from the detachment of street photography to the total control of still life.

Most photographers will toy with most forms of photography throughout their careers, discarding some, or turning to others depending on their personalities or mood.

This is the beauty of the art of photography.

Then for me, there is my passion for landscape photography. The wide open sweeping panoramas, or closed claustrophobic landscapes we are blessed with invite – beg – photographers to lift their cameras and immortalise them. But the beauty of the landscape can all too often eclipse the lack of a relationship between the photographer and the subject.

The challenge of landscape photography is to place your style and emotions onto something as vast and imposing as mother nature. To not be engulfed by her or not rely on her to provide you with a stunning image, but to work with her and create something unique from something so universal.

I have spent years trying to form such a relationship with her.

Years trying to understand mother nature, learning how she and I could work together to create images that satisfied both of us – create images that were unique, with the same level of emotional power that portraiture or reportage photography offer.

Eventually I felt I had achieved a level of success I was satisfied with. I became content with my work, driven by a quiet, inner confidence, ready to go on taking photographs – nicely productive, always evolving and developing my style, but without giving it too much thought. I was comfortable.

Carla at the Dangerous Minds exhibition in the Underdog Gallery. Personal I-Phone image by Toby Deveson. April 2017And then came Carla.

Carla who cried when she first saw my work.

Carla who understood it, who would disarm me with a passing comment about my images.

Carla my muse, inspiration and drive.

Carla came, saw and spoke:

“Nature loves you…She flirts with you, knowing how wonderfully you will depict her…

She knows how well you understand her.”

And there it was.

“She flirts with you.”

A simple, beautiful turn of phrase that changed everything.

My outlook on my relationship with Mother Nature blossomed and came to life.

It turns out I was having a full blown love affair with her.

Weather at Kingsbarns, Scotland. Personal Instagram I-Phone image by Toby Deveson. August 2017Suddenly storm clouds and gale force winds made me laugh – she was showing passion.

Breezes caressed me – she was sending them to comfort me.

Rainbows passed through me, feeding my soul with a stunning sensuality – the promise of riches still to come.

My eyes continued to see shapes, forms, geometry and texture, turning them into photographs in the same way they had been before. But now I saw them as gifts sent to me by my lover. Now I spoke back to her in a two way conversation. Now I was appreciative and could thank her for her gifts. Now I could return her favours with gifts of my own.

Of course this was not an entirely new situation. This relationship had taken seed years before.

Weather at Kingsbarns, Scotland. Personal Instagram I-Phone image by Toby Deveson. August 2017I had always spoken to my surroundings and thanked the gods or local deities for their generosity – for leading me to the moments in which I discovered my photographs. This was after all the ethos behind the title ‘West of the Sun’, my journey within landscapes, my relationship with my surroundings, discovering alternative worlds, hidden by the blink of an eye.

But Carla had solidified it. She had made it real, allowed me to see it for what it truly was. She had finally formalised my relationship with my lover. Taken it from a dalliance to a full blown love affair.

And what a lover Mother Nature is proving to be. Now that I can sense our relationship most days, it has grown and flourished. I can play with her, flirt with her and understand what she offers. I can see how my photography feeds from her, is inspired by her and most of all I can see how much more it will grow. But most importantly I can sense how much she enjoys the results, how pleased she is with me.

It’s exhilarating – a relationship infused with wonder and awe, passion and fear. A relationship with an undercurrent of playfulness and power and a constant sense of potential danger.

For my lover is a tempestuous lady.

That joyous gust of wind, showery squall or inviting wave may have you laughing with exhilaration then, moments later soaked, shivering, cold and fed up. The beauty of the gifts she sends in the form of mountains, glaciers, deserts or waterfalls have deadly undercurrents that will turn on you when she grows bored, when your gifts no longer satisfy her.

A mere root underfoot could undo everything.

A tempestuous relationship indeed.

Yet how could this be a problem? It can only add to the power of our relationship. This unpredictability and intensity is to be expected. After all who would enter into having an affair with a deity and not expect this?

But of course, there is a downside – for every relationship has them.

Once you open yourself up to Mother Natures emotions, once the affair has been formalised, it is impossible to switch it off. It is not long before you start to sense that something is amiss.

Deep, deep down is a dull hurt, a throbbing pain.

Silent weeping.

For every time you walk through her beauty, over broken glass, amongst shards of plastic, soiled toilet roll, bottles glinting in the sun, you feel it…seeping into you, hitting you between the eyes, bleeding your emotions dry.

My god. It hurts.

You wish it would go away, you wish you could stop noticing, and yet, as with any relationship, when you love, when you are loved, you accept the pain into your soul. You long to fix it, understand it, turn away from it, ignore it…yet you would have it no other way.

And all this thanks to four little words – she flirts with you.

There are times, I admit, that I wonder whether having two lovers in my life is greedy. Are two muses too many? After all having both Carla and Mother Nature to draw inspiration from is an unbelievable, undeniable honour.

Carla in the darkroom. Personal I-Phone image by Toby Deveson. April 2017But then, as I try to come to terms with what has happened to me, as I try to keep hold of occasional moments of lucidity, grasp hold of tendrils of understanding, I think that maybe, just maybe, I don’t have two lovers.

Perhaps they are as one…

Perhaps Mother Nature has come to me as Carla.

Carla – the Goddess herself, personified.

Perhaps I do have only one lover after all.

Perhaps.

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