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The meaning behind ‘The Greenhouse’

Recently, I was musing on the relevance of images to each of us and how that changes from person to person.

People see an image and it means different things to each person. The image  effects them. To some that effect is deep and meaningful, visceral even, and to others it’s trite and meaningless. I can’t account for that except it’s perhaps what allows us to “edit” the millions of images we see, into piles – important/trivial, like/dislike – and I have to say, in the main, that’s how my own editing works. Binary. On / off – like / dislike.

Phil Cosker, a dear friend of mine, a photographer, writer and all round Renaissance Man, produced a set of images nearly 40 years ago. Recently he displayed them – printed very large – in a number of churchyards around Lincolnshire.

Even more recently he has included them on his web site <<<HERE>>> under the title “Landscapes”. I was assisting Phil with his web site at the time and as I was uploading the images, one in particular ‘Hit me’. And that is not much of an exaggeration. It’s the image of a dilapidated greenhouse shown above.

Now, as I said “People see an image and it means different things to each person” add to that at 73 with my foot well over the threshold of my dotage, this is how it spoke to me.

It struck me just how strong a metaphor for the passage of time and impending old age it is.

  • The design and construction of the structure have a quality of times past, tradition if you like. I remain a man of my time.
  • The once shiny protecting glass is cracked and broken. I’m not so glossy anymore – if indeed  I was in the first place.
  • It doesn’t appear to be standing straight. That is as it is.
  • Impending collapse is imminent. It will take only a slight nudge to alter its state. With a small hand full of issues that’s very true.
  • The structure is corrupted by wet rot and is unstable. Amen to that.
  • It’s not as well maintained as it once was. Amen to that too.
  • It’s seems to be struggling to keep things from falling out – grabbing onto memories of times-past. There is more dropping out of my clouded noddle nowadays than is going in.


 Old age writ large across the remnants of its and my own corporeal being.

And yet, still it stands, doing its job, sort of. Though rickety, it’s still protecting – showing the present what the past looked like and how the job was done. Dilapidated, and yet it remains shabbily regal and very frayed, chic even (on a good day at least).

The trees in the background are blurred. That in itself continues the metaphor. Present day life passes by at such a speed. It’s all such a blur.

Rarely has a picture spoken to me so directly. Rarely have I taken so much out of a picture.

I know… as my wife, Sue, says, “you think too much”.

I remind her, like the Greenhouse, I shall eventually fall apart and collapse. As indeed shall we all.

Production Notes  and Copyright
The image was taken with a large wooden 5 x 4 camera and a vintage lens The quality is extraordinary. The small image shown here does not do it justice.

The image is Copyright ©Phil Cosker and has been used here with his permission.
Phil can be contacted from his web site <<<HERE>>> .
While you are there take a few minutes to view some of his photographic work and perhaps sign up to receive his weekly 500 word stories, some of which you can read  <<<HERE>>>. You wont regret it.

Lincoln. 2020

The little cares that fretted me…

Out in the fields.

Original by Elizabeth Barrett Browning.
My apologies for the corruption.

The little cares that fretted me
I lost them yesterday,
Among the fields above the sea,
Among the winds at play,
Among the lowing of the herds,
The rustling of the trees,
Among the singing of the birds,
The humming of the bees.

The foolish fears of what might happen.
I cast them all away
Among the clover-scented grass.
Among the new-mown hay,
Among the husking of the corn,
Where drowsy poppies nod
Where ill thoughts die and good are born—
Out in the fields with the dog.

Then the snarling farmer barks,
“Get Off My Fucking Land”
And breaks up the reverie.

PDBarton May 2020


With all the talk about Covid-19 and immunology washing around I was surprised to find a family connection of sorts whilst carrying out some family research.

Some of my forbears, on my grandfathers side, are from around the Berkeley area of Gloucestershire. So what, you may ask?

The founding father of immunology, Edward Jenner, was from Berkeley and whilst researching my forbears I came upon the record above.

It is the actual frontispiece  of the register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials from the small town of Berkeley in Gloucestershire.  Many of my forebears are in these records.

I don’t normally start at the very front, and I’m guessing not many others do either, but this time I wanted to see the full record. That’s where I discovered this note.

