Inside the concrete matrix of London’s National Theatre, Charlie Waite holds up a wine glass on which rests a perfectly crafted wren’s nest. ‘This is beautiful,’ he says, ‘and you should look at it a lot.’
Waite describes how he found the bird’s home on the verge of a country lane in his native Dorset the day before and such serendipitous joy will be shared by anyone visiting his Silent Exchange exhibition.
The warren-like construction of the National Theatre means there is a sense of fortuitous discovery on viewing Waite’s landscapes, something that evolves to a more tangible wonder as you move through photographs that establish themselves as outright things of beauty, gaugeable against any art.
Pictured above: Loch Indaal, Scotland
That ‘beauty’ is something Waite sees as a constant conversation: ‘the landscape is a real, rich source of energy, that, I think, if you touch it, like if you touch that little wren’s nest, it completely does me in, I could burst into tears, which I almost did. I think that’s good for human beings,’ he tells Spear’s.
The process is clearly a spiritual one. Waite says his favourite photo was taken in Jura in France after the gloom of an existential conflict was lifted by a cloud break. Such emotion belies a technical talent that frames landscapes with a poise and timing that keeps each image fresh and free from the clichés so often inherent in such broad images.
Pictured above: Minerva, Norwegian Sea
The vacant stairwell of a ship travelling off the coast of Norway is a highlight: there are no fjords, just the sky and the steps, fertile with meaning and deeply suggestive of the more personal journeys being taken aboard this vessel, and indeed by Waite’s own choice of medium: ‘The camera is much more than a recording tool, it’s a wonderful creative device for engaging in the landscape in a wonderful and deep way, a profound way.’
While Waite avoids the term ‘art’ there is no bulwark between his medium or Monet’s when it comes to realising the aesthetic. The curation talks of being in the right place at the right time but it is clearly not coincidence that these images are as enthralling as they are.
The creator has waited, often weeks, for the right place and time to arrive and this impassioned observation makes for an enchanting narrative that takes the viewer from the desolation of the Rockies to a slumbering Provence and the hovering timelessness of Burma’s Inle Lake.
Silent Exchange is a welcome celebration of landscape photography that maintains its originality simply because the images are so good. While Waite may wonder at the silent craft encompassed in a wren’s home, his photographs harbour the sleekest and mostsubtle of vessels.
Pictured top: Chicklade, Wiltshire, England