I've written before (here) about wanting to explore the idea of photograph Hermitage cells and oratory's for my new work - they symbolise a spiritual sanctuary in nature away from human society. During my research I identified one particular hermit cell I felt a huge pull towards. It is built into a large rock outcrop on the outskirts of a local village called Roche. In researching Roche Rock, I found a fantastically apt description of it by 17th-century typographer John Norden, I've written about it here but in short, the description related to nature and time, which are both central to the context of my work.

Fig.1: Nic Shonfeld, 2021, Roche Rock Oratory / Hermitage Cell. Contact sheet scan

I took a reccy trip to the today. If the sky had been a little more ominous I might have experienced something spectacularly eerie - there was not a soul in sight except blackbirds swooping around the top of the truly impressive structure - it was straight out of a horror movie stuff. It made me think about how I need to shoot in low light, not because I want to make it look spectacular, on the contrary, I want to shoot it as it is found and not dramatise it - shooting in low light will help to balance exposure.

Aside from the main pathway to the base of the actual rock, which comes at it from the side of the chapel and isn't a good vantage point, the surrounding land is a thick sea of ferns and gorse which makes finding a good place to shoot from quite limiting. I have an idea of where I want to photograph it from but the barely trodden pathways leading that way were so muddy I decided I would need to come back and explore the area more when the weather wasn't quite so foul. I took the closer images of the chapel for the sake of it - sometimes negatives appear differently in print to how you thought when you took the picture, not the case in this instance, they confirm I want to photograph it from a far more distant location and include to the full scale of the outcrop.

I took some images of some charred gorse bushes I found at the base of the rock. There had been a gorse fire at the site recently so much of the vegetation was burnt and charred. Gorse is a symbol of Cornwall, what does a burnt symbol of Cornwall signify? Nothing I want to say really. I was thinking, in relation to time, about the history of the plants and bushes, like a near-death experience or something. The charred growth seems to make sense but I am not quite sure why at the moment.