This photograph was taken with an iPhone using a program called TrueHDR. But that is incidental to this post. Officially designated a desert, in fact, England’s only desert; Dungeness is a spit of land comprised entirely of shingle, dominated by a Nuclear Power Station. With no protection from the weather, outside of summer it is one of the most challenging landscapes I’ve visited and one of the most fascinating.
Derek Jarman’s Prospect Cottage is a place I’ve wanted to photograph for a long time. Out of respect to the current resident, I was very conscious of the intrusion that taking a series of photographs involves and on the day, absolutely horrified by the sheer number of photographers that seemed to think it fine to peer through windows, trample over the garden and generally behave as if it is a public park. It isn’t, the land is privately owned and it’s a home, somebody lives in the cottage. People, have some respect!
I’d seen a great many pictures of the cottage and garden and I wanted to try to capture of its creator’s compulsive creativity. Derek Jarman is gone now, but may well turn out to be our last great film maker. I first encountered his work back in the 1970’s when I watched “Sebastiane” at Notting Hill’s Gate Cinema. It was a film that immediately identified the director as somebody with something to say. It’s notoriety helped to position him as a film maker who would go on to be adopted by the Punk Rock movement, he directed “Jubilee”, “The Tempest” with Toyah Wilcox and collaborated with Phsychic TV’s Genesis P Orridge on “Thee Phsychick Bible”. I followed his career all the way through film school and I’m mystified as to why his films appear to have been progressively sidelined since his death in 1994.
As well as being a filmmaker, Jarman was also a writer and an artist, a truly compulsive creator. In view of his notoriety, it is ironic somehow that he is known today for one of his last creative acts. When he retired to Dungeness, often deprived of the wherewithal to make films, he set about creating a garden on this blasted spit of land that would become famous the world over. There’s a lesson there about creativity that is worth learning. We can be creative with the equipment we have.
Which is perhaps why this photograph, taken in 30 seconds with an iPhone is one of my favourites of the day.