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THE LIGHT ELSEWHERE: Encounters with the Elemental World by David Pickford

  • Written by  Stephen Venables
  • Published in Books
THE LIGHT ELSEWHERE: Encounters with the Elemental World by David Pickford
01 Jan
David Pickford is one of Britain’s leading climbers, but his photographic debut is much more than a mere climbing book. It delights and surprises with its breadth of vision and technical virtuosity

And unlike so many paper-squandering large-format productions, this volume makes the most of its lavish space, particularly in the stunning opening sequence of full spreads.

Like all the best photographers, Pickford finds the unique moment, or makes you see familiar landscapes afresh. He breathes new life into Madagascar’s now hackneyed Tsaranoro Massif with a wide close-up of crimson and jade plants, orange granite and distant racing cloud shadows. His monochrome ‘ice circle’ on the familiar Llyn Idwal could be an Andy Goldsworthy sculpture. A routine ski down the Vallée Blanche is transformed by sudden storm clouds over the Aiguilles Diables. In Zanskar, he opts for monochrome to dramatise the intensity of a bright foreground jagged ridge against the complementary black silhouette of another distant ridge. On one particularly memorable page, a single luminous red poppy personalises the grey-green uniformity of a wheat field in Norfolk.

The final section is a poignant, at times melancholic, record of ancient barns, gates, mountain chapels, rusting cars and peeling villas – all antidotes to the modern obsession with novelty that Pickford calls neomania. However, there’s nothing retro about the central core of the book, which juxtaposes the best of modern rock climbing – in particular, Pickford’s beloved sea cliffs – with very different adventures, such as a 15,000-kilometre solo ride through eight Southeast Asian countries on a second-hand Russian motorbike that required 17 welding repairs before the journey was complete. The accompanying diary, like so much else in Pickford’s book, brims with fun, adventure, thoughtfulness and artistry.

THE LIGHT ELSEWHERE: Encounters with the Elemental World by David Pickford, Artemis Media, £42

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