Quintin Lake – The Perimeter Back

Quintin Lake – The Perimeter

These are excerpts from photographer Quintin Lake’s photo-project The Perimeter as published in our annual magazine Common Ground.

A video-clip of his project The Perimeter was announced as ‘the most amazing film you have ever seen in this television show’ on BBC’s The One Show in September last year. The airing coincided with Boris Johnson declaring a new set of lockdown rules in the fight against the pandemic. But Quintin Lake had been walking the coastline of Britain for years already. His decision to walk the perimeter of the island had nothing to do with that other event – Brexit – but came about by his personal wish to combine walking and photography.

After an illness had confined photographer Lake to his room, he found a new purpose in walking. The slowness of walking – so he felt – allows him to slow down, be surprised and become a better photographer. An earlier walk had taken Lake from the source of the Thames to London, but this was his most ambitious walk yet.

As he set out to get under the skin of his island nation and find photographic inspiration, he didn’t know how hard it would be. He could be walking for days without meeting anyone, he had to walk in all kinds of unfriendly weather, but still Lake says walking not only made him a better photographer, but a nicer person too.

Air Defence Range Manorbier II, Dyfed, photo by Quintin Lake

His walk around mainland Britain totalled 11000 kilometers and took 454 days over five years. He slept in a tent for most the journey and carried all of his backpacking provisions. Lake would walk in sections of two to nine weeks, before returning home to edit the pictures, earn money from selling the prints, and prepare for the next section.

At the start Lake set out to capture the essence of Britain, but as he progressed it turned out the project invited him to focus on the wildness of the landscape. Lake likes abstract seascapes and is much interested in capturing industry and infrastructure as they paint a non-sentimental portrait of Britain. His photos capture the calmness, the stillness and the silence of the land.

In a piece in The Guardian Lake wrote: “The first person I met in Scotland, as I was following the Solway away from Gretna Green, was a farmer who, rather than tell me to get off his land, showed me the easiest way to cross and asked me if I had enough provisions. This was a heartwarming encounter, and one that confirmed that the right to roam is alive on the ground.”

It might be that the calmness of solitude helps to really connect with others. Lake remarked he had more profound conversations with people offering him shelter along the way then he has had with friends.

We might all be looking at his photos and think of the conversations we like having with strangers.