September 14th, 2008 admin

We’ve made it! Well nearly. We’ve just pulled in to Oxted for Sunday lunch at my parents. This marks a psychological end to our journey. We’ll be back home to Brighton tomorrow. At this point, I want to pay a small tribute to Sarah and Jemima for enduring four months on the road, living in a confined space while putting up with an obsessive photographer. They coped admirably, especially Sarah who is now 34 weeks pregnant!


Although it’s not particularly clear, you can get a sense of the ground that we covered in the map below -the ticks mark the places we stayed and/or where I photographed. 


Apologies to anyone from Cornwall, which has somehow managed to get chopped off the map! The only county that we didn’t visit is Buckinghamshire. Fear not, I will make a point of going there in the coming weeks. I’m actually going to continue shooting until the end of 2008, but this will be on a much more targeted basis once I’ve had a chance to edit the material I’ve already shot.


September 7th, 2008 admin

We’re heading home! 

Having made it to the England-Scotland border just north of Berwick-upon-Tweed we’re now going to spend the next seven days driving down the historic A1 to London then on to Brighton. Up until now we’ve made very few journey’s via motorways, preferring to take more minor (and therefore slower) roads, but it seems apt to finish the trip following the route of the Great North Road – which the modern A1 mainly follows.

The Great North Road was a major coaching route in Britain and was used by the mail coaches between London, York and Edinburgh. It is often mentioned in English literature, for example Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens. The modern course of the A1 diverges somewhat from the Great North Road, particularly where it passed through a town or village that has subsequently been bypassed, or where new motorway standard road has been constructed on a more direct route. 

The A1 is the longest numbered road in the UK at 409 miles (658km) long and connects the capital of England (London) with the capital of Scotland (Edinburgh). It was once the busiest motorway in the country with an active roadside economy of shops, cafes, hotels. In the 1950s it was supplanted by the newly constructed M1 a speedier and smoother motorway for an England moving slickly into a modernity of effeciency and consumerism. 



Photographically, the A1 is most readily associated with the work of British photographer Paul Graham. Graham spent two years photographing along the route of the A1 with a large format camera. The work was eventually published in 1983. A1 —The Great North Road was Graham’s first book and contained 41 color reproductions.


© Paul Graham, 1983

The photographs are a mournful document of a grey nowhere land in a country moving too fast to stop for a cup of tea. The book is now a valuable collectors item, valued at over £250, not bad for a self-published paper back! I’ve posted up a couple of the pictures from the book here, but you can see more on Graham’s website.


© Paul Graham, 1983

According to many commentators, Graham’s A1 photographs had a transformative effect on the black and white tradition that had dominated British art photography till that point. This work, along with Graham’s later photographs of the 1980s – the colour images of unemployment offices in Beyond Caring (1984-85), and the sectarian marked landscape of Northern Ireland Troubled Land (1984-86) – were pivotal in reinvigorating and expanding this area of photography, by both broadening it’s visual language, and questioning our notions of what such photography could say, be, or look like.    Photographers like Martin Parr made the switch to colour soon after, and a new school of British Photography evolved with the subsequent colour work of Richard Billingham, Tom Wood, Paul Seawright, Anna Fox, among others.



September 4th, 2008 admin

After an unsettled night free-camping in Carlisle’s Rickerby Park, where we inadvertently found ourselves parked near a road favoured by the cities boy-racers (it was 11.30pm and too late to move!), we’re now driving through the county of Northumberland. 

Once part of the Roman Empire and the scene of many wars between England and Scotland, Northumberland has a long and violent history. The bloodiest battle currently taking place in the county (well in Tyne & Weir which was historically part of Northumberland) appears to be at Newcastle United FC where the club’s fans have declared war on Mike Ashley, Newscatle’s owner, over the forced departure of coach Kevin Keegan. Such is the passion that football stirs amongst Tyneside fans.

We’ll be spending the remainder of the week in the county driving along Hadrian’s Wall, stopping off at Kielder Water (the largest man-made lake in Western Europe) then heading north up the coast to our final destination of Berwick-upon-Tweed near the border with Scotland.



September 1st, 2008 admin

Monday morning and another batch of film has gone off to Spectrum Photographic for processing. It’s always a nerve-racking wait to hear that a. the post office haven’t lost the film and b. that there’s something on the negatives!

