George Orwell’s England – Photography Project

Orwell Photography Project

A New Project

(15 September 2012)

September’s a good month for a new challenge, so I’ve decided to combine two of my interests and embark on George Orwell’s England – a year-long photography project.

This idea stems from one of Orwell’s Evening Standard essays, Bad Climates are Best – an 800 word or so article I first read about a decade ago and has stuck in my mind ever since. It’s an entertaining, vigorous piece that was originally published on 2 February 1946 when Orwell was at the peak of his intellectual powers. In it he argues that the draw of the English climate comes from its ever changing nature or, as he puts it:

“The great thing about the English climate is its variation. It is not merely that you never know what the weather is going to do to-morrow, but that each season of the year, and indeed each month, has its own clear-cut personality, like an old friend – or, in the case of two or three months, an old enemy.”

Orwell goes on to compose a little list of associations called up by each month, ‘They will not all be pleasant ones, but I think it will be found that they are sharply differentiated from one another.’

George Orwell’s England – the project

My idea is to use this essay, Bad Climates are Best (I’d like to republish it here, but unfortunately it’s still under copyright), as a template for a year-long photography project. Orwell lists associations for each month apart from January and February – he calls February ‘a particularly detestable month’ and overlooks January altogether. In any case we’re left with this list and I’m going to treat each association as a set subject for a photograph.

He starts in March, but I’ll begin for my convenience in September:

September

  1. Blackberries  –  (Done 19/09 – read post)
  2. First leaves turning – (Done 30/09 – read post)
  3. Heavy dew in early mornings (Done 26/09 – read post)
  4. Pleasure of seeing a fire in a grate again (Done 21/09 – read post)

October

  1. Utterly windless days (Done – 30/10 – read post)
  2. Yellow elms trees looming out of the mist with all of their leaves dead and none fallen (Done 27/10 – read post)

November

  1. Raging gales (Done – 22/11 – read post)
  2. The smell of rubbish fires (Done – 24/11 – read post)

December

  1. Owls hooting (Done – 27/12 – read post)
  2. Cat ice on puddles (Done late 25/1- read post)
  3. Roast chestnuts (Done – 31/12 – read post)
  4. The sun hanging over the roof tops like a crimson ball which one can study with the naked eye (Done – 29/12 – read post)

January

No associations mentioned.

February

No associations mentioned.

March

  1. Wallflowers (Done – 30/03 – read post)
  2. Icy winds sweeping round street corners and blowing grit in your eyes (Done – 11/03 – read post)
  3. Hares having boxing matches in the young corn (Done – 29/03 – read post)

April

  1. The smell of the earth after a shower (Done 12/04 – read post)
  2. The pleasure of hearing a cuckoo punctually on the fourteenth (Done 14/04 – read post)
  3. Also, of seeing the first swallow – which in fact is usually a sand-martin (Done – 30/04 – read post)

May

  1. Stewed rhubarb (Done 30/05 – read post)
  2. The pleasure of not wearing underclothes (Done 26/05 – read post)

June

  1. Cloud bursts (done 28/06 – read post)
  2. The smell of hay (done 30/06 – read post)
  3. Going for walks after supper (26/06 – read post)
  4. Back breaking work of earthing up potatoes (done 30/06  – read post)

July

  1. Going to the office in shirt sleeves (done 30/07 – read post)
  2. The endless pop pop pop of cherry stones as one treads the London pavements (done 30/07 – read post)

August

  1. Midges (done 31/-8 –read post)
  2. Plums (done 31/08 read post)
  3. Sea bathing – (Done 26/08 – read post)
  4. Beds of geraniums painful to look at (done 30/08 read post)
  5. Dusty smell of water carts (done a little late 05/09 read post)

January and February?

The missing associations for January and February pose an obvious problem. I’ve decided that the best way to fill these gaps are with subjects from Orwell essays written shortly before/after Bad Climates are Best. So, I’ve chosen:

January:

  1. Tea ‘drunk out of a breakfast cup – that is the cylindrical type of cup, not the flat, shallow type.’ (This is from the piece A Nice Cup of Tea, Evening Standard, 12 January, 1946) – (Done 30/1 –read post)
  2. The most attractive junk shop in London – (From Just Junk, Evening Standard, 5 January 1946) – (Done 30/1 – read post)

February:

  1. A common toad – ‘Before the swallow, before the daffodil, and not much later than the snowdrop, the common toad salutes the coming of spring after his own fashion.’ (From Some Thoughts on the Common Toad, Tribune, 12 April 1946) (Done 04/03 – read post)
  2. The best pub in London (as described in The Moon Under the Water, Evening Standard, 9 February 1946) (Done 24/2 – read post)

Rules

These are the rules that I have devised for myself:

  1. As it is called Orwell’s England – all photographs must be taken in England. (Indeed, Orwell stresses the English climate over the British one)
  2. All photographs must be new and must be taken in the relevant month
  3. They will be my own photographs, although I can ask others for advice with difficult subjects
  4. I can only use a particular location once

So…

That’s 35 images in total, some of them look relatively straight-forward and others already appear to be enormously difficult. I’ll deal with each one in turn on my blog and upload my attempts to Flickr.

I’m starting this project half way through September – so it’s going to be a busy week or two to get the first four shots done to a reasonable standard. And I’m hoping that there’s still some good blackberries about. Fingers crossed.

1. Blackberries

DSC_01721

2. First leaves turning

DSC_0361

3. Heavy dew in the early mornings

DSC_0249

4. Pleasure of seeing a fire in the grate for the first time

DSC_0056

5. Utterly windless days

utterly windless days

6. Yellow elm trees looming out of the mist with all their leaves dead and none fallen

DSC_0007

7. Raging gales

7 Raging gales

8. The smell of rubbish fires

DSC_0033vdb

9 Owls hooting

9 Owls hooting

10. The sun hanging over the roof tops like a crimson ball which one can study with the naked eye

DSC_03281

11. Roast chestnuts

DSC_0007

12. Cat ice on puddles

12 Cat ice on puddles

13. A nice cup of tea

A nice cup of tea

14. The most attractive junk shop in London

Oxo cubes

15. The best pub in London

Prospect of Whitby

16. A common toad

A Common Toad

17. Wallflowers

improved

18. Icy winds sweeping round street corners and blowing grit in your eyes

cropped

19. Hares having boxing matches in the young corn

DSC_01000

20. The pleasure of hearing a cuckoo punctually on the fourteenth.

Cuckoo

21. The smell of the earth after a shower

22. Seeing the first swallow, which is usually a sand-martin

swallow

23. The Pleasure of not wearing underclothes

23 The pleasure of not wearing underclothes

24. Stewed rhubard

Finished

25. Cloud bursts

Cloud bursts

26. Going for walks after supper

Going for walks after supper

27. Back breaking work of earthing up potatoes

DSC_0152

28. The smell of hay

DSC_0003

29. Going to the office in shirt sleeves

Shirt Sleeves

30. The endless pop pop pop of cherry stones as one treds the London pavements

cherry stones

31. Sea bathing

Sea Bathing

32. Geraniums painful to look at

DSC_0246

33. Plums

DSC_0041

34. Midges

midges

35. The dusty smell of water carts

dusty water carts