Harry Cory Wright: Drawn to the marsh
- Credit: Archant
Eerie and brooding yet joyous and magicial, it is little wonder photographer Harry Cory Wright is so enchanted by Norfolk’s atmospheric coastal marshes
In his old wooden houseboat, stood lonely against the landscape, rising and falling with the tide, Harry Cory Wright has been experimenting with a very different medium to the iconic camera for which he is known.
Widely regarded as one of the country’s finest landscape photographers, his work is often on a large scale – huge images drawing on the vivid colours and dramatic light of the natural world. But his latest project is altogether different – a book of small, simple and interpretive charcoal sketches and largely black and white drawings of the Norfolk coastal marshes which are his home.
“I have not been doing the drawings for long, and I am not a trained artist, but this isn’t really about my drawing abilities,” he says. “When you take a photograph, particularly with the big plate camera which I use, there is something incredibly precise about it. You are taking a split second shot of a particular view. I don’t change it later, it is what it is. But with the drawing, it is pretty ambiguous and that is the most exciting thing for me in the world. Suddenly I feel able to express emotionally how I actually feel about these marshes. It is much harder with a photograph to say this is how this place makes me feel.”
He has combined his art with brooding black and white photographs to create a pocket-sized book, simply titled Marsh. At the end of August, he will hold his first exhibition of the work at Creake Abbey.
“I have really loved mixing the two concepts. The certainty of the photograph and the ambiguity of the drawings. There is nothing to tell you where the locations are, but anyone who knows these marshes will recognise them.”
Staring out across the marsh he traces the uneven line on the horizon with his finger. “That shape of the landscape over there is Long Hill, and that shape is really what I am trying to capture in so many of my drawings, that line.”
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Harry began learning his trade as a photographer at the age of 16, initially working with traditional black and white 35mm photography.
“I became more interested in landscape photography but I felt for some reason the format I was working in didn’t have a big enough sense of commitment. I wanted something which created a finish that was more loaded and intense
“The American photographer Joel Meyerowitz had started using a wooden 10x8inch plate camera in the 1980s and I loved what he was doing. He was also photographing places like Cape Cod, not dissimilar to the types of environments I was shooting, so I decided to give it a go.”
He has since become renowned for his very distinct photographs of the landscape captured using the 10x8 camera, but it is not without its challenges. It requires many hours of waiting for the right moment, as he rarely takes more than one shot of the view.
“When I go out, each slide is loaded with just two sheets, sometimes I go out with four. It is an edgy process; you don’t know if you will get the shot you are looking for. Obviously I used other cameras as well, but the idea of using the big 10x8 adds that tension and pressure which I love. And I still get an amazing thrill when I go back to the dark room, just waiting to see whether I have captured that perfect shot.”
As well as exhibiting his work, Harry has published a number of books – including Journey Through the British Isles, which illustrates the variety and beauty of Britain’s natural landscapes.
He has also shot a number of high profile advertising and media campaigns, including a recent shoot for VW campervans, and regularly contributes to magazines.
Although Harry’s work has taken him all over the world, the coastal marsh stretching from Brancaster to Burnham Overy is the place which always draws him back. And it is not hard to see why. The marsh stretches for as far as the eyes take you. Masts rattle in the distance, the sounds of nature echo around you, old boats lay prone in the mud waiting to be lifted by the incoming water and the light across the flat landscape is magical.
“Often I wonder what it is that made these marshes and this coastline so special to me. Last night I was here on the boat and the skylarks were singing and the terns were soaring above me in the sky, the tide was coming in and there was that unmistakable smell of the sun on the warm mud. It is all incredibly evocative,” he says.
“But also it is an ever-changing place, nowhere is ever the same; the tide comes in twice a day and changes everything. It is beautiful, yet can be beastly. The dunes are just sand, it comes and goes. A creek might be like a river for an hour or so, then the tide comes in and it becomes something completely different.
“My dad and his brothers were brought up in Brancaster during the war and they were all wildfowlers here. Two of his brothers were killed in the war and although I never knew them, I have always felt a real synergy with them, a feeling of love and loss and of the simplicity of life out here on the marshes.”
His father moved away from Norfolk to Surrey, where Harry grew up.
“My parents bought a cottage in Burnham Market in the 1960s, so we came here every summer and Easter for our holidays. As I went to boarding school, it felt as though I spent more time here in Norfolk than at home.”
Harry still lives in Burnham Market today with his wife Miranda and their three children in a cottage hidden away from the hubbub of the town. “I love it. We moved here when I was 29 and I can’t really imagine ever living anywhere else.”
Marsh by Harry Cory Wright (, published by Salt Water Books), is available for £17; , see www.harrycorywright.com.
An exhibition of Harry’shis work will be held at Tin Barn, Creake Abbey, North Creake, NR21 9LF, on; Sunday, August 28, midday to 9pm, and Monday, August 29, 10am to 4pm .