22nd September - 21st November
For thousands of years, the Khoisan people thrived in this landscape. They endured scorching summers and freezing winters. For them, it is a land of apparent dualisms: a place of ritual & mythology, where water is a force of destruction yet sustains life; a place where the same sand that drifts on the wind, also builds solid rock. This is a place for telling the old stories of the water Cow, of mortality, of life after death.
And just as in the mythologies of the Khoekhoe, the landscape today is constantly shifting, moving, changing, under new threat. Civilisation encroaches on wilderness areas. Winter rainfall in the already dry environment is becoming less frequent. A landscape formed by magma and ice, now faces manmade fires which endanger countless endemic species. The tides of creation and destruction ebb and flow here in an endless cycle. New water myths were beginning to form. The phenomena I encountered - drought, fires, winds - was a constant reminder of the transience of nature. I felt compelled to capture the landscape.
These 12 images attempt to bring together a sedimentation of time, speaking of how the present is always linked with the past and future, and yet stoically independent. No single image represents the landscape in its entirety, rather they are fragments of a wider story. Bringing these fragments together allows the viewer to fill in the unspoken gaps, determine their own horizons, and hopefully, paint a fuller picture of this landscape.
I have made an annual “pilgrimage" of sorts to visit the Western Cape for over 10 years now. I often hike and explore the many mountains, rivers, and coastlines this beautiful part of South Africa has to offer. This last year was just the second time I had decided to make images of the landscape.
Over the course of my visits, this has been most evident in the region's climate. The major droughts which had left the land parched and cracked were finally receding and there were the first signs of recovery. In many areas, looking at your feet would reveal a world of fresh ferns. But, for the most part, the sparse and dry vegetation (Renosterveld) was fertile ground for fire. I witnessed wild fires in the Cederberg highlands spread over several kilometres in a single day, and in the month’s following the making of these twelve images, more bush fires would ravage several other locations I had explored. To me, this was clear evidence of the ever changing landscape; but, the images I made are not mere records of a moment in time and nor do I feel nostalgic. These images hold the history of how the landscape has come to be, as well as the potential for all future outcomes. Fire has played a natural role in this landscape for millennia. However the landscape now faces challenges from human interaction.
All images were made during the summer months of December 2020 - February 2021 using a 4x5” Intrepid large format film camera and Ilford Delta 100 film. The trip was also documented as a series of short films (available on Youtube). My hopes are to be able to return to this part of the world for many years to come and document the changing landscape
Murray has been practicing photography for over 10 years, with a focus on landscapes since 2017. Most recently, he received a Masters in Architecture from the University of Edinburgh in 2020. He uses a variety of media (digital & film) to express a love for geological processes and naturally complex scenes. His interests include wildlife, conservation, philosophy, and design. Murray believes in developing a conversation between nature and the photographer through careful observation and learning. All of this translates into a contemplative approach to photography that seeks to express what makes a particular landscape unique.
Murray’s work is predominantly black and white, but he lets his encounters with the natural environment dictate the end result. Currently, he is living in a self-built campervan travelling the UK for a long term photographic project and offering 1-on-1 in the field mentorship.