Pastorale (Belles Heures) is a series of photographs at which I am at work off and on since 2008. Read more below the grid.
While visiting the Allier, a vast countryside with meadows, woods, villages and small towns, I became intrigued by the many Romanic churches which stood the ravages of time. To enter such a church in autumn, winter and early-spring, is like entering another world.
The colourful stained glass windows are, especially in winter, in stark contrast with the barren landscape. They act as a prism to the light from outside so that one can see patterns of color on the stone walls and floors. The colors move along floors, walls, paintings or sculptures thus giving the interior other dimensions at different times of the day.
Standing in such a church, often alone, in a village were not a sound is heard, surrounded by a vast countryside, these windows seem the embodiment of spirit and beauty. One thinks of the peasant population who for centuries must have regarded these windows in a similar way.
To bring these windows together with pictures of the countryside was for me an intuitive way to encapture what I love most in this part of France. Also the cows belong to it, like strong draw horses belong to Belgium and sheep to Ireland.
There is a well known tradition in landscape painting in my native Holland, by painters as Ruysdael, Potter and Koekoek. Their outlook in combination with the pastoral tradition in a line of poets such as Virgilius, and more recently John Clare, Emily Dickinson, became the guidance for my project. Maybe because of their sense of wonder.
Digital Photography, NIKON D5000, different sizes
I long for scenes where man has never trod,
A place where woman never smiled or swept;
There to abide with my Creator, God,
And sleep as I in childhood sweetly slept,
Untroubling and untroubled where I lie
The grass below—above the vaulted sky.
(from the poem ‘I am’ by John Clare)