Blossom Blizzard Study 1, Stanmer Park, Sussex, England 2014

Picture/Story By Valda Bailey
June 30, 2021
Blossom Blizzard Study 1, Stanmer Park, Sussex, England 2014
Blossom Blizzard Study 1, Stanmer Park, Sussex, England 2014

Despite T.S. Eliot's assertion that 'April is the cruellest month', I invariably feel a sudden surge of well-being and optimism when the first scent of spring hangs in the air. I know I'm not alone in this, photographers and artists surely feel that sense of excitement as keenly as any gardener eagerly rifling through their seed packets. Mother Nature, it seems, is handing us our photographs on a plate. The light is soft and benign, the colours are gentle, and the countryside seems to suddenly be filled with boundless enthusiasm. Quotes such as 'Spring is nature's way of reminding us that every day is worthy of celebration' pop up on social media with unfailing regularity, long before the first cuckoo is heard.

 

This photograph of a cherry tree was taken at Stanmer Park, just outside Brighton in Sussex, where the trees are plentiful, diverse, and engaging. When venturing out with my camera I tend not to set off with any preconceptions about what I hope to capture; that way lies nothing but frustration and disappointment. However, an interpretation of the gentle falling away of winter, and the slow emergence of more temperate conditions was on my mind.

 

I was certainly unprepared for the explosion of froth and cherry blossom that greeted me. It was a freezing, blustery day in early April, and the air was filled with the sweet smell of spring and the profligacy and exuberance of the new growth emerging felt inspirational. Blossom-laden branches were everywhere but I concentrated on one small tree that stood alone in the middle of the park, and seemed somehow overwhelmed by its own generosity. For reasons unclear, its tiny flowers seemed whiter, fluffier, altogether more generous than that of any of its neighbours. Its isolation only served to accentuate its wanton profligacy.

 

I spent the best part of an hour in front of this one tree, watching how the light fell on the delicate flowers. Although I was totally focussed on the coming of spring and absorbed in this bountiful display, the cold hard edges of winter were still blowing around me and I chose a title for the photograph that implies the collision of these two seasons.

 

It was bitterly cold. The type of cold that can only be experienced when one has left home in overly optimistic clothing, only to realise that the wind chill factor hadn't been accounted for when getting dressed. I struggled on for about half an hour, reluctant to retreat to the warmth of the nearby coffee shop. Fortunately my inspiration came quickly, as the tiny petals blew around my head and I stood there shivering. It felt like being encased in one of those half-domed snow globes. The fiercest blizzard was surely never this intense? I certainly couldn't imagine it ever being this cold.

 

Photographic perfection is never my objective. Its obedient conformity initially attracts, but, for me leaves little enticement to investigate further. So it was that the tangled complexity of branches and the disparate arrangement of blossom engaged, rather than frustrated my aspirations. By layering image upon image, frame upon frame, I was able to build up the layers of blossom and emphasise the movement of the branches. All photographs represent a moment in time, but the way I make my images combine several. I walked around the little cherry tree, back and forth, trying to engage with the long-limbed gaucheness of its extended branches.

 

The colour palette needed little intervention. I don't think anybody makes a paint called 'blustery blue' but perhaps they should. It contrasted beautifully with the jade and emerald grass, subsequently overlaid with soft white snowflakes and created, what for me, was a very pleasing and fresh arrangement of seasonal colours.

 

Valda Bailey 2017

 

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