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Project Brief: A View of the Fens from the Car with Wings

In the late nineteen-sixties, my father used to drive the whole family to the Fens north of Cambridge every Sunday afternoon. These outings in the car became a pilgrimage of sorts: a journey to another land. There was no direction or intent to the different routes that we journeyed along, we were simply responding to the landscape; exploring what seemed exciting at the moment.

We called these weekly excursions “Fen Hunting” as we noticed over time a wide variety of unusual landscape features. We were looking for things that broke the vast horizon: the shrinkage of Fenland peat and Bog Oaks, scarecrows, and the subsidence of houses cracking and exposing the foundations.

From the confines of the car, the world was framed for our view. We felt as though the car was leading the way, taking us here and there through some desire or instinct of it’s own. We went along for the ride with a spirit of curiosity and adventure. When the car stopped, we would step out and experience the magnificent views, no longer restricted by the frames of the windows. At night, the car became a ship that safely contained us and carried us back across the Fenland Sea.

Looking back, these early, aimless drives may have been the start of my photographic apprenticeship. When my father left the car to take photographs, I sat in the back creating imaginary images of my own. Since then, I have returned to the Fens with my camera for many different projects, but I always seem to take pictures from the position of being contained in my own car (one very similar to my father’s) as I had done as a child.

While the Fens may have changed over the years, my own experience of them has been one of unbroken continuity. I have been, and still am, exploring the unique fabric of the place from within the Car with Wings.

Richard Heeps