By Charlene Winfred
I made this image in northern Jutland, in rural Denmark, three weeks from the time of this writing. We’ve been out here in the country for a while now, staying with my partner Flemming’s father. He lives in a house surrounded by crop fields, five kilometres from the nearest town.
The region wasblanketed in winter when we arrived in early March. The days were grey, light levels only changing with the intensity of rain. The landscape, gently undulating, possessed a melancholy, crystalline beauty that only seemed to exist in periphery. Look too hard, and it became flat, unremarkable.
This picture was taken during one of our daily rambles. Greeted by a downpour at a curve in the road, we ran for a copse of trees for shelter. The piddling, half broken umbrella Flemming and I were sharing would be no match for the weather in the gusty open. I pulled my phone from my pocket, having left the camera at home that day, and snapped a couple of frames of the road winding into the mist.
When we got back some time later, I realized - with shock - that the phone had miraculously exposed the photo the way I had hoped it would.
I had a particular idea of this country, long before physically arriving. I knew it from old photographs, by the curves of the narrow road, the cut of the wind, and the smell of dark earth after the rain, from Flemming’s recounted memories. This stark, cold land, is, after more than half a life away, a place that feels to him like “home,” an elusive desire for a nomad.
But this is old land. Farmers still pull ancient artifacts from their land during the plough, as they have for generations. Daily, we walk by Bronze Age burial mounds that rise, protected, from hay and canola fields, monuments to eternal memory.
It’s a landscape perhaps better suited to a wet collodion kit than what I had: a small slab of glass and metal, which I could barely handle in the wet without dropping. There was no other way to finish it, than like this. It’s an “oldness” made from new digital tool though - I messed around in Snapseed to get this, lying on the couch. The picture was too easily made.
This picture is an out-of-character image for two reasons:
1. It’s a landscape photo. I’m a street photographer, and while Iregularly succumb to the romance of lonely, wide open landscapes in the flesh, I never do so photographically. I don’t get outside of cities very often, so I’m usually too agog to take any photos work looking at. This time around, I’ve had plenty of time and quiet to learn to process the novelty, visually.
2. It’s a phone picture. Until I made this picture, I’d hated shooting with phones.
The phone I have now (a Xiaomi Mi4) has been the first I've owned that's had a decent camera, and enough grunt to run processing apps. I've previously always used cheap, early models that crashed all the time. The Mi4 wasn't particularly expensive, as it was a fairly old model when I got it, but it has enough power and memory to use heavily, without requiring a restart every few hours, and produces some decent JPEGs. So, I've been getting some practice, and in learning to not fight the machine, it's been getting easier to coax it into doing what I want it to do.
This is the first image I’ve made, away from my usual toolset of digital rangefinder and laptop. I’m not sure I would have made the same image with my usual camera. If nothing else, I didn’t have it when I encountered this scene. Taken and processed entirely on the phone, it feels like a milestone of some sort... although only time will tell whether it’s just the rush of discovery, or a new path to explore.