For those of you who do not know, Edward Jenner was the local doctor/surgeon. He is credited with the popularisation of immunisation.

You can see in this document a note dated 1795 by the curate, William Davies, to the effect…

“ In the spring of the year 1795 three hundred and nine persons were inoculated with the small pox in the town of Berkeley by Henry and George Jenner all of whom recovered”.

Though not the first to inoculate, Jenner was the first to prove the efficacy of inoculation in providing immunity to disease, in this case small pox.

Added to this, my forebears have a connection with the Nelmes family of Berkeley. Sarah Nelmes, a milkmaid provided the pus from a sore resulting from cowpox which Jenner used to inoculate an 8 year old boy. When Blossom, Sarah’s cow, died it’s hide was taken and is now hanging on the wall of St Georges Medical School Library (Tooting).

Small world isn’t it?

Lincoln, 2020

Book Review: An Inner Silence.

Book review

Title: An Inner Silence: The Portraits of Henri Cartier-Bresson.

Authors:  Forward by Agnes Sire. Introduction by Jean-Luc-Nancy.

Publisher: Thames and Hudson. 181A High Holborn. London WC1V 7QX.

ISBN: 0-500-54317-8.

The book draws images from the  permanent holdings of the Collection of the Foundation Henri Cartier-Bresson.

The book generously features 97 tritone reproductions of Cartier-Bresson’s works.

“The true portrait, (is) one in which the subject represented is not caught in any action, and does not even show any expression that might detract from the person themselves…”

…writes Agnes Sire the curator.

That clear phrase captures the essence of Cartier-Bresson’s portraiture. There is a naturalness to the images together with a deceptive ease.

The images are not contrived, neither does the sitter fill the frame. No, the subjects are generally in their own apartments, galleries, studios etc, which become part of the image; frames them if you like, and so becomes as much of the portrait as the sitter.

I don’t know if the sitters were posed and directed. I suspect not. They may well have been placed against a chosen background but that’s about as far as artifice seems to stretch. 

I’ve mentioned the naturalness before but it’s worth the repetition. It’s as though the images have been made during a lull in the conversation or at a moment of private reverie. Compare them, for example, to contrived and posed studio work of the great and good by Karsh of Ottowa. Wonderfully lit and super sharp, but in spite of that there is something missing. Some ‘je ne sais quoi’ which is evident in Cartier-Bresson’s portraits

Famously Cartier-Bresson was a 35mm Leica user, usually hand held, and that is sometimes evident in the lack of sharpness in some images; though he equally famously said “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept” by way of explanation I suppose.

The images appear to have been shot in available light, that and the non-central positioning of the main subject in the frame, sometimes awkwardly, enhances the naturalness of the images.

Well worth adding to your library I would say.

Reading under lockdown.
Lincoln UK
Late April 2020

A Line Runs through it – online.

Back in early April I wrote here about the possibility of an on-line exhibition of the works comprising this show.

I’m pleased to say the exhibition of the images produced is now live. It can be found here.

“A line Runs through it.”

The work describes, both geographically and in pictures, the transit of the 0deg Meridian line as it passes from just above first landfall in Holderness in the east Riding of Yorkshire, South across the Humber and continuing on through Lincolnshire until reaching the Lincolnshire / Cambridgeshire border some 76 miles due south.

The image above shows some of the Ordnance Survey maps and photographic and GPS navigation tools to make images.

I would like to thank Masshaus Exhibition Design of Birmingham for the renders of a virtual gallery for these images and, in particular to Kate Naylor-Barton, the Design Director at Masshaus – our daughter – for the design and production of the website.

Images are available to purchase.

Please contact me on for details.

Lincoln, UK

A tale of coffee and a great postman.

 I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to coffee. For over 20 years I’ve owned a Gaggia Espresso maker. I got so much use out of the original it died and I bought a replacement.

Even the new one ( 10 years old now)  was suffering from over use but I found a Gaggia service centre in Nottingham and a delightful engineer called Giacomo  picked up the machine and delivered it back to me as good as new.

Yes, you can see my obsession can’t you. Don’t judge me too harshly. Some people smoke or drink. I do neither. Some play the horses or gamble. I don’t. No, my singular addiction is good coffee.

