For his lat­est pho­to­graphic col­lec­tion, Charles March cap­tured the sparse beauty of Jura in the In­ner He­brides. By Ca­tri­ona Gray

Town & Country (UK) - - COUNTRY -

windswept and re­mote, the Scot­tish isle of Jura is one of the least pop­u­lated re­gions in Europe, pit­ted by peat bogs and sur­rounded by a rugged coast­line that di­vides sea from sky. Per­haps it’s the wild­ness of this He­bridean land­scape that in­spired Charles March to make it the sub­ject of his lat­est pho­tog­ra­phy ex­hi­bi­tion. As cus­to­dian of the 12,000-acre Good­wood es­tate, the 11th Duke of Rich­mond has plenty of de­mands upon his time, but Jura, where his wife’s fam­ily own a shoot­ing lodge, is an op­por­tu­nity for a respite from his busy sched­ule.

‘Some of the raised beaches are mil­lions of years old – they rear up above the coast­line and jut into the air,’ he says, as he leafs through the piles of prints in his pho­tog­ra­phy stu­dio in the pri­vate wing at Good­wood, a mod­ern airy space that con­trasts with the 18th-cen­tury oil paint­ings that line the cor­ri­dors out­side. ‘But I’m not in­ter­ested in tak­ing doc­u­men­tary-style pic­tures, I’m try­ing to cap­ture an at­mos­phere.’

Hav­ing spent much of his life as a pro­fes­sional pho­tog­ra­pher, March has al­ways been in­ter­ested in the medium’s pos­si­bil­i­ties. Af­ter leav­ing Eton, he worked for the film di­rec­tor Stan­ley Kubrick and had a youth­ful stint as a Harper’s Bazaar pho­tog­ra­pher, where his as­sign­ments in­cluded be­ing sent around the coun­try to snap fe­male farm­ers, and to the late Garech Browne’s Lug­gala es­tate in Ire­land, then famed for its rock and roll at­mos­phere and ec­cen­tric owner. ‘I had to sleep in the din­ing-room with an enor­mous salmon,’ he re­calls. ‘As far as I can re­mem­ber, it was the only thing we ate all week.’

Fol­low­ing this, he be­gan to cre­ate pho­tog­ra­phy for ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, where in the pre-dig­i­tal days, he had to rely upon his own in­ge­nu­ity to cre­ate ex­tra­or­di­nary im­ages. He points to an old com­po­si­tion propped up against the stu­dio wall, its mount­board dis­coloured by damp and mould. The mind-bog­gling im­age de­picts a hu­man body that re­sem­bles an anatom­i­cal di­a­gram come to life, its or­gans ex­posed and steam bil­low­ing from its mouth. ‘Nowa­days you’d just cre­ate that on a com­puter,’ he says, sadly. ‘You don’t ques­tion how pho­to­graphs are made now. The great­est loss with the dig­i­tal age is that the magic’s gone. When you were in the dark­room, it would al­most feel like alchemy. I miss that.’

In re­cent years, March has de­vel­oped an un­usual style of his own, cre­at­ing land­scapes that verge on ab­stracts, thanks to his tech­nique of shaking the cam­era to pix­e­late the im­age into lines, blur­ring colour and shapes. You sense that his de­par­ture from re­al­ism is in re­sponse to how pho­tog­ra­phy has changed in the past cou­ple of decades, in a world where in­cred­i­bly high-res­o­lu­tion im­ages can be taken on a mo­bile phone. And de­spite the pro­lif­er­a­tion of pho­to­graphs, March is still en­thu­si­as­tic about pho­tog­ra­phy as an art form. ‘I love how it’s be­come so ac­ces­si­ble now,’ he says. ‘It’s ab­so­lutely the medium of the mo­ment.’ A col­lec­tion of Charles March’s lat­est work will be shown at the Gal­le­ria del Cem­balo in Rome (www.gal­le­ri­adel­cem­balo.it), from 25 May un­til 30 June.

be­low: charles march. right: one of his im­ages of jura

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