Behind the scenes at Wimpole

Professional photographer, Mike Hodgson, spent a year photographing staff and volunteers who care for Wimpole Estate in Cambridgeshire. We caught up with him about his experience of being involved in a project that captures life behind the scenes.

What was it like to go behind the scenes at Wimpole?


Photographers are always trying to find subjects or places that have rarely been shot before. This can be extremely difficult and, therefore, a chance to go behind the scenes at Wimpole was something special. Indeed, it exceeded expectations. Staff were very supportive and gave me licence to access all areas. This freedom meant that I could shoot scenes that would not normally be recorded.

Working on a signpost at Wimpole
Man working on a wooden signpost on a bench in an old brick building
Working on a signpost at Wimpole

Why did you do it?


I’m motivated by long-term photography projects that I can immerse myself in. I’d not long finished a two year project at my village allotment and I was looking for my next project. Through serendipity, I was offered the chance of the Wimpole project. Better still, I was allowed total creative freedom. 

Caring for crocosmia lucifer flowers
Person in straw hat and white shirt seen from above in the centre of a mass of red flowers and long green leaves
Caring for crocosmia lucifer flowers


What did you love about it?


Apart from the creative freedom to ‘do my thing’, I loved the interaction with both staff and volunteers. Indeed, to do the type of photography I like doing you need to enjoy the company of people. I can’t praise enough the helpfulness and tolerance of everyone I photographed. And, I learnt a great amount about the diverse and skilful work that goes on day in, day out.

Gardening and growing under cover
Man under a covered tunnel in the centre of many green leafy vegetables
Gardening and growing under cover

What was the most tricky shot?


Photography at Wimpole could be quite challenging from a technical point of view. This was the case when shooting indoor scenes. The interior of the house is very dim for a camera and when photographing using available window light, as I did, it can be problematic. The picture of the volunteer sitting in the basement corridor of the house is a good example. In this shot I had to take care that the bright light streaming through the door glass was controlled, while at the same time being able to reveal the details in the deep shadow areas. Not easy! But, a great test to have.
 

Sunlight and volunteer in basement corridor
Volunteer sitting in basement corridor with sunlight streaming through windows in the door at the far end
Sunlight and volunteer in basement corridor

And what was the most interesting shot?


I’m often asked ‘what is the most interesting Wimpole shot you have taken?’ It’s a difficult question to pin down to any one photo. However, I think it’s not simply a case of what’s interesting to you or me now, but what’s going to be interesting in the future. For example, the interior shot of the horse stables wouldn’t be possible now – the building has been refitted to meet modern equestrian requirements. So, I’m willing to bet that the collection of photos I’ve taken in the ‘old’ stables might be of lasting interest.

A day in the heavy horse stable
Man facing camera with wheelbarrow full of hay, woman standing facing left wall, opening a bottle and rear end of large shire horse to the right in stable
A day in the heavy horse stable

You can find out more about Mike at his website www.mikehodgson.photography