THE WORK IS DIVIDED into themed galleries, each of which loosely focuses on an aspect of the world that has caught my attention and triggered my sense of the marvellous or magical or mysterious – of the world in splendour.
Transformed temples and palaces
of South and South-east Asia
In its more exuberant moments, South and South-East Asian architecture has surely conjured up the the most fantastical, elaborate, sumptuous, fabulously decorated and colourful built environments on the planet – the stuff of dreams and visions of the wildest excess. To be able to wander through these three-dimensional fantasies, and capture their craziest corners and most dizzying perspectives on camera, carries me to a space of wonder. The images in this collection take these greedily gathered photos as a starting point. Using simple enhancement tools, the original images are transformed into even more dreamlike visions. Usually, I feel these enhanced photographs capture more accurately than the originals my actual experience of the location – the way my senses are thrilled and transported by these otherworldly places. They become visionary most often through the alchemy of colours. Unexpected and unusual ranges of hues carry these photographic images of ancient temples and palaces away into the realm of fairytale and fantasy. For me, their richness and strangeness reflect the magic of the sites themselves. These glorious colours, just as much as the extraordinary buildings and environments they conjure up, are some of the greatest treasures of the world in splendour.
Lighting the way
to the eternal
There is a quality of the light, a certain type of tone or intensity or tint, that immediately points beyond time. Any scene or object bathed in or touched by this light seems taken out of the temporal and glimpsed suddenly as a part of the eternal. Images that capture this magical effect of the light always reveal the world in splendour. They may be everyday moments of worldly life on the surface, but the light recasts them into the timeless realm, the eternal. And the photograph of that frozen instant offers a taste of eternity, the eternal that is here now, if only we could see beyond the temporal that overlays it in the mind. The mood in these images is always one both of peace and tranquility yet also of yearning for something we feel to be real but cannot normally grasp. This light seems to pierce the Illusion in which we live out our lives, showing for a moment the true splendour of the world.
The dazzling and delightful complexity of the world
This collection captures a number of corners of existence where complexity and sometimes, apparently, chaos reigns. In these images, the sheer exuberance of life fizzing and frothing – so much vital energy flowing into so many fantastical forms, all jumbled and jostling together – reveals the world at its richest and most magnificent and joyful. A dazzling complexity, a luscious layering that tantalisingly invites further investigation of this world in splendour. Whether occurring within natural or man-made environments, or in intentional or accidental fusions of the two, and whether generated naturally or with conscious or unconscious human assistance, complexity characterises countless spectacles, from sumptuous decorative craftwork to the residue left by a polluted, monsoon-swollen river. For those who have been soothed almost to death by ‘Zen’ minimalist ‘decoration’ and design, here is the antidote – try relaxing instead in this frothing bubble bath, fizzing with the fullness of life. If super-simplification has failed to revitalise, try instead the healing power of abundance, and its reminder of the vast richness and variety and energy of existence. To enjoy absolute maximalism, I have layered a number of already intricate images, sometimes of closely related subject matter, sometimes more disparate, to create dazzlingly complex visual effects.
Fabulous and fantastical
flora and fauna
Collected here are a few of the myriad marvellous creatures and plants of this world in splendour that I happen to have caught on camera. Plants and animals are endlessly fascinating, and restorative for even the most jaded vision. Anyone open to the experience can be delighted and entranced for hours by a simple kitten or a baby monkey at play, while the humblest of wayside flowers offers its beauty to all who pass by. To capture these everyday moments and draw attention to their throwaway miraculousness, alongside other, rarer natural treasures, is one of the most satisfying ways to evoke this world in splendour.
