Proposal: The Landscape of Leisure

Two brothers, Richard & John Kennaway, bought Escot House & 4000 acres on their return from careers in India, in 1794 for £26,000*, most of the money came from the large fortune amassed by Richard. The House purchased burnt down in 1808, uninsured. The family moved to local sea-side town Sidmouth (Forte House) until the new Escot House, begun in 1836, was complete. Forte House was later gifted to Sidmouth community and remains a public building  with it recently being re-named “Kennaway House”.
Prior to the current day ownership of Escot Estate, Capability Brown had been commissioned to shape landscapes on the estate – he was particularly keen on hilltop plantings.  In particular he persuaded the family to purchase ‘East Hill’, an escarpment some 3 miles south of Escot, apparently so that the landowner could then say ostentatiously to visitors to the House ‘I own everything you can see from here’.  In this case the town of Ottery St. Mary & other land  lies between Escot & East Hill – but none of it is visible.
The estate remained pretty much in tack until the death of the current owners grandfather (my great grandfather) in 1956.  Crippling death duties (government tax), together with ill-judged overseas investment by my grandfather resulted in the reduction of the estate over the next 25 years to its current size of 1200 acres. Today the park is used for various leisure events including a tourist attraction (http://www.escot-devon.co.uk), a 4×4 course, segway and quad bike safari, a children’s residential camp “Camp Wild”, an extreme assault course (http://www.rocksolidrace.com/exeter.html), a wedding and conference venue and it holds an annual music festival (http://www.beautifuldays.org).
I am going to document the land usage of the estate (though old photos and my own modern day pictures) to show the changing uses overtime of the rural land used for leisure, agriculture and environmental purposes. I will need to experiment with format such as panorama or classic landscape, or will I be completely controversial and use portrait?! Early morning light, winter sun, fog, mist or even rain will all be factors to consider when shooting as will be my choice of settings. I’ll be shooting F22+ and will focus 1/3 into the scene with 2/3 carry behind, this will result in sharp, clear focus for the entire image which is how the masters shoot. I’ll be looking at the works of Simon Roberts (in particular his “We English” work http://we-english.co.uk/blog/), John Davies and Ansel Adams along with various other landscape photographers. I need to pull back when shooting and show the bigger picture in order to put the landscape in context and will be shooting from a higher advantage point to explore my subject. This sort of shooting although can appear easy, requires a lot of thought about the position of the photographer in relation to the subject and also what the image is saying about the subject matter.
*£26,000 in 1794 would be equivalent to £1.5 million today
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Filed under Landscape: The Social and Environmental

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