In 1931 Paul Nash’s wife Margaret , (where would he have been without her?) bought him a No1a Kodak Series 2 camera. The camera was a present to take with them on their trans- Atlantic crossing to America
In eleven years since arriving in Romney Marsh, Nash had made hundreds, perhaps thousands of drawings and watercolour sketches. By this method he recorded ideas, feelings, emotional states and dream-like memories.
Nash had an eye for the “surreal moment”, strange juxtapositions of objects, everyday things that, for a fleeting moment seemed strange and somehow “odd”.
In 1930 Nash was living at New House in Rye (which today is marked by a Blue Plaque ). According to the poet and novelist Conrad Aiken, who was a sometime resident of Rye, “you could see him anywhere, everywhere (taking photos) perched on a style in the middle of The Marsh, waiting to get a very special light on the reeds…he was into everything”
Margaret’s idea for the gift was a good one, the camera was an ideal tool for Nash and both aided and complemented his painting. He became well-known as a photographer; his shots of the South of France and Spain have a particular quality to them.
Photographic technique did not really interest Nash he used the camera to record and to capture moments. He also assembled compositions as a painter would a still life. As an Official War Artist in 1940 Nash took photographs of an aircraft dump in Cowley Oxfordshire, these led to the creation of one of his best known and most powerful oil paintings “Totes Meer”.
Nash’s photographs around Romney Marsh are about bringing something more from everyday things. A dead tree, an arrangement of bits of bark and wood, shadows on steps and so on. Through his use of light and dark and his eye for the unusual, he brought “life” to inanimate objects. Nash produced photographs that were very personal and very recognisable as his own work.The Marsh today still has a mystery and unworldly feel to it especially on a morning like today, the mist is clearing and the sun is breaking through.
An ideal day to take some Nash inspired photographs!