River of Dreams

Some introductory notes on documenting a journey, within and without.

It seems a very long time ago since my brother, two nephews and good friend Geoff embarked on a journey along the river Wear. The plan was to tackle the 70 odd miles over 6 days and 2 years. In May 2016 we would walk from Killhope to our home town of Bishop Auckland. In May 2017 we would reconvene and complete the walk from Bishop Auckland to journey’s end at Wearmouth, Sunderland.

High Bishop Seat
High Bishop Seat

It didn’t quite pan out like that, for a number of reasons, but I am pleased to say Geoff and I completed the journey on 1st June 2019, just over 3 years since the start. It’s an unintentional pun, but a lot of water really has passed under the bridge in that time for the five participants who started the walk; bereavements, a loved one going into full-time care, a separation and a toxic referendum.

Near Rookhope Burn
Near Rookhope Burn

I naturally took a camera with me on the first leg of the walk, where we managed to walk 3 days hitch free. It was a digital mirrorless camera with a single 35mm equivalent lens, which I believe is the most versatile focal length, if you only want to take one lens to keep things light and fuss free.

Black Bank Plantation
Black Bank Plantation

I had no remit other than to record the journey. However, reviewing the images I had made a few days after completion of the first leg, I realised other things were registered in the images other than a record of the journey. The inner journey was very much in evidence too. They were the most satisfying set of images I had made up to that date, satisfying because they were uniquely mine. When I looked at them, I saw myself reflected in them.

Near Page Bank
Near Page Bank

A year later we managed two days walking before the heavens truly opened on the third day. It was not walking weather, so we had a late breakfast in our hotel in Durham, after which my family members made their way back home to the South. On this occasion I used two compact film cameras and sent the film away to be developed.

HM Prison Frankland
HM Prison Frankland

By June of this year, I was exposing, developing and scanning black and white film with vintage cameras for what had become a project; to record the entirety of the walk, to identify themes, and to attempt to produce a book length set of images. The work is ongoing, but you see here one image from each day of the walk.

A182 meets the Weardale Way
A182 meets the Weardale Way

There will be more posts about the River of Dreams project in future days.

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