This week I had a catastrophic upset (Yes, yes, I know. This may be insignificant and trivial to you, and in the current circumstances it probably is but…) when the handle on the coffee basket snapped off, making the machine unusable.
It was my own fault. I had put it in the dishwasher for years and the corrosive effect on the steel inside the handle had buggered it up.

Sue ordered another straight away – the sight of a geriatric addict crying in the kitchen was just too much for her obviously. It was supposed to be delivered by Royal mail yesterday. It didn’t come. I stopped the postman and asked if he knew anything about it. He didn’t but apologised for the bad service.

There was a ring on the doorbell very late in the afternoon. There stood the postman. He had discovered the parcel in the wrong bag after he had left this particular delivery walk. He had driven back to give me the package.

It’s very easy to criticise but today Royal Mail in general and our local postman in particular, delivered great service.

Here it is above. It’s been getting a bit of a hammering today.

My apologies if I sound like an overprivileged whiney old addict. I wont argue. I am, but  having been locked down for nearly 2 months now with the prospect of that going on for a very long time, and without coffee, well… need I say more.

Whiney, overprivileged old fart of a coffee addict, and yes, very grateful that’s all I have to worry about.

PDBarton, Lincoln UK. April 2020.

Looking backwards

As the Covid-19 lockdown bites, the ability to get out of the house has been curtailed. Consequently, images from an unfettered past are seen from a new perspective.

A couple of years ago I worked on a project photographing along the length of the Greenwich Meridian as it passes through Lincolnshire. I started just north of the Humber estuary. Though not strictly in Lincolnshire, the Meridian first hits land in this coastal part of Yorkshire before entering into Lincolnshire. Using a series of 42 images I describe the passage of this notional line across 75 miles of its journey.

I took many more than the 42 images I’ll eventually use. I was helped considerably by Phil Cosker who spent time with me editing down the images to the curated 42 I shall be showing. But where to show them?

With the Corona virus raging across the country galleries are closed. So what to do? A while back I produced an on-line gallery of sort, now removed, which was an attempt at showing the work virtually. At that time, there being no virus issues, truth be told, I was more interested in a real showing of the project.

Times change. I’m now working with Masshaus Exhibition Design, an exhibition design company based in Birmingham to see if we can produce something on-line and much further along from my own fledgling attempt. Watch this space, as they say.

April 2020.

Working from home.

I’ve been asked by a couple of people to talk about how my 2 weeks self isolation have gone so far, what view I have on a further 12 weeks and what I am doing to handle the isolation.

If this is of any use to you then pass it on, and, of course, if you have anything to add then please do.

I’m going to start with a positive comment about negative people.

I’m fully prepared for those who think they know what’s best for me and the population as a whole. I’m prepared for the slurs. Well, those who know me will not be at all surprised when I say to those people “Go forth and multiply”. I shall delete any such comments and I’ll positively block all of those types.

OK. Let’s get on.

Here’s the reasons why I’ve chosen to self isolate and will continue to do so.

I’m 73. I’m a type 2 insulin dependant diabetic. I was diagnosed over 20 years ago. I have a couple of other health issues. In short, I am at the greater risk end of the “likely to die” scale should I contract Covid19, so I’m careful.

How have I managed in the 2 weeks so far?

I’ve been retired from full time employ for many years and my wife, being younger than me, hasn’t. This means I have had a long time to get used to being alone during the day. This current situation is an extension  of that ,with the added  tightening up in relation to physically contacting or being near other people.

In many ways, because I have no full time employment it’s easier for me. No clients, no hundreds of phone calls, no demands for meetings, nothing really pulls on my time, unless I want it to and I let it.

Going out.
I’ve stopped using public transport. I’ve watched other travellers and well… Their hygiene left lots to be desired. Please don’t ask.  If I want to survive, stopping all forms of public transport was/is a must. I would need a hazmat suit now to get on a bus hereabouts.

So far as I understand it, the “quarantine” spoken of, is not to stop you going out. It’s to stop you making physical contact or being near to other people; at least at present anyway. 

Where you live avoiding people may not be easy, possible even,  but  I live in Lincolnshire here on the Eastern side of England. There are tens of thousands of acres of space around here, including some on the coast, most of which have no people in them at all. I can travel there in my car (Mobile Isolation Bubble) and enjoy the freedom. 

