GalleriesSecret Gardens of the Dead

In September 2019 I was awarded a Royal Photographic Society Associateship distinction in the Contemporary and Conceptual category. This involves writing a statement of intent of upto 300 words, and then creating a portfolio of 15 photographs together which responds to your statement of intent.

+ Statement of intent and background information

Statement of intent

London’s ‘Magnificent 7’ cemeteries were built between 1832 and 1841 in what were then semi-rural locations. They became known as garden cemeteries due to their lush and verdant landscaping surrounding sometimes very grand chapels and mausolea for the great and the good.

Amidst London’s unrelenting growth much of that grandeur has faded and crumbled, and many of these cemeteries have become mysterious tangles of green surrounded by dense urban development.

As you push through the undergrowth and stumble upon a crumbling chapel or beautiful but decayed piece of sculpture it's easy to convince yourself that you have found something that has lain forgotten and unseen for decades. I wanted to capture this feeling by creating prints that give the viewer a veiled, fractured window to another time, a hidden world… a secret garden of the dead.

Background information

I produced these prints using a process called Polaroid Emulsion Lift. This process involves taking a normal Polaroid print, trimming off the white border, separating its two layers and putting the layer containing the layer of emulsion chemicals with the image in a tray of hot water. After a couple of minutes the emulsion layer will float freely in the water.

A piece of plain watercolour paper is then placed in the water under the emulsion layer and lifted out of the water so the emulsion layer sticks to it. While the paper is still wet the emulsion layer can be flattened out with a brush, but there will always be folds, tears and wrinkles produced by the action of the water. I felt this process gave the images a fragility which suited the artistic intention.

Secret Gardens of the Dead gallery - Image 1
Secret Gardens of the Dead gallery - Image 2
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Secret Gardens of the Dead gallery - Image 14
Secret Gardens of the Dead gallery - Image 15