I scratched along the fringes of Emerson's existence, publishing Marshland in 2005, a collection of landscapes and portraits taken along the River Bure as it flowed through the unique system of waterways, reedbeds and alder carr before exiting into the sea at the town of Great Yarmouth. For me this was a land of water-borne dreaming, a thousand hallelujahs, eeriee incandescence, songs of laughter, hangdog days spiked by the onrush of a storm, people known or met and subsequently cajoled to stand infront of the camera like the freezing of time and weather. Here was that space to hide, run free, shout, catch onto a cloud, or wallow in isolation.
After Marshland I began to photograph a passing world. I looked at the man-made, the chronology of destruction and creation. I grappled with the paradigms of convenience and confinement and the nostalgic visual legacy of the post-industrial landscape. I wrote of draughtboard topographies under Perspex and when finished, I headed off to Breydon Water to see if I could once more discover Emerson’s world. A world out there beyond the immutable babble of birds, a world out there beyond the flat expanse of land hunkered down in an impermanence of decay.
The landscape of Breydon Water is much as it was when Emerson published, Wild Life on a Tidal Water, in 1890. I’m able to roam this expanse of wilderness at will, and when I bring to life his photographs, there is something utterly absorbing to realise that we have lost an existence which had audience with its’ surrounds. The punt gunners, smelters, wherrymen and wildfowlers in P.H.Emerson’s photographs have long disappeared, but the sentiment of place remains, endlessly steered by the vast skies and the daily churn of the tides.
Mark Cator, Halvergate Marshes, 2015
Mark Cator, Feeding the Cattle, from Marshland, published in 2005
Mark Cator, Postwick Car Park, from Hinterland, published in 2006