Double exposure - a photographer's award-winning home
PUBLISHED: 11:21 31 March 2015 | UPDATED: 12:01 31 March 2015
Award winning photographer Bill Jackson and wife Deborah Golden find inspiration in the surroundings of their Suffolk home
It’s the creative vision of Bill Jackson and Deborah Golden – a beautiful farmhouse and barn conversion in north Suffolk, where the formerly London-based couple have made their home.
Bill, an award winning photographer, says the move to rural Suffolk has provided them with new horizons and inspiration which are both stimulating and exciting.
“Previously we lived in North London, near Hampstead Heath,” says Deborah. “Our love affair with Suffolk came about as my sister, Sara, lives in Walberswick and we have visited many times.
“In 2007 we came to the conclusion it was time to move out of London. We thought about Cornwall, but felt it was too far. However, Suffolk is totally unique with a lovely unspoiled coastline and those famous big skies.”
The couple first looked at a property in Walberswick, then decided a farm would be ideal. The search continued to Constable country, then around Glemham and Wangford, before they eventually settled on a small freeholding in countryside a mile south of Halesworth. It comprised a farmhouse and large barn, plus a smaller outbuilding all in ten acres. The house and barn were built in the 17th century, but parts of the property are thought to date from even earlier as the roof beams are late 16th century.
Deborah and Bill turned to Tim Hannon, an architect at Brooks Architects in Leiston, to oversee their master plan, which was to link the farmhouse to the barn with a partially glazed diagonal entrance hall.
This has enabled the main section of the barn to be converted into a spacious dining/living area. At the far end is a massive west-facing window and a kitchen/ breakfast area tucked to one side. At the nearer end an inner lobby and steps lead down to the master bedroom and bathroom suite.
In the farmhouse, on the ground floor are a bedroom, snug/TV room, utility room and cloakroom. Up the stylish modern staircase is a large bathroom at one gable end, with commanding views out west, two bedrooms in the middle section, and another bedroom at the other gable end with easterly views from a large window. As the buildings were not listed Bill and Deborah had considerable flexibility with the conversion.
“These views through large windows to the east and west allow us to watch the ever-changing weather patterns as they cast light and shade on the surrounding fields right to the horizon,” says Bill. “You could call it double exposure.
“Due to very little or no light pollution at night – unlike London – I’ve been experimenting with photographing the sea and coast late at night, on long time exposures, with very dark skies and moonlight. I think it was a latent aspect of my childhood as I like the dark, walking out at night, a cloak of comfort.
“It’s a new aspect of my photography that’s producing some exciting results, some of which I will show in forthcoming exhibitions.”
Bill has also created a daylight studio in one of the outbuildings, together with a system for archival pigment processing that can produce five feet wide prints, a service used by many photographers and artists.
“We have both really adapted to our country life with gusto,” says Deborah. “Being passionate foodies and enjoying cooking, we wanted to be as self sufficient as possible. The large vegetable garden is coming on well – it’s such a delight to walk out the door and pick our own.
“We also have chickens and supply Focus Organics in Halesworth with their eggs. There are also cows and pigs, and we now have peacocks and a field of alpacas, bought from Melford Green Alpacas at Darsham.
“So over the years having been a computer engineer, a chartered accountant, a psycho/hypno therapist and an art gallery owner, you can now say I am very much a farmer.”
Bill, originally from Coventry, studied at the city’s school of art where he attained his BA honours degree. He then taught photography. Eleven years ago he married Deborah and moved to London to join her and her three children, Joe now 28 and a qualified barrister, Matthew, 27, a date farmer in Israel, and Coco, 26, a primary school teacher, also studying fine art.
“With all the children having flown the nest,” says Deborah, “it was the ideal time for Bill and me to start the next chapter of our lives.”
“We really have adapted very quickly to the rural life,” says Bill. “Getting up early to feed the animals, being in tune with the countryside – a total contrast to London, were I still go for part of my work. The train station is close and I can be in London in two hours, but it is a delight to be back here. I like to make sure I am here on Fridays as I meet up with friends for a chat and a pint at The Angel in Halesworth.”
Besides all her farm work, Deborah is creating a cottage style garden with borders full of country flowers. “Although I have always loved food and cooking and had allotments before, this new direction is very rewarding. Our open plan main living area lends itself to gatherings of 12 to 14 and is our favourite room, although I also like the master bedroom.
“Naturally we support other local food producers, such as Reydon Bakery and Pump Street Bakery at Orford. We’re fortunate as this county is one of the food bellies of England. It is full of very talented people. If we go out we like Mains in Yoxford – good honest food. A trip to the coast is very relaxing, especially in winter.
“There is lots going on in Suffolk, such as The Maverick Festival at Great Eastern Park Farm, where Bill had a pop up studio to photograph all the acts.”
“We can honestly say this new life has released another wave of imagination and creativity,” says Bill.
“We’re responding to the environment, exploring its adversities and enjoying every minute.
“This property has a very calming feel, everyone says so. Fantastic sunrises and sunsets, looking out for weather fronts, nature in your face, who could ask for anything more? And a great environment to create new photography.”
n Bill Jackson’s next exhibition is at the New Cut Gallery, New Cut, Halesworth, March 31- May 9