Passing Through: An Exhibition of Poetry and Photography


because in times like these

to have you listen at all,

it’s necessary to talk about trees”

Adrienne Rich,

What Kind of Times are These

Time and again over the last 15 years, we have visited the two woodlands “on our doorstep.” One is the mythically atmospheric Shaw Gill Wood near our home in sparsely- populated Wensleydale, UK, whose access is maintained by the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The other is privately-owned neglected and feisty Can Coll Wood, opposite our home near Barcelona, Spain.

Black and White Photograph of Shaw Gill Wood by Paco Valera

Shaw Gill Wood is in Simonstone, which sits between the Dales tourism honey-pots of Hardraw Force and the Buttertubs pass, made famous in Le Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France. This woodland ravine walk has the marketing machinery of the Yorkshire Dales National Park behind it for attracting visitors.

Black and White Photograph of Can Coll Wood by Paco Valera

Can Coll Wood could not be more different. It sits next to a human population of around 12,000 compressed into a small, overbuilt conjunction of nearby towns and urbanisations. There are few parks or open spaces other than leafy paseos, or esplanades, where people walk and congregate as the heat of the day subsides.

Yet in fifteen years of visiting both woodlands, in all seasons, most often we have been the only people there- or have seen perhaps a handful of others passing through.

Locals and visitors in both countries are missing out on the beauty these precious places display. It’s a human folly to take for granted what’s on our doorstep and to assume it will always be there, or that we have far more grave concerns than to wax lyrical about trees. After all, without trees, we cease to exist.

We came to value these dells so much because after years of long haul travel, home means a place of sanctuary, somewhere close by and familiar offering a sense of space and some natural beauty. Somewhere to walk the dogs.

With succeeding visits, our appreciation deepened beyond familiarity into what we call a sense of the place: wherever on the planet we were working, we began to carry from each woodland something representative of home – like an interior thread connecting us with a grounded sense of our homes there.

Passing Through is our response to these places.

Our focus is the trees; these characters and communities stopped us in our tracks, causing us to look and look again until we could find a way to express our response.

Spending so much “downtime” with them led to reflections and insights about the intrinsic character and beauty of individual trees, on how inextricable human lives are from the natural environment and about the impermanence of nature and of our all-engrossing human preoccupations

We have blended the genres and traditions of photography and lyrical life writing to represent the sometimes similar, sometimes differing visceral and emotional responses we each had firstly to the natural environment, then to the works in progress in the studio, and finally to the finished pieces on the page.

Ultimately, the blended form needs you, the viewing reader, to resonate with and then perhaps to find personal relevance and meaning from it, as did we.

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