European architecture through a visionary lens
The spectacular cathedrals of Europe, towering majestically over the modest buildings of the cities around them must, in their day, have transported people into the heavenly worlds that seemed folded into their soaring stone columns and vaults. This was the most fantastical period in Western architecture, when the culture seems to have been closest to a more holistic, transcendent experience of the world, closer in quality to that which has always prevailed in the East. Inevitably perhaps, the visionary treatment has spread to my images of European architecture, although its harsher rhythmic qualities seemingly cannot be coaxed so readily as the more flowing Asian forms into fantastical dreamlike scapes. They tend instead to lend themselves to more purely formal, visual play. Still, certain Gothic (including 19th-century mock Gothic), Romanesque or early Renaissance structures have yielded a few dramatic moments of their own, most notably the Duomo in Florence. In 19th-century Britain, the Victorians eagerly sought to recapture something of that fast-disappearing sense of the otherworldly in their civic and domestic architecture - usually failing dismally, because the spirit had already flown. But still, the quixotic qualities of Chester city centre, for example, have something of the fairytale, the magic of a vanished world. The remaining images are captured from the cathedrals or abbey churches of Notre Dame and Saint-Eustache in Paris, and Chester, Wells and Hexham in the UK. There is also a Gothic quality to the contemporary London cityscape, when somewhat adapted…
The glorious Technicolor world of the divine
There seems to be an increasing tendency, in cinema especially, to depict anything that comes from beyond the mundane as dark in every sense, such that when these entities interact with our world, they drag it into near colourless shadowland states –the stuff of nightmare. It is as if the old visions of the bright gods and their brilliance are being forgotten in this haunted notion of the ‘supernatural’. Let us not lose touch with this more splendid half of the picture – the glory and beauty of the gods and the godlike and their realm. May these vibrant deities put a little colour back into the otherworld. Entities credited with the Creation and its manifold aspects, and those humans worshipped for their divine wisdom about that Creation and our place within it, surely see the world arrayed in exceptionally vivid, vital shades, through eyes unclouded by the troubles of mind that turn so many people’s daily worlds to dreary shades of monochrome. As with the temples and palaces, these images are largely about the glorious colours that come when I play around with the dials, but it seems fitting that the gods should become psychedelic in this world in splendour. Most of the images come from one wonderful small garden in Chiang Mai in Thailand, filled with the beautiful terracotta works of one man - I don’t even know his name. This tiny corner of the world, jungly and overgrown and overflowing with statuary, allows the imagination to drift off into a dreamlike state. The remainder of the pictures show a Buddha from outside Chiang Mai merging with some additional spectral spires from the Shwedagon in Rangoon, Myanmar, and the spectacular multi-coloured gopuras of the Meenakshi temple in Madurai, India, given an even more psychedelic flavour.
Dramatic happenings in the cosmic theatre of the sky
The sky that forms an ever-changing backdrop to all the events on Earth is itself the source of some of the most splendid of worldly spectacles. Sunrises and sunsets and sudden tropical storms create awesome displays, whose fleeting nature makes them all the more dramatic. Eerie and intense effects of light and colour transform the world below such theatrical skies, turning it into a charged space that seems the stuff of dreams. The temptation to enhance the splendour of the rising and setting sun with the colour controls proves irresistible, and the world glows like a precious jewel in the resultant images. The experience takes on its full cosmic quality – a source of deep awe and wonder.
Windows into multi-dimensional worlds
The world as glimpsed through reflections in glass seems an infinitely complex spectacle. The merger of what is without and what is within fascinates in its spatial ambiguity. Nothing is certain any more, and yet so much is there to see, to untangle. Everything combines into a jigsaw puzzle in many layers. Occasionally, a new and fantastical world is shadowed forth. These shots were taken wherever I noticed the opportunity – mostly in Paris, Amsterdam and Ubud in Bali.
Diaphanous filigree carved in stone and dancing in light
The ultimate visionary sacred space hand-carved by humans must surely be the Chathurmukha Jain temple at Ranakpur in Rajasthan, India. Wandering in this sunlight-filtered structure of 3D lace in pure white marble was certainly the most sublime of all my architectural experiences. The temple was built between 1446 and 1496. It magically weaves light and air into its forests of delicately carved columns, its arcaded galleries and soaring domes inset with fantastical filigreed stone mandalas. If this was a temple created to inspire a thirst to know the wonder of the celestial realms, then those who created it must surely have come close to knowing them too. It may be intended to evoke the glory of the beyond, but somehow, miraculously, it is in this world – and adding immeasurably to its splendour. Playing with my photographs of the temple became an even more magical journey into ever more filigreed, fabulous and diaphanous dream spaces. The more I layered the lace-like carved surfaces, the more infinite-feeling the impossible temple that was shadowed forth, dissolving upwards and downwards and into the distance in a dappled expanse of delicate form. If such a structure could ever be conjured out of the world we know, it surely could not fail to transport any receptive visitor into a state of visionary awareness of the infinite.
Other moments of earthly
magic and magnificence
These images did not easily sit – or fit – in any of the other galleries, but still they feel full of the beauty and strangeness of the world. These moments, and so many more like them, are further reasons to live in perpetual wonder. Even the most seemingly ordinary and everyday things can suddenly startle by their unexpected splendour when we remain truly present to the world around us, seeing all its endless odd juxtapositions, and all the ways in which light plays across it all, giving it life.