Tintern Abbey – On the Banks of the River Wye

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Tintern Abbey

It was as I had imagined is would be – a pastoral setting, with a herd of cows in the forefront of the ruins of Tintern Abbey.  Founded by Walter de Clare, Lord of Chepstow in May 1131, Tintern  (Welsh – Abaty Tyndyrn) is on the Welsh bank of the River Wye.  The Cistercians, known as the White Monks, who lived in the Abbey were adherents to the Rule of St. Benedict, the principles of which were obedience, poverty, chastity, silence, prayer and work.

King Henry VIII’s reign brought about the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  On September 3, 1536, Abbot Wyche surrendered Tintern Abbey and all of its estates to the King.  And so ended a way of life that had lasted for over 400 years. Nevertheless, Tintern remains a gracious testament to survival.  It has outlasted the vagaries of human intervention. Perhaps it is the miraculous statue of the Virgin Mary that stands as a vigilant protector.

Over the centuries, Tintern has become a place of inspiration.    This visit was no different.  For in the center of the chapel was a young woman reciting the words of William Wordsworth to the solid walls and open skies.  I stood there, a silent listener… Continue reading

Going Mobile

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“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.” 

 Susan Sontag

Coventry St. Michael's Cathedral Spire

Coventry St. Michael’s Cathedral Spire

This blog has a simple mandate – to share my photos and random thoughts as they come to me during the day.  My camera is a Canon SX 240 HS with a zoom lens 20X.  I confess that most of the time it is set on automatic so that if I see something, I simply “point and click.”  Over the past few years, I have gained a greater appreciation for photography and those professionals who master the techniques and innovative technologies being developed in rapid succession.

These past four weeks have reaffirmed that photos are a record of the lives we live, a cultural reflection of our time in history.  They form the collection of memories of our generation – fashion, food, architecture, transportation, work conventions and family structures.  We owe a great deal to the photographers of the past.  They didn’t have our digital cameras and they worked with harsh chemicals, yet their photos are a testament to their commitment to witness and record history.

In my recent travels, I embraced mobility via the iPhone. Initially, I thought it would be a good back-up, just in case my digital battery expired or I ran out of space on my SDHC Card, both of which happened.  My ‘back-up’ launched my “point and click” methodology into a new realm where communication merged with photography.  And this is when I had my “ah ha” moment. We intellectually understand that mobile allows multiple stories to be shared, exchanged, amplified and integrated within seconds, across a global world.  It is quite another matter to experience it first hand as an active participant.

Robert Frank once said, “Above all, life for a photographer cannot be a matter of indifference.”  Our ability to take countless photos does not diminish our responsibility for telling our story, for taking our place as a witness to our history.

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”

Dorothea Lange

Finding the Ocean

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Water seeks its own level. Look at them. The Tigris, the Euphrates, the Mississippi, the Amazon, the Yangtze. The world’s great rivers. And every one of them finds its way to the ocean.” 
Alison McGhee, All Rivers Flow To The Sea

  South Wales

I found my way to the ocean, just as Vikings did many centuries ago.  Swansea, a coastal city and county in Wales, was once a thriving Viking trading post.  It is positioned on the sandy South West Wales coast. Some believe that Swansea’s name came from the Old Norse, Sveinsey, signifying a bank at the mouth of the river Tawe.

It was the start of our journey organized by our son, which we named our “Industrial Revolution” tour that covered Wales and the Midlands of England. For seventeen days, we were on the go from morning to night without respite.  One day, we clocked six hours of walking.  We visited cotton mills, travelled on steam trains, plumbed the depths of a coal mine and saw the Newcomen engine at work.

The Industrial Revolution was an extraordinary time of growth and prosperity.  It was a pivotal point in history; the dramatic shift from hand production and cottage industry to machines and manufacturing efficiency. It will come as no surprise that rivers played a fundamental role during this time. Progress was enormous, but it came at a cost.

Have you ever noticed that when you go away and then come back, you are never in the same position as you were when you first started out?  New thoughts, experiences, ideas challenge our closely held values.  So we really can’t go back to where we were…at the beginning.

Somehow that gives me great comfort.

Kites

“Every traveler has a home of his own, and he learns to appreciate it the more from his wandering.” 

 Charles Dickens