Photos are at the bottom of this post but first rambling.
I’d been meaning to start this project for a few weeks but being unwell with an intensive work schedule I could do no more than plan and ponder my project. That is to make visits to a small wooded hill near La Rue De Samares in St. Clement, Jersey, and build a set of photographs and video studies of the place. It was somewhere I used to go as a boy, to get away from it all. My abiding memories are of strange visions of being a small, furtive mammal under foliage with a family down in a hole, coming out at night to snack on bugs. Summer air gets trapped in the woods’ strange phytoclimate. Sensations are curiously amplified and affected. Some might say the presence of a dolmen near the top of the hill amplifies cosmic energy. The woods seem to have a pre-human atmosphere somehow dissolving human personality. I didn’t realise it had an actually tragic reputation. According to Mal on Facebook “about eight people have hung themselves up there.”
I made my first visit last Friday. In pain and not feeling strong, it wasn’t easy. Crouching down to compose some shots and standing again nearly precipitated fainting. The place is dense with mystery as I remembered. The weirdest little woods in Jersey are packed with details, forms and effects of light to please any photographer.
Pete said be careful people don’t think you’re a paedo if there are kids about. I’m not going to prepare for a days shooting only to get there, see a snotty child, and pack up and go home! If there are youths l’ll ask them, do they mind or not if I take some photos? I did it here and got one acceptable shot out of a session in the pouring rain. All lads, they were boisterous and quickly bored of my attempts to get them to ‘act up’ for the camera. I found that directorial approach didn’t make for good shots, since they were not being themselves or interacting naturally as a group.
The bogeyman – and it seems the majority of lurkers after children in isolated or providential situations are male – is a folk archetype having persisted for thousands of years, for as long as genesis there has been abuse in secret places. I thought about this, and while initially feeling a little prickled by political correctness, I have come to feel that as a title for the whole work, Bogeyperson Woods is pretty great.
Related reading: “Do you like to go to the airport to look at planes?”
After an hour of wandering in which I took about twenty or thirty pictures, a man with a large black dog arrived and the pair sort of speed-rambled around the hill’s pathways in a circuit back to their car. We said hello briefly: “Hi …” “nice weather,” “yeah, hope it lasts.” After they’d driven away, I wish I’d asked the guy if I could have photographed him and his hound. The evidently well-trained dog had that kind of focused look as if for it an evening ramble was a mission of serious importance. Its owner had a slightly ruffled, bookish appearance. It would have been good.
These photos are also available as a set on Flickr: Mont Ube woods and environs