Pictures capture spirit of Hadrian’s Wall

IT was a series of life-changing events seven years ago which made Roger Clegg take stock.

IT was a series of life-changing events seven years ago which made Roger Clegg take stock. Family illness, bereavement, and redundancy – the latter for the second time – in his job in retail consultancy saw Roger reassess his situation in a pretty profound way.

“I was 55 and I wasn’t going to go back to the same sort of job,” he says.

Instead he turned to his hobby of 30 years – photography.

“It was a relaxation from a succession of frenetic jobs requiring long hours, much driving and many hotels,” says Roger.

“I thought, let’s do something I have a passion for, but I didn’t want to do all that travelling again.”

The choice then came down to what to specialise in, and it had to be relatively local.

The answer lay just a few miles from Roger’s home in Hexham in Northumberland – Hadrian’s Wall.

But the world heritage site, by its very nature, is much photographed, so Roger knew his work had to stand out.

He says: “The wall and the landscape corridor in which it sits is a fantastic and inspirational place, and my photographs had to be different.

“The wall is steeped in history and runs through the most varied, beautiful, and often dramatic countryside, from lowland pastures to the wild upland crags of the Whin Sill.

“I had to create in my mind a picture of how I wanted the wall to look.”

Roger drew up a list of wall qualities which he wanted his images to embody.

It included history, ecology, myth, legend, wilderness, bleakness, turbulence, beauty, drama, solidity, purpose, timelessness and diversity.

The weather became crucial in creating the desired effects.

Mist, for example, is a key ingredient in suggesting myth and legend and wintry and stormy conditions deliver their own subtleties.

For special light, very early morning and dusk were the important times.

“The weather forecast is treated with great reverence in our household,” says Roger.

So capturing so many dramatic images has not been down to luck.

“It usually requires numerous early mornings and late evenings to catch the best light, and to be out in weather that keeps many at home.”

Often, if the conditions are not right, the camera stays in the bag.

“I just enjoy being on the wall. The appeal of the wall never diminishes,” he says.

“Over time, photography has ceased to be my sole reason for visiting the wall. I have my favourite places, some wild and exposed, some sheltered, all with dramatic views.”

Roger has developed acute insights into the monument and its landscape.

“The geology, the flora and fauna, the weather, all work in unison. Change one and the balance is upset,” he says.

He recalls hearing a sound recordist talking about capturing natural sounds in remote parts of the world.

“This requires long periods of solitude just listening and looking. In time, he said, he began to believe in the spirit of wild places.

“I fully understand this sentiment. In countless hours spent along Hadrian’s Wall from well before sunrise to well after sunset, or in tempestuous weather, I wonder whether I have had the privilege of being in the presence of the spirit of Hadrian’s Wall.”

Roger’s distillation of that essence of the wall is on show in a new book launched this week at Matfen Hall in Northumberland.

Roger has supplied the images and writer Mark Richards the words for The Spirit of Hadrian’s Wall, published by Cicerone at £20.

Popular images

MILLIONS of people have seen Roger Clegg’s images of Hadrian’s Wall.

They adorn the sides of trains and buses, and featured on posters in 13 London Tube stations for the British Museum’s recent Hadrian: Empire and Conflict exhibition.

Another of Roger’s images, expanded to 30ft by 12ft, greeted visitors outside the British Museum.

Roger’s photographs are used by Hadrian's Wall Heritage Ltd, the body set up to oversee the attraction.

Neil Carney, marketing manager for Hadrian’s Wall Heritage Ltd, says: “ The development of a strong brand for Hadrian's Wall Country is essential to attract new visitors.

“Strong imagery plays a very important role in building awareness and perceptions to a local, regional, national and international audience.

“Not only are we blessed that the heritage and natural landscape of the region presents us with many opportunities for shaping how potential visitors learn about the Hadrian's Wall, but also for the imaginative and creative eye of Roger's photography.

“We have used many of Roger's images throughout a range of promotional and corporate activities, and the landscape images in particular regularly draw breath and are cited as motivation for people to consider a visit to Hadrian's Wall Country.”


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