I walk Bess, the Labrador, in the local woods which are just a few minutes drive from here. There are very, very few people there (so they’re easily avoided)  and there’s nothing to touch.

The upshot of this being,  I AM NOT HOUSEBOUND, nor should you be with a little forethought.

OK. It’s a given; no pubs, clubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas etc.  If you are gregarious that’s going to hurt. I can offer you no solutions to that because I have no experience on that score. I’m often solitary; in fact, I’m always solitary when I am taking pictures.

Now, that being said, pervesely, I like cities, a lot. If you are a street photographer that’s mainly your hunting ground. 

Again, you can still visit, at least at the moment, just don’t go near people and DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING. Mask up and glove up if necessary.

How do I spend my day?

I walk Bess.

I spend hours in front of my Mac doing family history research, sometimes I have  e-mail  and/or verbal conversations with fellow researchers all over the world.

I spend hours editing images I have taken, updating web sites.

I also write.

I make real coffee on a Gaggia I bought years ago – best investment ever – and I make black tea which I put into a small flask for the afternoon.

I make and receive Skype and Whatsapp video calls.

Am I lonely? 

Rarely but it does happen. Some days are just crap. I use those bad hours for sleep.

Do I read? 

No. I use Audible to listen to books being read aloud. It’s something I’ve loved since I was a child when I would  listen to readings at school and plays on the radio at home. It’s something I can do whilst I’m photo-editing but not when I’m writing. I get through 2 or 3 books a week.

Oh yes… I do read actual books, photo-books, which I collect, but yes, I love audio books for every day.


Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene.

This virus is a tricky bugger. It doesn’t take much to allow some into your life. Hygiene and common sense are the only answers so far.

I wash my hands after I’ve been out, when I’ve put the bins out etc.

I wash my hands after I’ve opened the post – I also burn any post which I don’t have to keep.

I’m about to put a sign on my door forbidding the posting of Junk mail through my door, especially those begging charity sacks. Is that obsessive? Probably, but It’s my life.

I try to wash my hands every hour regardless.

I carry “military grade” hand cleanse gunk when I step out.

Take home suggestions.

  1. First and last, consider hygiene.
  2. Do not become housebound. Even if it’s just a quick 10 minute walk, get out.
  3. *Practice time management. It’s important to take a break even if that’s only sitting somewhere other than your desk while you drink a cup of tea or coffee,
  4. Get an Audible subscription.
  5. Listen to wordless music when you write – I use Mozart. It seems to work best for me.
  6. If you have clients from whom you take physical work or to whom you send physical work i.e. photoprints, tell them what precautions you have taken whilst doing their work and what they should do when they receive it, i.e. it’s been handled by others, carriers etc., so dispose of cartons after emptying etc.
  7. Don’t get side tracked on silly issues. It’s so easy.
  8. Despite what people may think, indications show people who work from home generally do more hours than are expected. There are exceptions of course, but most people I know who work from home work very hard and do more hours.
  9. Social media is a lifeline to the outside world but don’t get hooked on spending working -hours reading pointless stuff.

*In one of my previous lives – I’ve had a few- my work involved me dealing with international clients in different time zones – over the USA and Europe. I worked from home at the time which meant my days were hugely extended, often 15 or 16 hours long. That was not sustainable. Provide time for yourself.

And never forget the old and hackneyed adage:

Allow for the worst and hope for the best.

Best regards and good luck to you all.

Peter Barton

Lincoln UK
17th March 2020

A new Project.

I’ve added a new project to the others in my portfolio. I’ve always been interested in shops. Not the modern glossy chains, but the old and quirky, or just the simply odd. Empty shops interest me too.

I’m going to be sorting through my images this year to put up some pictures of shops and, of course, shooting new images in this genre too.

To start off the project here’s a picture I shot today in Woodhall Spa, a small town, more a large village really, to the east of here towards the coast. Woodhall is famous for being the base for 617 Squadron (The Dam-busters) during the 39-45 war. In many ways it still wears those colours.
As my mother would have said…

“It’s a village which thinks the war is still on”

It certainly does everyear when it stages a 40’s weekend.

Anyway, I digress. Here’s an image of just one for the shops in the village.

More to come over the year..

Feb 2020