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Myths and legends surrounding Dartmoor

Samara Knight explores mythological narratives which surround Dartmoor and the historical landscapes that are present within the area through her photographic project Origin. With her camera, she studied the unique nature, which has initially formed this fascinating location. As Samara explains, she has tried to capture the traces of human activity, that have marked the land in the form of monuments from eras gone by, along with the scars left of industrial endeavours. The narratives within the photographic project jump from real to imagined and are representing Dartmoor from different perspectives. For this project Samara used analogue photography to reflect on the time spend with the landscapes and to be able to capture the temporality of the spaces she visited.

The series also helped her rediscover her home, the place where she was born but never actually knew well. The photographer believes that she had only ‘’scratched the surface’’ of the themes that drove her to start this body of work, and that she is motivated to continue working around the ideas of time and photography. She is also influenced by the works of William Eggleston, especially his saturated colours as well as the his creative practice. Through the process of developing this project, Samara used different methodologies and approaches, but the most important one was experimentation as she explained: ‘’If I don’t constantly try different layouts, pairings, and formats for my images I lose faith in what my work could become. It seems to be a cycle of inspiration, creating work, losing faith in my ideas, experimentation and finally a resolution.’’

The themes that the photographer revisits in her work are most of the time conceptual, always relating back on personal memories, but somehow interlinking with historical and cultural events of the past. Origin also exists in a book format where the images are combined with text and drawings.

The hand-crafted book aims to portray an ominous narrative of Dartmoor,  developed through researching the National Park’s history and culture, as well as looking at individual experiences within the landscapes. Samara decided to present the work in a book format because it seemed like the only right way to tell her story, as she shared: ‘’ I wanted to generate a pace through the book to reflect the journey I had created through my edit, which I had taken a long time to consider.’’

Inspired by the work of Garry Fabian Miller, she studied the nature preserved away from the metropolitan society, as she tells: ‘’While researching I found a common theme arose in the mythology and literature: the stories seemed to have a sense of peril and precariousness.‘’ Walking through thee moors when making the work in different weathers have almost brought her to the mythical stories of the past. As well as collecting objects from the places visited, such as animal carcasses and bringing them to the studio, to preserve their existence in the contemporary Dartmoor landscape. Trying to find the traces of the legends imprinted onto the beautiful views, as if the memories of the locations could be seen simply through the camera.

 

Samara included original abstracted drawings of synoptic weather charts from the days on which she shot the photographs, in order to emphasise the aspects of the importance of weather in these personal accounts. The almost transparent pages throughout the book act as another form of narrative alongside the text and photography, like sheets of mist in between pages.

 

Hound Tor 

Samara Shared with the us her thoughts behind the photograph above:

”This image was taken at Hound Tor, a location I thought would be interesting to photograph because of the literature based around it. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles (1902) was set at this location, one of the stories I had looked into when researching for this project. I remember on this day I was desperately trying to catch the mist before it lifted, as at this point I knew I wanted to portray this elemental story that merged the mythology and actuality of Dartmoor. I was chasing it, which seemed contrary to the harrowing stories I had gathered, but capturing this weather was essential to creating the narrative I wanted. I feel like this image illustrates the deceptiveness of this landscape – it appears grand and picturesque, like a romantic painting. It has a sense of journey and hope (perhaps because the mist is lifting and not descending) which is the feeling I wanted to begin Origin with, and so quite neatly leads you into this false sense of serenity before leading you into a journey of hopelessness and repetition when placed within the book.”

Samara explored Dartmoor through hers and others’ memories of the moors along with combining the history of the spaces visited with the photographs of their present state she created the book Origin. Speaking to her father about his own memories of the moor has helped her develop this body of work. The many times she visited the landscape, she encounter different views and emotions. Samara hopes to show the work in a gallery environment soon and to invite the audience to learn more and appreciate the beauty of Dartmoor. She is currently following similar themes within her new work and exploring human interaction and memory in relation to landscape.

 

Article by Krasimira Butseva

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