A Silent Nature: Nicholas Sinclair’s Crossing the Water By Samuel Fradley

“The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled. Each evening we see the sun set. We know that the earth is turning away from it. Yet the knowledge, the explanation, never quite fits the sight.”

John Berger, Ways of Seeing

We are the consumer of images, our eyes physically crossing the water of Sinclair’s photographs. The photographs we see are taken on a rural lake in East Sussex, a meticulous study into the changing atmospheres of the lake, taken over a period of several years. There is something dark about Sinclair’s work, the use of blacks expressing the notions of fear, disorientation and darkness, but above all, the feeling of being utterly lost. Concealed locations are taken up, sight lines are obstructed and shifted from picture to picture, perhaps replicating Sinclair’s mindset when the photos were taken as obscurity and blackness are evident. The receptivity of the images, blocked by the trees and bushes coinciding with sharp lines and details, everything looks burnt, it hints at the post-apocalyptic wasteland so often talked about in contemporary society. This combined with the detailed observation of the landscape and Sinclair’s interest in the seasons is deeply integrated with human existence. Humans exist and adapt depending on the planets climate, suggesting we have a part to play in the landscape. The dark blacks and lack of greenery presents the images with a tinge of anxiety and dread, the worst case of human arrogance and narcissism is a feeling that cannot be avoided. You could go as far to say the work shows us humanity’s future, the globally warmed planet, early religious notions and texts seen in the bible of the secret garden, Adam and Eve, totally obliterated by humanity’s failures.

A Silent Nature: Nicholas Sinclair’s Crossing the Water By Samuel Fradley the south west collective of photography
Crossing The Water, Nicholas Sinclair

Each location surrounding the lake is slightly different, Sinclair’s ability to use the camera in a way where his presence is not felt by the reader is extraordinary, his way of image making touches on the early techniques of anthropologists by giving off an illusion of absence which is discussed by Tim Ingold in his essay Being Alive. Sinclair’s work, could be argued to be the influencing factor in the studies of work by Jem Southam, the similarities in practices and techniques are apparent. Both intimately return to the same location time and time again, to try and grasp a deeper understanding of the landscape, to try to witness and document the evolution of nature throughout the seasons, through physical time itself, entering a theoretical realm that few have tried to master. Sinclair is a photographer who varies his subjects, elements of gothic mythology and a strong use of blacks are evident in some of his other books such as; Franko B, The Chameleon Body and Portraits of Artists. He also has no fear creating work in color such as his book Berlin: Imagining the Tri Chord which is rapidly different in comparison to his other projects. For much of Sinclair’s photographic career, he has been attempting to tell us a story through his images, to better his cognition of the world, to find a place where his photographs fit, in a way which also educates the spectator.

A Silent Nature: Nicholas Sinclair’s Crossing the Water By Samuel Fradley the south west collective of photography
Crossing The Water, Nicholas Sinclair

The books inner essay by Professor David Allan Mellor describes the work as “gothic”, which touches on this idea of mythology, ancient spirits, paintings and story’s from the early 1800s, which is akin to the work of a photographer by the name of Tereza Zelenkova and her project The Absence of Myth. Zelenkovas work focuses around mythology and superstitious entity’s, which perhaps makes her one of the most intriguing photographers currently working due to the intricate details and unique nature of her work. The use of blacks is where the similarities between her and Sinclair lies, they both suggest more than the life we can see, a potent factor of this being the afterlife which is suggested in both of the artist’s work. It’s exactly what Berger is stating in his quote, we know what happens, we know how nature works, but to spectate it and witness it, it never quite fits what we see, there is always differences in the algorithm, there is always the paranormal factor to nature.

A Silent Nature: Nicholas Sinclair’s Crossing the Water By Samuel Fradley the south west collective of photography
Crossing The Water, Nicholas Sinclair

In Crossing the Water, the work is an embodied process, following the flow of life through the lake he is studying, taking advantage of the technology available to enhance his final images, while being able to take time to spectate his surroundings, to stand in the upmost silence and witness nature working like the cogs of a factory. The book is audacious and divides opinion, but this is a common perception with landscape work, each individual interprets it differently, creating objective constructs between viewers allowing the readers imagination to venture off on a tandem.

In one image, concealed behind the trees, you feel as though you are watching someone, perhaps spying on somebody from eye level, the image is somewhat suspicious and makes you anxious. In another, the tree line breaks and you see open space for the first time, a precious moment of mental rest for the reader to reflect on what has been seen and what has been thought. A third image, perhaps the most curious of all, presents a blackened tree in the center, branches dart out of every direction, as if the branches are your own arms, the light sparsely shining on certain areas, creating defined shadows and areas with dynamic light, as if it is a symbol of hope, an escape out of the darkness and the surrounding lake that engulfs you. The gothic aspects feed the images, making it feel as though you are in the Woman In Black, the somewhat mental expectation to witness the supernatural occurs as you let your imagination wonder, almost waiting for something or someone to jump at you.

A Silent Nature: Nicholas Sinclair’s Crossing the Water By Samuel Fradley the south west collective of photography
Crossing The Water, Nicholas Sinclair

If Crossing the Water has prompted Sinclair to look at landscape and the notions of nature more closely, he will forever be among an elite group of photographers such as Jem Southam, Ansel Adams and Simon Roberts etc.

Photographers who reconsider the way nature evolves while witnessing and documenting it are similar to the work of anthropologists by almost becoming one. None the less, Crossing The Water is about self-discipline and the inexhaustible patience and desire needed to spectate the changing landscape, while creating images that draw us in to make us think deeper about our place in the world and how life as we know it, could inexplicably change at a moment’s notice due to humanity’s incompetence.

Nicholas Sinclair

All images from “Crossing The Water” by Nicholas Sinclair

Website: http://nicholassinclair.com

Instagram: @nicholas.sinclair

Article by Collective Owner Samuel Fradley.

If you enjoyed this piece, check out a Collective article with Toby Glanville: https://thesouthwestcollective.co.uk/the-story-so-far-toby-glanville/

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