Interview: Breathing life into the headlands of Cornwall with James Meredew
The headlands of Cornwall have stood the test of time, they’ve braved storms, battering winds and monstrous waves. These life-sustaining giants are equally gentle as they are colossal. It’s these moments of calm, serenity and peacefulness that James Meredew approaches the landscape to attempt to capture a side of the story. Using his medium format camera with a black and white film, James brings to life the rough rocks, elegant flowers and crispy seaweed.
James recently released one of his encapsulations in the form of a book, called Cudden Point and summarises the story in the blurb:
Cudden Point is a promontory headland situated in the parish of Perranuthnoe on the South Coast of Cornwall.
Long ago the estate of Pengersick Castle nearby at Praa Sands belonged to a Lord who was cruel and wealthy. By taking from the poor he kept himself and his equally wicked guests in extravagant luxury. One summer evening he decided to entertain his visitors on board his nest ship, anchored off Cudden Point. Surrounded by luxury they dined around his most valued possession, a solid silver table.
With cries and cackles of enjoyment filling the room everybody failed to notice a dramatic change in weather. Before they had a chance to escape huge waves smashed the ship into the rocks, sinking it along with its master, his guests and the silver table.
Such was the belief in this event that for many years after children would go down to the point in hope that the tide would fall just enough to reveal the gleaming table. Fishermen would tell of sounds of revelry heard from beneath the waters, and some have said they have seen these wicked ones still seated around the silver table.
Cudden Point is the second in a series of works looking at the promontory headlands of Cornwall. The photographs are coupled with a story of myth about the area.
We spoke to James to learn more about his memories of Cudden Point and how he approached the project. For more information, follow James at the end of this article.
You can purchase the book at www.ancientmagiceditions.co.uk
Yew! Magazine: What’s your first memory of visiting Cudden Point?
James Meredew: I think about 10 years ago, me and my friends used to go cliff jumping at Piskies which is a cove just around the corner. Any walks around Prussia Cove would invariably include going down to Cudden Point. It’s only fairly recently in the last couple of years that I have explored it properly. I like trying to get down the very end of the headlands at spring low tides and looking back up to see all the features and how the rocks have been formed over time.
Yew! Magazine: It’s part of a series of works where you look at the promontory headlands of Cornwall. How do you approach each headland differently?
James Meredew: Every trip is guided by three main things that have to line up, the weather, tides and light. In those three things alone there are tonnes of variables and fitting it around other work can sometimes be difficult. I do a lot of research beforehand on each headland, checking OS maps, nautical charts and swell forecasts. I suppose every approach is fairly similar, you have to respect these places and ultimately I’m trying to get to all the ledges, zawns and caverns that are possible without climbing gear so any previous research is handy. The differences happen on the days of shooting, if the tides are right at 5 am on my day off and the weather looking nice then it’s got to be an early start for me.
Yew! Magazine: What was the initial inspiration for it and did you face any challenges?
James Meredew: The idea of the series happened late 2019 when I went out for the day photographing at Logan Rock. After I developed all the photos and sat down to look at them I began seeing a narrative with the images. I knew the story of the Logan Rock stone, and at homemade a book dummy coupling the photos with the story at the back. Since then I have had a big and growing list of places I’d like to photograph and then with that comes all the developing, processing and scanning. The biggest challenge on this project and I think in life is finding time for it all!
Yew! Magazine: What format did you shoot in and why?
James Meredew: For this work, I’m using my medium format camera with a black and white film, then developed and processed at home. The developing process is pretty lengthy but it’s something I’ve done for a long time and enjoy. I like not having to rely on anyone and it can be done on a rainy day with lots of tea which is nice.
Yew! Magazine: Do you have any other upcoming projects?
James Meredew: I have about 8 on the go at the moment, which is a record for me. They’re all at various stages, some I have taken all the images and need to be sequenced. Some are sat in rolls undeveloped in the cupboard. I guess I know they will get finished when they’re ready. It’s like Coolio said, “Life is too short to not have fun, we are only here for a short time compared to the sun and the moon and all that”.
︎ Follow James on Instagram.
Tags | Q&A, Interview, Photography