Clovelly is a small, privately owned fishing village on the North Devon coast. No cars and steep, cobbled hills mean that the way of life here is unique.
John Rous inherited the estate of Clovelly in 1987, it had been in his family since 1738 and he still retains strong beliefs about the 200 residents being a permanent community rather than sell the cottages as holiday lets. John keeps his rents low as there are certain compromises to be made when living in such a special place. Where donkeys used to carry goods to and from the houses, the residents now use sledges. Groceries, furniture and even once a grand piano was moved in this way.
As a unique and charming British village, with names ‘Up-Along & Down-Along street’, ‘Crazy Kates’ and ‘Rats Castle’ it’s no wonder that the summer months bring swarms of visitors wanting to view the quirky way of life. The village and its residents then become a mini Hollywood film set with dozens of cameras peering into their windows. The residents have told stories of strangers walking into their homes thinking all of Clovelly is public domain. That said, Clovelly relies heavily on tourism to survive and the residents know this.
Having visited Clovelly in the Summer months, I wanted to return off season as I was interested, not so much in the way of life that has been heavily documented, but more the houses, some over 300 years old that stand still, buffering the crowds in season and withstanding the elements in the Winter months. These homes harbour immense stories and history. I wanted to expose their character a little and honour them in their own right.
I have chosen to portray the houses in Black and White using Photoshop. This makes them seem more timeless. I have left people out as I didn’t want to distract from the houses. Clovelly in the Winter is bleak. I researched James Ravillious who is a Photographer who lived close to this region and was passionate about documenting Devon life. James was particularly fond of the mid tones in his work whereas, I prefer dark blacks and more contrast. I also researched Lewis Baltz and Henry Wessel, both used high contrasts to illustrate their vernacular buildings.
I purposely chose days where I wouldn’t have detail in the sky. I used an iso speed of 640, allowing more light into the camera as I wanted to hand-hold most of the shots. The apertures range from F7-F10. Sharpness could have been improved by using a tripod (still trying to get used to thinking about using a tripod) but, I liked the way that the images are almost of film quality, I don’t feel I need or want detail in the blacks for example or more depth of field. I might shoot Clovelly again using a film camera to compare the images and grain. The widest aperture I used was 17mm, using also 24mm, 38mm and 90mm.
In numbers 13 and 19, I wanted to come in close, these images depict the quirkiness of life in the village without showing people. In numbers 8 and 9 especially, I made use of the steep hills to look down on the houses to emphasise the nature of the buildings in relation to the cliff they are built on.
Refs: ‘All Yours Squire’ Christopher Middleton/Daily TelegraphClovelly.co.uk/ Pace-Macgill Gallery.com/ Beaford Arts.org.uk/ Tate.org.uk / Gallerie Thomas Zander.com/ James Ravillious’An English Eye’ BBC