Capturing Suffolk moods through the lens

LIVING as he does just down the road in Essex, David Gynn is no stranger to neighbouring Suffolk. But his quest to photograph the county showed there was more to it than initially met the eye.

LIVING as he does just down the road in Essex, David Gynn is no stranger to neighbouring Suffolk. But his quest to photograph the county showed there was more to it than initially met the eye.

Some of it is captured in the landscape photography and close-up shots that make up his book Suffolk Moods. Some emerges in anecdotes that reflect the patient hours spent waiting for the perfect moment.

The former is illustrated by a picture of a lonely but striking tree standing defiantly in the sand near Kessingland; the latter by a heart-warming series of early-morning encounters.

“I was photographing the rising sun from a tiny country lane in the north of the county early one morning,” says David. “I had set up my camera and tripod on the grassy bank to get a good view across the misty fields. Three cars passed while I was standing there; all three motorists stopped to ask if I needed any assistance, thinking I may have broken down.


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“I have recounted this experience in the book's introduction - I feel it demonstrates something of the warmth of the people of Suffolk and serves to restore a bit of faith in human kindness.”

The book follows last year's Essex Moods - and called, says its creator, for a similar approach: including plenty of early mornings.

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“The north-east of the county required a few overnight stays just to make sure that I was able to get into position before sunrise. One of the episodes of petrol shortage meant that I thought I might end up staying a lot longer than planned - not a great prospect when my 'accommodation' was one very small tent!

“The weather, and the various qualities of light that it delivers, plays an all-important part in my photography. Combined with the time of day that I prefer to be out and about, it can lead to some really contrasting treats: from trudging through the ever-shifting shingle of the deserted beach between Aldeburgh and Thorpeness at sunrise in mid-summer, watching the sun come up through a waist-high sea mist, to walking the same stretch on a freezing mid-winter morning when the normally fluid shingle was frozen as hard as rock.”

When the EADT talked to David about Essex Moods in the summer of 2005, he was musing about the challenge of portraying the faces of Suffolk. The coastline and the north-west corner, bordering the Fens, didn't worry him too much in pictorial terms. But the middle part, the huge areas of agricultural fields, posed a challenge to the artistic eye.

Is that how it turned out in practice?

“My approach was to be out and about, searching, as ever, for the most appropriate light, as it illuminated subjects within the wider, open, landscape - a piece of agricultural machinery, a tree or a windmill - following, once more, the belief that all wider landscapes are merely the sum of their smaller elements.

“I am pleased with the results, but it is for others to judge whether I have captured the mood of the county as they find it. Personally, I don't find landscape photography difficult. It can be challenging trying to capture the image that you see in your head - it can be cold, wet and uncomfortable - but it's always inspiring.”

The most obvious difference between Essex and its neighbour was the feeling of space in Suffolk, he says, “although the Essex that I chose to photograph for Essex Moods was selected to demonstrate that diverse beauty exists all around us, even in a county with a reputation for being rather well developed; suburban, even.

“Suffolk is less built-up, is less densely populated, and it certainly feels that way. I'm sure it's a cliché, but as a county Suffolk feels somehow more relaxed, a little less hectic than its southern neighbour.

“Suffolk is blessed with a strikingly diverse range of landscapes - starting with the Stour Valley in the south, through the expansive agricultural heart to the fens in the north-west, moving east through forest, heath and broadland to the coast. It's a remarkably diverse mix of landscapes within a single county.”

Many of us would probably quake at the thought of shooting for a book an iconic sight that had been much photographed in the past, such as Maggi Hambling's Scallop sculpture at Aldeburgh. David wasn't fazed.

“Rather boringly, perhaps, my approach to landscape photography means that I capture images of places and subjects as I see them. I don't look for new ways to depict old subjects; I just look for and work with light that is flattering, while adding to the overall mood of the image.

“I am told that my photographs have a style that is my own - not deliberately developed, I might add - but I will accept that my use of light and the clean composition of many of my images does lead to a particular look.

“Interestingly, I overheard someone suggesting that some of my portrait photographs looked like they were taken by me, even though the viewer had only previously seen my landscape work and had no idea that the portraits were mine!”

Suffolk Moods is published by Halsgrove at £14.99. ISBN 978 84114 555 6

FORMER BT engineer David Gynn took the plunge a few years ago, taking voluntary redundancy and setting himself up as a professional photographer.

His business produces a range of branded publications - such as local interest books, postcards, greetings cards and bookmarks - and contemporary portrait photography based on the natural look: people, their families or friends in either a studio setting or out of doors - on the beach, at the park, or in the woods, for example.

Web link: www.stourvalleyphotography.com (07850 234007).

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