A Sense Of Place

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I will always remember that feeling of being in the car, sat in the back next to my sister Katy. The Ford Escort Dad was driving struggled up the hill a little out of Oxenhope, onto the moor beyond, and my belly would flip when we left the last of the houses behind. We’d drive on tarmac sandwiched between brown earth, sometimes peppered with a purple haze when the heather was in bloom. The twists in the road hugged the moor. There was the corner that became treacherous in winter with the snow drifting, the corner where the radio would cut out, and then the corner that I waited for with anticipation. The corner that revealed a view over Calderdale that gave me my first rushes of a sense of place.

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I grew up in Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales, all chocolate box picturesque scenes, bright limestone and rolling hills. My cousins grew up in Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire, only 30 miles away, but in an entirely different landscape. Those steep valley sides, chimney stacks and big skies seemed so far removed from where I was. This landscape felt exciting, so different to the one I was part of. We were lucky enough to have lots of family get togethers growing up, so us cousins saw quite a lot of each other. Many of these gatherings would happen at my Aunty and Uncle’s over in Hebden Bridge. The first view of Stoodley Pike piercing the sky, was always my marker. At 37 metres tall, the monument can be seen for miles, and it was always my first indication we were nearing a place, and people I loved. Now the wind turbines have joined the view too.

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It seemed to go so much deeper than just on our way to see family though. This landscape had somehow claimed me. All those years ago I knew I wanted to live in Hebden Bridge ‘when I grew up’. And after a couple of stints in London, a few years in Liverpool and a bit of travelling, I made it!

The other morning, I drove up onto the moor road to photograph that corner, and some of the views along the way.

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We sometimes went swimming in the stream that forges its way down this valley. Sitting in innertubes, our bodies lathered in suncream, we shared many a picnic here. It’s a place I love to come to now and have a dip.

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The blistering summer heat often caused those mirages. The wobbly vapour lines rising from hot tarmac, and Dad woud pull down the sun visor above the steering wheel to shield his eyes.

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We always called this the mini monument and my sister would often confuse it with Stoodley that towered over the valley. It sits close to the village of Peckett Well. The last one before you drop down into Hebden Bridge. This memorial commemorates the residents of the Wadsworth area who were killed or missing in World War I and II.

This is the pub before you drop down through the trees into Hebden Bridge. I can’t remember which one of my relatives drove into the car park thinking it was the turn off to my Aunty and Uncle’s house, but I do remember the laughs when the story was retold.

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And this view is so pertinent now. Through the cow parsley, over the fields and across a valley to Heptonstall, the village we live in now that’s perched just above Hebden Bridge.

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Some of the mills have now given way to flats. I guess maybe they were derelict when we were passing by in the Ford Escort.

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There have been a couple of places since then. I’m inspired by how landscape can affect us. I’ve spoken before about when Suzi took me to Suffolk for the first time to meet her parents. The flat lands made me feel so restless and uneasy. I think that’s one of the reasons I took the North Coast 500 trip around the tip of Scotland. I wanted to test myself, to see how I was in these remote landscapes. The landscape that both excites and scares me. It sometimes feels that there is a re-wild reset button inside me and I’m dancing around the edges.

Me and Suzi have talked about where we’d like to live in the future if we leave Hebden Bridge. We both would love to be by the sea. Maybe when we’re older and Olive has left home, we might live in a little house that overlooks the ocean. I’m sure my Hebden Bridge sense of place feeling won’t mind sharing with a big sea view!

We’d love to hear about your places too, and this month’s Stories of the Everyday theme is all about these places that are part of us. The June hashtag is #storiesoftheeveryday_place. We’ll share a collection of photos and words in a blog post at the end of June.

At The Kitchen Table

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This week, Olive sat in her shiny new high chair and took her first chomps of avocado, carrot and sweet potato. Although we don’t want to wish time away, this is one thing me and Suzi have been really looking forward to. Sitting down at the table in the kitchen and eating our food together.

I’ve been creating a body of work ‘At the Kitchen Table’. I’m not sure yet if it might be a chapter in our book or an exhibition in the future, i just felt it was the right time to start talking about it, and to ask you for your stories, and if you’d like to take part?

It all started a couple of years ago when I did a shoot with jeweller Toby Cotterill and he told me about the history of his work bench. His Dad is a furniture maker, and he made their childhood kitchen table. It became the centre of their family life, as it is to many families. But this kitchen table evolved, and after some alterations, Toby now uses this table as his work bench.

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It felt very poignant as my Mum and Dad were just moving out of our childhood home, and I remembered all those times sitting at the table. We had a set time for tea every night. While Mum cooked, me and my sister laid the table and Dad hovered. After tea, we’d clear the plates, and I’d sit down back at the table to do my homework, and Dad would read the paper.

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Since doing our family shoots, I’ve noticed how many photos I take of families there. It is so central to life. We usually start shoots at the table, having a chat and a cup of tea before the camera comes out of my bag. It’s good to see the family interacting around the space. I guess I’ve become a bit fascinated by them, these places where we’re nourished both in food and conversation. Since chatting about it on Instagram, I’ve had people sending me stories of their kitchen tables. A common theme are the rules of the table. No phones, all sitting down at the same time to eat, chatting about our days. Family feasts where spare tables are brought down from the loft. This reminded me of our own family get togethers at Grandma & Grandad’s house. The adults would sit at the big table, and the children would sit at the kiddies table. As the oldest cousin, I was still sitting at the kiddies table until I was around 18!

I’d love to hear from you if you’d like to be involved in my project (Yorkshire area for now but there may be a table tour later this year!). What do you use your table for? Is it a place you sit and watch the world go by? Have your tea, work, read? Plan big adventures? Play table tennis, look at your family photographs? Have arm wrestles, play board games, craft, chat? If you’re in the Yorkshire area, I’d love to add to the collection of images I have. Would you like to be a part of the project?

Here are a collection of shots and ideas so far.

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The tables themselves also have a story to tell. The grains and stains, the chips, the marker pen that doesn’t quite rub off. We swapped our kitchen table with our friends, and on there are felt tip marks from drawings and crafting projects, we don’t want to get rid of them.

These tables are where we eat together, talk together, take time to be alone. Laugh, play and plan. Would you like to be a part of it? We’d love to hear about you and your table.

Ethel & Mabel

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Ethel and her sister Mabel, have such a sense of old world charm and style. I started documenting their life, (well actually at the time it was just Ethel), back in early 2015. I’d heard Ethel liked a cup of tea, and I wanted to record a Saturday morning with her at her house. If you’ve been following my new project on Instagram, I guess she was my first Tea For Two! And then, a year later, Mabel came into the world. Spending a morning with them was the first step into filmmaking for me, and the film I made still has such a special place in my heart. Roll on three years, and I went back up to document their morning together recently. I hope they’ll cherish these photos of them in their childhood home as much as I’ve loved documenting their life there. My style and edit choices might have changed a bit, but the sentiment remains the same. Here’s Ethel and Mabel, a story in mornings, so far.

It starts with Ethel. When I first arrived at her house, she took me by the hand, sat me down, and started to recount stories about her summer holiday. Her morning unfolded - reading books, dunking buttery biscuits into steaming cups of tea, all to the soundtrack of Saturday morning tunes on the record player.  

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And then, along came Mabel….

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And our latest shoot together…

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This is what we love about our portrait shoots, documenting these moments in life that may feel insignificant at the time, but looking back, are so poignant.  Beauty in the small things, beauty in the everyday.

If you’d like us to document your family life, we’ve just added some new packages. If you’d like to take a look, just click on the photo link below. We’d love to tell your story.





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