Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Haunted Eyes of Sir Simon Marsden

I can think of no photographer who can more skilfully capture the gloom, mysteriousness, and loneliness of the ruins of a castle or a haunted house or other desolate place than Sir Simon Marsden. As a writer of Gothic poetry and fiction, I often turn to these images for inspiration. I have been attracted to ruins and haunted places for as long as I can remember, but it is not merely an interest in the past or in history that has drawn me to such places, nor even the idea that they might be haunted. I think it has more to do with the fact that they are slowly being claimed by the ravages of time, the silent victims of decay and neglect.

Whenever someone tries to restore a ruin they only end up reducing its power and decadent beauty. Such a place can be said to serve as a memento mori; a monument to death and decay. It can also be a symbol of solitude, loneliness, sorrow, and despair; a stark physical embodiment of the dark poetry of life. Using infrared photography and other techniques, Marsden superbly captures the mood of these ruins, and indeed creates poetry without words, evoking so much that cannot be expressed in ordinary language. To see these haunted places through his eyes is to see them as Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley, and the other writers of Gothic poetry and fiction must have seen them.

I imagine that the experience of visiting some of these locations oneself is a unique and awe-inspiring one, but until I am able to do so, these photographs accord me a captivating glimpse into the mysterious realm that awaits any who are willing to stray from the well-worn path and seek out those haunted and haunting places which straddle the seen and the unseen, treading the lonely marches between this world and the next. For it is here, in these quiet yet often deeply disturbing borderlands where almost anything seems possible, that one has a sense of connection with the great unknown, in which are hidden all the timeless mysteries of life and death.

As Marsden himself aptly quotes:

The Ghost in man, the ghost that once was man
But cannot wholly free itself from Man,
Are calling to each other thro' a dawn
Stranger than earth has ever seen; the veil
Is rending, and the voices of the day
Are heard across the Voices of the dark.

~Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Here is a great YouTube video which features the photography of Simon Marsden:

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