'Imagination will take you everywhere'
An Experience to Remember…
Photographs fill me with joy. Whether it’s the fantastical creations of Tim Walker or the childhood snaps of my sisters and I running bare bottomed around our garden. They capture a memory that would otherwise be a fleeting moment lost in the voyage of time. A moment which would eventually be forgotten or at least become a little hazy around the edges. The click of a camera freezes time so when you come to look back at it, the memory is still as vivid as when you first experienced it.
There is no better opportunity to generate photographs galore than the annual family summer holiday which usually comes in the form of a typical British staycation; savouring the delights of sand, sea, and rain in Cornwall. I adore Cornwall, but there are only so many coastal walks, National Trust properties and grey skies that one can bear. So it was with unprecedented excitement that the Williams family set off on our European road trip last summer. Our car (named Connie the Chrysler) was jam-packed and destined for the land of Monet, patisseries, berets and most importantly, sun. The cultural delights of rural France awaited us, with a bit of northern Spain thrown into the mix. My camera was poised and ready to go.
The ferry hadn’t even set sail before my camera was on active duty – I was intent on recording every tiny detail of our trip. The August sun danced on the calm sea below us; flecks of white and gold shimmered on the crest of the rolling waves – I hoped it was a positive omen for our forthcoming adventure. It didn’t take long before a welcome stretch of coastline loomed into view. Calais, France. At last, summer was here. The school year had been a never-ending bombardment of deadlines, revision and exams – my first year in sixth form had been challenging. There were times when I’d look out of the window during a particularly tedious lesson and dream of French landscapes; fragrant vineyards filled my mind, blocking out the polysyllabic prose of Edgar Allen Poe. Now I surrendered to the warm embrace of relaxation. I felt liberated as we zoomed through fields of dazzling yellow sunflowers – each gazing up in adoration at the sun – and the rows of vineyards, all neatly standing to attention, just as I had imagined.
On our first morning we awoke early to a chorus of duck’s quacking and exploring inquisitively around our tent, jovially we walked into the quaint French village, Pont sur Seine, to hunt down a boulangerie. That’s when disaster struck. I should have known it was bound to happen. When I spot a perfect photo opportunity, my enthusiasm usually results in a certain degree of recklessness. This time was no different. I ran ahead and promptly careered into my younger sister. The camera fell from my hands and crashed to the ground. Smashed. Dead. Lifeless on the hot tarmac. Our road trip flashed before my eyes. My heart missed a beat. How would I capture our holiday now? After much deliberation and attempts to revive my camera, Dad claimed it terminal. I was now camera-less. I felt lost and bare without it. Not even a tart au pomme could raise my spirits.
Despite the major drama, our road trip ploughed on regardless. We headed towards the horizon and the Massif Central region; the realm of the Impressionists. Undulating fields waved us through the countryside; the landscape taunted me with its beauty, urging me to photograph its every twist and turn. But I couldn’t. I felt trapped in a glass box; able to watch but not to create. I thought of the blank void my camera’s absence would produce; a dark abyss in the photo album of life.
By the time we reached our second campsite my mood had slowly lifted. The glass box which imprisoned me was beginning to relent. To my astonishment I began to enjoy not constantly clicking my camera. No longer was I an outsider looking in, but a participant leaping into each experience. We visited sleepy villages with pale blue shuttered houses and tree-lined avenues, haggled at bustling markets, strolled along the Canal du Midi and drove through the winding lanes of the Gorge du Tarn. Normally I’d be surveying the vicinity for potential photo opportunities, but now I savoured the delights of ultimate escapism. I wasn’t constricted by my paranoia to document everything. I was free. Sometimes the happy snapper becomes ensnared within their own photographic shackles. They become so intent on capturing the present through a camera lens, they forget to look at life through the pupils of their own eyes. I learnt not to be a spectator, but to live life from within.