Book review: An English Meadow Through the Seasons

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Review by: Carolyn Russell1
June 20, 2014

Photo of the front cover of this book.

The Meadow: An English Meadow Through the Seasons, by Barney Wilczak, 128 pages, Frances Lincoln Ltd, UK, March 1, 2014. $29.95

 This beautiful, nicely bound book of photographs evokes photographer Barney Wilczak’s dreamy view of English meadows. U.S. readers and nature lovers may question why they would purchase a book with images that are an Atlantic crossing away. But with The Meadow, you get a trip to England without ever leaving home. Ok, maybe you would prefer the actual journey, but meanwhile, collectors of photography books or anyone curious about the wider world of grasses, wildflowers, butterflies, and other insects beyond their own backyard can appreciate this offering.

This book is an homage to the natural world and why humans must respect it. Native plants, animals, and insects are essential contributors to the richness and beauty of meadows, many of which have disappeared not only in England but in the U.S. and throughout the world.

Wilczak’s photos were created over a three-year period, exclusively at Clattinger Farm — which, according to the publisher, is perhaps “the finest remaining example” of hay meadows in England.

Every creative photographer has a unique through-the-lens view of what’s in front of the camera, and Wilczak’s vision is no exception. His pictures are not always exacting in terms of focus. Many are not super-sharp technically — with the exception of several stunning, extreme close-ups, especially of insects. Instead, they are rich with saturated color, and soft edges or soft surrounds that lead the viewer to a specific target, resulting in a detailed pop of color and subject.

It does seem a bit incongruent to include soft focus silhouettes, backlit with darker colors within the many other pseudo-surreal images that are the majority. However, their inclusion may be intended to reflect what the photographer saw in different seasons, various hours, and weather conditions. In fact, the excellent introduction sets the stage to walk in the footsteps of the image maker as he quietly and respectfully explores the meadow.
Each section earns additional narrative as “chapters” are introduced, including spring flowers, birds and habitat, orchids, invertebrates, seeds and fruits, and maintenance.
Clattinger Farm was purchased by the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust in 1996 and is part of the wider, 30-square-mile Braydon Forest Living Landscape area. It’s on my must-see list for my next trip across the pond. Regardless of where we live on the planet, protectors of the natural world and the creatures within it are my heroes. This book is an example of why that work is so important.
1 Carolyn Russell is a writer, photographer, public relations counselor, business owner, rule-breaker, tree hugger, and traveler.
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