Robert Macfarlane on The Broomway, photographed by David Quentin
If you've read The Old Ways you'll know that Robert Macfarlane walked the 'deadliest path in Britain' accompanied by his friend David Quentin, a tax lawyer with a sideline in photography. The images Quentin took that day are now on display at a London gallery and appear in a new standalone e-book of the 'Silt' chapter. Music too has been composed for the exhibition: 'Silt' b/w 'The Grey Sink' by The Pale Horse - submerged field recordings and inaudible words, half lost in a mist of slow chords and drones. At the launch event this week, David Quentin gave a self-deprecating account of the photographs, admitting that the film had run out half way through the walk and that the pictures were really the story of Macfarlane's trainers, visible in the first photographs but gone by the time he took the 'Gandalf shot' that was used for the book's back cover. We are told in The Old Ways that Quentin 'likes wearing britches, likes walking barefoot, and hopes daily for the fall of capitalism.' Stepping off the page on Wednesday evening in a beautifully cut old-fashioned suit, holding a battered vintage camera that looked as if it had survived several long walks in the Hindu Kush, he seemed splendidly anachronistic. For there we all were, twenty-first century consumers trying to connect with an experience that had been reproduced and reworked across media and that will be further propagated online. The music so far is only available as a digital download. The 'book' has a vintage pre-War Penguin cover, but no physical form. The photographs show a ghostly figure walking through a no man's land that is gradually dematerialising in the mist.
'Out and on we walked, barefoot over and into the mirror-world. I glanced back at the coast. The air was grainy and flickering, like an old newsreel. The sea wall had hazed out to a thin black strip. Structures of unknown purpose - a white-beamed gantry, a low-slung barracks - showed on the shoreline. Every few hundred yards, I dropped a white cockle shell. The light had modified again, from nacreous to granular to dense. Sound travelled oddly. The muted pop-popping of gunfire was smudgy, but the call of a cuckoo from somewhere on the treeless shore rang sharply to us. A pale sun glared through the mist, its white eye multiplying in pools and ripples.'