I captured the image below in early September 09, chasing up north out of Chateaudun towards
, and for a number of reasons, it remains one of my favourite shots. We were following part of my ancestral trail that has been traced directly back to one of my 'great greats etc' who was born into a Huguenot family in Chateaudun in 1650, and going under the name of 'Gaucheron'. One generation later and with the mass persecution of the Huguenots, aided and abetted by the brutal Dragonnades of 1681 - and my French half fled from the Chartres Normandy coast forever landing in Spitalfields, East London in the grand old year of - Sixteen Hundred & Eighty Three.
So ... beam back to the future by 326 years and you've got 'little old Franco, Gaelic, Saxon modern me', hurtling out of Chateaudun all over again, along an endless, rod straight empty road flanked by vast ocean like swathes of greeny gold tinged maize, rippling and swaying majestically under a virtually cloudless sky, radiating the most intense, deeply translucid French blue hue - before almost abrubtly, the panorama pitched from its calmly oscillating seas of uncut grain to become an arid, motionless desert scape of post harvest stubble ...and thence suddenly and quite startlingly, appeared this magnificent, linear leviathan.
I was instantly entranced by its august, structurally stark lineage, its visual locomotion, the sheer size and scale of it all, as well as the almost overwhelming sense of contrast it presented to the eye against its surrounding agrarian terrain as it trailed off into the dusky haze of the horizon and perhaps onwards further still towards Bavaria, east of the Rhine. A vast, mechanical, mobile crop sprinkler system portraying a stately yet obliquely surreal presence all of its own - almost alien in its ancestry, like a mammoth, tamed beast - a surviving metal relic from some ancient, unrecorded pre ice age society. A ‘Sprinklersaurus’ enjoying a warm afternoons doze. Its skeletal pipework once frozen for several millennium, now long since thawed and revived to dispense virtual rain to order according to its current masters fancy.
Sometimes you may see something in a particular light, at a particular moment and feel compelled to photograph it come what may, often without initially fully understanding the reasons why. Virtually everybody who enjoys capturing images of any subject, genre and setting, is possessed of this. Your camera and photographic knowledge are, in my view, entirely irrelevant. Just mere tools to enable and sometimes enhance the resultant photo image.
The true tour de force that flows inside you is an unyielding and instinctive sense of emotional and spiritual connection as you drive or amble by, and that deeper inner 'grab' you experience right up through your chest, that signals a powerful natural desire to capture the essence of the scene and its relationship to the subject - before its gone for eternity.
This impulsive feeling often rides in tandem with the concern that if you don't make the effort to photograph it there and then, you will have permanently lost the opportunity to record and preserve a visual reference of something momentarily special - even if only to you and you alone when your eyes close later that night. I have never cared to analyse it. I don't actually need to know the reasons why. Excess baggage and so on. I'm happy enough that it comes along for free and is a pleasurable feature of the human soul and psyche - so I just go calmly and trustingly, with all of its ebb and flow.
I would definitely journey back here in the future to try and have another pop at it - perhaps by dawn's early light next time. If it's still in that part of France of course - or the Germans haven’t cottoned onto why the Rhine water levels have been dropping so dramatically since 1945 - and rammed a nasty big old Bratwurst up the other end of its pipe. In fact, if I’d been alone that day and without need to catch ferry boats back to Limey, I would have parked my derriere on the crest of a nearby rise next to the enchantingly beautiful cream painted windmill sitting sentry over its pastoral domain, set up my camera and tripod, broken out a chunk of smelly fromage and a fresh baguette, opened up a nice big bottle of local vin rouge, and settled down under a twilight sky to scoff and drink the lot to the sounds of nightjars and chirping cicadas, before passing out blissfully under a vista of stars and distant galaxies to dream deeply of Alexandre Dumas inspired adventures of dash and derring do until dawns early chorus emerged to stir me from my slumbers. No doubt what so ever.
Once underway again, I spent the next hour or so in a quiet, calmly contemplative state, reflecting on the feelings of distant spiritual connection with my ancestors I’d experienced while ambling around the Sprinklersaurus. Generations of my own blood and kin who had lived and worked in precisely the same neighbourhood over three hundred years earlier, and may well have travelled the same road trail themselves. Who knows? Certainly something wafted through me while I was stood out in those fields there for a while that’s for sure, and I felt curiously the richer for it. One day I shall return, probably solo next time around, with a tasty stash of freshly baked bread, some suitably pongy Port Salut, a good bottle of essential vin yummy for personal fortification in my knap sack... and a trusty, rugged, all night coat to keep me warm while I ponder the maxim of 'laissez-faire' in this rustic province of my ancestral French heritage. Parfait.