Art from the Heart 2

Tuesday 2nd August 2011

BEN’S interest in photography started when he was eleven.

“A family friend gave me an old box camera. I asked what I should do with it. He said, ‘There’s the button. You look through there.’ That’s all the instruction he gave me. I took some photographs, got the film back and thought ‘wow’ – including the ones that came out virtually black. Here was a way to express myself, whereas I’d sat in Art classes thinking, I have no idea what to do and this piece of paper just looks like a blank piece of scariness. And that was it. Suddenly, there were no boundaries.”

Criss-crossing the county in search of people with a passion for specific places, Ben and I revised the project’s structure. We decided not have captions for the photographs, but poetry. And any written contributions would have to have an accompanying image.

“I wouldn’t know where to start,” shrugged Jean-Noël, a retired teacher of French, who then wrote an acrostic poem in his native tongue to accompany a striking view of Cherington Lake.

“Will they let me back in to take a picture?” grinned the punk-haired house-husband, who was planning a sonnet about a birthing unit.

A cleaner spoke excitedly about her allotment; a librarian would ask friends to help celebrate their village; a soon-to-be-made-redundant lover of wildlife showed us hoof prints of wild boar in the Forest of Dean.

Listeners to BBC Radio Gloucestershire submitted images for the website: trees, snow, bluebells, a kissing-gate, the cathedral. I was spending twenty hours a week trying to keep track of everything.

And then a comment from an octogenarian appeared on the website, complaining about the 16-65 age limit. He was right and I apologised, entering into an email exchange that would lead us down a most unexpected avenue.

Ben had spoken of his fondness for handing the camera to youngsters and just letting them get on with it:

“They have no concept of what is not possible.”

The same was true for people of any age, as we were about to discover.

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