Faith on Dartmoor




Commissioned by the St Michael’s Princetown Trust, I spent six months roaming and photographing the landscape of Dartmoor across an autumn-spring season. The heritage of the monastic tradition is present through a layering of time, like so many geological strata of the well-worn walking trails between Buckfast, Buckland and Tavistock Abbeys, the lichen-covered markers of over 140 primarily medieval stone crosses, and the weathered chapels and steepled churches that form today’s communities of faith. These axes of vertical and horizontal exploration seemed to me like a mapping of spiritual and cultural indices carved into the granite outcrops and tors, much like the Ten Commandment Stones on Buckland Beacon (originally carved 1927).

Photographically this intellectual/historical black&white exercise became coloured by sensory and spatial immersion in the landscape. I photographed in hail and under rainbows, I walked like Richard Long in counted steps, I made sound recordings from the middle of the River Dart’s tributaries. When reflecting on the liturgy written for the Methodist and Church of England congregations on the moor, the words seemed hewn of their worlds in rock, light and water, in seasonal change and colour. In turn, the landscape deepened with biblical symbolism and a Ruskin/Wordsworth illumination. In many ways, a docu-journey became a pilgrimage, and the indexicality of photography became iconic. My own expressions of spiritual pattern in this place emerged in the panoramic Four Seasons on Dartmoor, together with interactive maps of Dartmoor Past and Present created for a CD-ROM, giving expanded visual sense to this joined-up story.