One of the sounds of the English countryside is the unmistakeable and, as I discovered, unique ringing of church bells. Change ringing is the name given to the practice of ringing a type of bell of a design almost exclusive to England, which involves a wheel being attached to the bell so that it can be swung in a full circle. There are a number of bells of different weights normally ranging from a few hundredweight to several tons, and numbering anywhere from 3 to 16. The ropes to ring the bells all drop into the bell ringing chamber, which is where the ringers in the band stand to ring out their tunes.
It was these chambers that fascinated me - many of them hidden away up narrow winding staircases, out of view from the rest of the church. I set about uncovering them in this series of environmental portraits of the ringers in their towers or in some cases on the ground floor or a balcony of the church.
Access was limited so choosing the right lighting and camera equipment for each shoot was essential as I was limited in how much gear I could physically carry up the stairs, and by the often very confined space in which the ringers had to stand. This always meant having a reccé first, which was usually when there was a practice session taking place. There was no way I would be able to transport my usual camera and lighting cases up to the chamber so I had to downsize to a camera bag and a rucksack with my flash lighting in it. There was always power in the chamber but often it was an extension lead run from another part of the church so I opted to take batter operated flash with me to avoid blowing any circuits and upsetting the vicar!
I met some fabulous people whilst taking these location portraits and had some success with one of my images in particular being named a Winner in the Portrait Of Britain competition and another being included the a digital zine by Fleur & Arbor
Unfortunately this project was brought to a halt by the coronavirus pandemic, and sadly some of the people I have photographed are no longer with us, most notably Dennis Brock who was 100 years old when I photographed him (and still driving)!