I’ve not seen any of the material I’ve shot since leaving Brighton in May, bar ten contact sheets, which were sent to me early on in the trip. While this is somewhat of a strange scenario in our digital age, where photographers are used to seeing images almost instanteously, I’m actually unphased by it and actually work better for it. It was the same during the production of Motherland where I would only get film processed once every three months on a brief return to Moscow.

Over the past four months I’ve been satisfied with just a phone call from the lab briefing me that the films are well exposed and in focus (thankfully the case most of the time!). Saying that, I am looking forward to pouring over the contact sheets when I return to Brighton in mid September.



August 25th, 2008 admin

It’s Bank Holiday Monday and I should be climbing Helvellyn along with the hordes of holidaymakers and ramblers who are in the region to make the ascent of this popular Lakeland mountain. Instead I’m camped out in a tea house in Keswick trying to stay dry, with hordes of holidaymakers and ramblers!

Whilst tucking into a steak pie and cursing the English summer that never was, I came across today’s Weatherwatch in The Guardian. It points out that the holiday month of August has always been prone to extremes, with high rainfall chief among them and quotes from the weather diary of Sir John Wittewronge of Rothamsted, Hertfordshire. In his August 1685 records Sir John notes that his apricots and peaches by reason of the “unseasonable wett weather ripened very ill” and a good number of the peaches “rotted and fel off.” The year “was a long and wett unreasonable harvest as I ever remember.” His entry for today, August 25, reads: “A cloudy day with frequent showers of rain, in the evening thunder and lightening and rain to some purpose from five to past seven continually and after by intervals til 9.”

Thinking about it, the unpredictability of the British climate has informed much of the character of English art: stormy northern skies conjured an entirely different atmosphere and type of landscape than the bright, blue clarity of southern Europe. The moisture which steams out of Turner’s canvases as well, or that makes Constable’s so uncannily clear and fresh.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Charles II, who had been brought up in France, but regarded the English climate as more attractive, saying “he lik’d…that Country best, which might be enjoy’d the most Hours of the Day, and the most Days in the Year, which he was sure to be done in England more than in any country whatsoever.”


August 9th, 2008 admin

Need I say more!



July 21st, 2008 admin

Another morning and another batch of film to be loaded while Jemima eats her breakfast.


July 16th, 2008 admin

The journey is starting to take it’s toll on us, mainly thanks to the continued bad weather we’ve had this past week. Tempers start to fray when you’re living in such a confined space and the rain is lashing down outside. I have to come clean and admit that we’ve just booked into a hotel for 24 hours to get a bit of relief from the daily grind.

Having said that, reading the newspapers today is not brining much cheer on the weather front. It seems that the Met Office has apparently aligned itself with the law of St Swithin, which asserts that the weather on July 15th will be the norm for the next 40 days – a mixture of sunshine and clouds, average temperatures, lots of rain and no heat waves. The sun will come, eventually, in September when there will be dry, warm weather.

I’m going for a hot bath.



July 3rd, 2008 admin

After a brief pit-stop in Northampton, we’re roadworthy again. Thanks to the mechanics at Marquis Motorhomes for fixing our leak in super quick time.



June 16th, 2008 admin

We’ve now covered close to 2000 miles during our first two months on the road.

It seems timely to have a short rant about petrol prices given the current panic buying of fuel due to apparent shortages caused by striking tanker drivers. Yesterday we came dangerously close to getting stranded on the A1 while it took us four attempts to find a garage between Peterborough and Huntingdon that had diesel available.

Since budgeting this road trip in September 2007 fuel prices have risen by nearly 50% from £0.95/litre last September to a high of £1.35/litre today. Fingers crossed prices don’t continue to surge, otherwise we’ll have to resort to converting the motorhome to run on vegetable oil!

By the way, we’ll be working out our carbon footprint at the end of the journey and doing our bit to offset.


Staying with numbers, I have to admit I’ve got a strange fascination with clocks and speedometers! There can be something quite beautiful about the order of numbers. Hence why I got quite excited this morning when I noticed the speedo had reached 44,444 miles.

nb. Before I’m prosecuted for taking my hands off the wheel when driving, I took this picture while Sarah was driving!


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