A certain slant of light
The photographs and films that form A certain slant of light were made during a year long residency at Hestercombe House, a stately home and gardens in Somerset, England in 2017. The project developed around my research into the lives of Elizabeth Maria Tyndale Warre (1790-1872) and The Hon Mrs Constance Portman (1854-1951), two women who at different times in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ran this extensive country estate without the influence of men. ‘Miss Warre of Hestercombe’ and ‘Mrs Portman’ as they were known respectively were both eccentric in different ways. Miss Warre who never married, had a very personal take on fashions of the time and would cause a stir whenever she went out in her nineteenth century home made clothes and bonnets, with her hair tossed up any old how, fastened with a comb. She was a great beauty in her youth, but rebuffed all suitors and was a recluse from middle age, never leaving the estate. Mrs Portman became widowed early in her marriage and was devoutly religious. She forbade the house servants from looking her in they eye, looking out of the window, or going into the garden. She liked her lady’s maid to stroke her feet with a feather to help induce sleep. Mrs Portman allowed the servants to listen to the gramophone on their afternoon off, but she chose the music.
Crossing the disciplines of performance and photography I drew on extensive archive material such as photographs, drawings, newspaper clippings, letters and testamonies. Combining fact, fiction and fantasy, and playing all the roles myself, my films and photographs are based on my interpretation of the lives of these extraordinary women. I touch on a broad range of themes that span past and present, including class, gender and role-play, body and gesture, the language of photography, and the uncertain, ambiguous relationship between public and private, all performed in the English countryside.