The Story of Soil



What does soil mean to me? As I went through my vast catalogue of photographs, I had no idea what I would find that related to soil. But when I put my ‘soil eyes’ on I realised that so much of what I photograph relates to soil: walking in nature, farming, food, orchards, building sites, rituals, celebrations, travelling, environmental campaigning, even funerals…

It was no surprise in a way that a few days before I got a call from Touchstone Collaborations to see if I would like take part in the series Soil Saturdays at the Create Centre, part of Soil Culture, the UK’s main contribution to celebrating the UN’s international year of Soils 2015 that I’d had a epiphany about my relationship with the soil. As I did my morning meditation on the grass in my garden, she spoke to me of her importance. The earth was dry, cracked, the grass dead. It was only July; we still had most of the summer ahead of us. I felt that it was a sign of what is to come, and what has already come for so many millions of people around the world.

I had been feeling emotional about this for days. I was afraid, feeling anxious and fearful about the future of the planet. I knew ‘the stuff’ in my head about where we are heading if we do not change the way we live, but I had not allowed myself to really feel it. Then, after a few days, I allowed the emotion to surface. The tears came. As I was bowing with my head down, looking closely at the grass with only an inch or so between my eyes and the ground, the tears watered the parched earth. They formed a lens between my eyes and the soil. They showed me a new and beautiful way of seeing what was before me.

This was a hugely important moment for me. As I got up and raised my arms to the heavens, I thanked the universe, thanked the Divine, for all that soil is. I knew that this was a time for me to take action and really commit myself to using my vision and love of photography to seeing the world differently. As Scilla Elworthy said at the SEED Festival in Stroud recently, when talking about Rising Women, Rising World, “The future belongs to those who can see it”. I truly believe that if we can ‘see’ the future as we would like it to be, this will inspire us to see our own lives differently and make changes that will contribute to a greener, fairer and happier world.

I believe that daily contact with the soil, getting my hands and feet dirty can nurture me, and help me to stay grounded on my path. The soil will help me to stay true to my quest: to use vision and photography for the heath and wellbeing of people and planet.

Please contact me if you feel moved to do so.