The Image: Stephen Connell, from the series "Wasted light"
I was raised in rural England, in a village with no more than 200 houses, one phone box, a church and two notice boards. There were no street lights, no shop or even a typical English pub. My family moved when I was 17. I swapped lives from the countryside to reside in Liverpool. For the following ten years I lived the life of an inner city adolescent, working by day, partying by night. I had always held a keen interest in art, and I eventually become a mature student studying for a photography degree in a city near to where I had spent my early childhood.
Wasted light evolved from a childhood fascination of seeing the orange glow illuminating the sky from the direction of the nearest neighboring town nine miles away. Where I grew up, in the Lincolnshire countryside, it was very dark at night and the stars were highly visible in the sky. I recall witnessing Halley's Comet when I was eleven from my garden. I have spent my adult life devoid of the wonders of the night sky. Growing urbanization ensures that my own child cannot now share this experience from my childhood memories.
One thing that did light my bedroom up at night was a television mast a mile away called Belmont mast. This is a considerably large telecommunications transmission mast. In the nineties Belmont Mast was considered to be one of the tallest constructions of its kind in the world. This remains today as then, a night time beacon guiding me back through the unlit rural roads of rural Lincolnshire.
For my final year of study, I wanted to produce a body of work capturing this light pollution that I had become fascinated with from an early age. I revisited my former village to begin exploring light pollution using photography. My early memories of the mast’s red eyes peering through my thin curtains remained with me. This shot was the first successful image I captured whilst experimenting with shooting landscapes at night. I had spent the previous six months frustrated with underexposed images, playing with the light, but not truly capturing it. Belmont Mast was a pleasant surprise when the negative appeared through the developer. This was the longest exposure so far, and from this juncture the series rapidly progressed.
Wasted light was generally shot by following the orange glow of ether cast into the night sky in rural areas of Lincolnshire and Derbyshire. The series features industrial scenes transformed from their mundane practicality of day, into ethereal palaces of light by night, and skyscapes illustrating the orange glow caught in the clouds, emanating from urban areas.
- Stephen Connell
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