Promised land — Four&Sons

Promised land

In this award-winning series, British photographer Rory Carnegie explores his deep connection with a piece of land and the ancient and indissoluble bond between
man and dog.


Promised land

All of the dogs in this series have some sort of relationship with Port Meadow, Oxford. For those of you that don’t about this area of England, Port Meadow is an ancient area of grazing land, still used for horses and cattle, and has never been cultivated.

In return for helping to defend the Kingdom against the Danes, the Freemen of Oxford were given, by Alfred the Great, these 300 acres of pasture next to the River Thames. It has subsequently had a rich and varied history, inspiring Lewis Carroll, as he rowed Alice Liddell, narrating what would become Alice in Wonderland; it has a Bronze Age burrow excavated by TE Lawrence, to name a small part. It is the ‘green lungs’ of the City.

Since living in Oxford, I have always walked on Port Meadow, and I quickly formed a very strong bond with it. When my beloved, irascible and beautiful Lurcher, Luca, died in tragic circumstances, I realised that I had few photographs that linked him with the Meadow, where he spent so much time. Compositing images of Luca with landscape images that I have made continuously throughout the seasons, was the genesis of this project.

I am always walking and looking on the Meadow. Most of the dogs that I have photographed for this project, I met, whilst walking, some with my new dog, Luna. The land is revisited and revisited, seen and re-seen, and after each viewing, another layer of visual memory is added. I am mindful of Albert Einstein’s much quoted definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”! My practice is about looking, and continued and intense scrutiny.

With these works I wanted to create some sort of depth. Photographs, especially digitally made images, have been described as having ‘a slippery surface’, which your eye can slide across, and move on. By compositing multiple layers of landscape, my aim was to create something that the viewer could delve into, a palimpsest, pulling back the layers as one might on an archaeological dig, or even uncovering layers as one examined oneself or others. Each image is made up of multiple layers of photographs.

And lastly, an observation by Thomas Hobbes, who regarded the imagination as a compositing of experience; “the traditional monster is a composite. The unknown is put together from pieces of the known…imagination being only of those things formerly perceived, by sense, either all at once, or by parts at several times… as when from the sight of a man at one time, and of a horse at another, we conceive in our mind, a centaur.”

All images courtesy of Rory Carnegie.
AOP Photographers Awards 2013 — Winner of Best in Category and Gold for Portrait Series

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