This project is about a small community tell me how all begin?
It was quite by chance. An old friend was living there studying Biodynamic farming and I went to visit him. I was working in NYC a lot at the time and was keen to escape the city.
Is it a closed community or is it part of society?
It isn’t closed in the sense the Amish are – people go about their everyday lives, in the real world, but making lifestyle decisions, defined and formed by the writing of Rudolph Steiner. Generally, that means a life which reflects the lives of those who lived 2 generations ago. Wholesome, uncluttered by materialism, with a particular emphasis on childhood as an un-plugged experience.
What was your plan as soon as you meet this community? Did you start right away?
No. Friendships and relationships came first, picking up the camera came months later. And even then in a very informal way, without intention for it to be anything other than gathering moments of the life we were sharing. There wasn’t an end product in mind. The tighter edit ( though not tight enough on reflection) and structuring of it came 2 years later, which did change the power, meaning, and emphasis of the images and how they could be read.
« I was living a shared life with them. And have continued with a life lived very much in the same vein. »
Did you live nearby? Your relationship was easy with them?
Yes – I live in a flat above the milking parlor on the farm which forms the central point of the community. I was living a shared life with them. And have continued with a life lived very much in the same vein. That said I don’t adhere to the philosophy as rigorously – just loosely and it has informed the way I have raised my own family, they are educated within the Steiner system. The pandemic has had to bring up to speed with the modern world though, and within a week of the lockdown I have a smartphone and Ipad, just need to learn how to use them now!
I never had a moment during the time of taking the pictures when it felt like it was anything other than just an extension of how I was living my life. I have taken photographs since I was 8 and have documented my life in scrapbook form since then. It was only returning to the box of prints 2 year later that it became “something”
« I had a childhood built on a similar framework of those who grew up 2 generations before me it wasn’t surprising really »
We can see that you are often with young people. Is there a particular reason?
I suppose I wasn’t very good at being young myself. I was a sensible, old fashioned child who preferred the company of adults. I was born a century too late and would adapt the manner and dress of Edwardian characters, and as I had a childhood built on a similar framework of those who grew up 2 generations before me it wasn’t surprising really. It didn’t make friendship an easy thing to master. So I suppose in seeking out the company of younger people later in my life, I was trying in some way to understand what it was that I miss out on.
This project is published in a book, can you tell me how it happened?
It was a kind introduction by a friend, the photographer Jack Webb and a friendly cup of tea with Michael Mack who was doing his first imprint with Steidl. I think it was just a case of the right time, right place. I don’t think I had even thought of it in terms of being published as a book then.
How was your collaboration with your publisher?
Michael was always very clear that the design should be artist-led, which is at the time was rather daunting and he defiantly walked me through the process as I was a complete novice. By the time I came to the second book with him, I had real clarity and conviction as to the way I wanted to do it. And for me, it is the work of which I am most proud. The very brilliant Stephan Male played around with its rhythm and design and refine my ideas so they worked as a whole.
What are your influences in photography?
As a young teenager. The usual. If they wore a beret and used a Leica then I wanted to be them. To be honest – my reference is somewhat limited as I am more interested in painters and things I read. Andrew Wyeth. Nash. Ravillous. Photographers – Jitka Hanzlova, Bernhard Fuchs, Jem Southam. But mostly its what I read, invariably psychogeography in some form.
What is next for you? Projects, ideas?
I have a “proper “ job now. Muddling an inbox for the conservation project my husband runs. So photography is just a hobby. And maybe it’s better just like that. You can find the love in it again. I walk daily. Without fail. Opting for self-isolation, even in the best of times. Taking and posting pictures as I go on my Instagram account @clare.e.richardson
Interview by Kalel Koven