CLOSE UP: Jake Williams – What Are Days For?

A dense tangle of bare branches reflected in a wintry pond

© Jake WIlliams

Shutter Hub member Jake Williams is a photographer originally from rural Dorset. He took his first steps in photography on a family holiday, and it was the start of a lifelong passion. Later inspired by a Ansel Adams retrospective at the RPS in Bath, and again at further exhibitions at the Royal Academy and the Barbican, Jake was introduced to a wide spectrum of photographic possibilities. His project What Are Days For? is an exploration of monochrome 6×6 photography inspired by the scene of a winter pond.

Sharing and expanding his photographic knowledge at groups including Independent Photography In The Southeast and the London Writers’ Salon, his practice continues to develop, and he look forwards to seeing where it takes him. Jake’s work has featured in Shutter Hub’s YEARBOOK 2021 and POSTCARDS FROM EUROPE exhibitions. 


Picture yourself by a pond in the winter, as cold greyness envelops the world and the last shrivelled red berries cling to nearby hawthorn bushes. A world between worlds, shifted out of time by the mist that is all mists. Where did time go? However much the world shrinks, our imagination can still roam. We can still keep weaving those enchanted threads together under lowering winter skies. Beneath the ice, beneath the mud, life awaits.


Frozen grasses and reeds surrounded by snow.

© Jake Williams


Wondering and wandering by a wintry pond inspired so many questions. And you may ask yourselves…how did we get here? We’re confronted with a world in crisis. We’re increasingly asking ourselves where do we go from here, how do we reconnect with nature and rediscover our sense of wonder. Nurturing our creative sparks can, in the words of Marvin Gaye, help us to “bring some lovin’ here today”. Let’s awaken some sleeping beauty as we take a walk around a pond in a Cumbrian wood and start to write our own verse, maybe redefining our relationship with place – we rarely ask ‘what does the Earth ask of us?’ Telling stories can help forge connections and help us put the rational mind on mute.


Frozen grasses and reeds surrounded by snow.

© Jake Williams


The winter pond is a place of slow growth, a world away from the frantic Christmas stampede, a sugar rush followed by a crash and New Year, new me. Creatively, it can inspire slow looking at minimally monochrome scenes. For an instant, you might hear the slow pulse of the winter world. Water is such an appropriate element for winter, quiet and still in the chill woods. It hangs as raindrops on nearby trees and bushes , occasionally pattering on last autumn’s decaying leaves, becoming vapour, then falling again as rain to refill the pond. Night continues to follow night as the days gradually lengthen. Light and dark in the present as in the prehistory, passed through a lens in a moment, then back again to light.


Dead and decaying reeds by the side of a pond

© Jake Williams


What happens in those spaces between spaces? A few more stone atoms have scattered to the winds. Green shades of mosses and lichen creep across sandstone. Elsewhere in the wood, disused quarry workings have filled with rainwater and become ponds in their turn. It is late afternoon and a silver sliver is visible in the distance. Red squirrels curl themselves a little tighter in their drays, maybe dreaming of a feast of acorns. Birds cling to branches, making the most of whatever berries they can still find. A year is ready to end and the wood is ready to say goodbye. January awaits in the in-between days, when nothing much happens and nothing much really needs to happen.


A wintry pond, with dead and decaying vegetation dotted here and there, as sunset approaches

© Jake Williams


Just don’t shut yourself in a wardrobe – but on the other hand, getting lost can literally transport you to another world. Just like the promise of growth within the most sombre winter landscape, the desire for enchantment still lives within us.


A tangle of bare branches reflected in a wintry pond

© Jake Williams


If you’re not quite sure where you’re going, or what you’re doing, then you have the potential to end up somewhere you haven’t been before.


To find out more about Jake’s work, visit his Shutter Hub portfolio here.


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