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Meet Up & Photowalk: Manningtree

Another month, another photowalk. This time, we headed to the beautiful town of Manningtree, which lies on the River Stour in Essex. As before, we planned it so that we finished up at a nice pub to allow for a chat and a roundup of our evening.

Despite there being some periods of beautiful sunshine during the day, our arrival in Manningtree was accompanied by rather ominous clouds and occasional spots of rain. Nevertheless, our spirits weren't dampened, and the mood somewhat complemented the thematic focus of our walk, which was centered around the concept of 'Reflect.'

Manningtree was a once-thriving town steeped in history and mystery, and, a specific chapter from its history emerges as a haunting spectre, influencing the town's heritage—the mystifying account of Matthew Hopkins, the infamous self-professed Witchfinder General. With this in mind, at the heart of the 'Reflect' concept we were challenged to peer into the shadows of history, to unravel the stories that have been obscured by time's mist and to the Manningtree "witches".

As discussed by Mikaela at the start of the walk, these so-called witches were often women, standing alone in life, often accompanied by an animal, and were essentially healers - exploring nature, herbs, and harnessing ancient wisdom to mend and soothe, to bridge the gap between humanity and nature.

Just by reflecting on the lives of these people, the echoes of their stories beckon us to confront the unsettling truth that history and society have often been skilled weavers of deception. Witches, in the distorted tapestry of our past, were labeled as wicked, and the power of this label was enough to spark a collective hysteria that had dire consequences. The chilling irony lies in the fact that the collective judgment of a mere handful of voices set off a chain reaction, culminating in a grim gathering of a hundred against the few, sealing fates with an unrelenting finality. It's easy to pose many questions to ourselves for reflection, such as - How often do we see the world through lenses tinted by the tales of the past? How frequently do the errors of our predecessors seep into our own perceptions, clouding our understanding of reality? To embrace the path of authentic introspection is to reject the influence of a crowd, to critically assess our beliefs, and to dismantle the inherited judgments that shroud our discernment.

However, the concept 'Reflect' is also open to others interpretations where we ponder the tales of the past, to peer into our own reflections, and to contemplate the worlds we create – a journey that leads us not only through history, but through the very essence of our shared human experience. Or, in a more obvious sense, it could be how we can find reflections in the everyday, whether it through puddles, mirrors, windows, etc.

As the photowalk unfolded, walking along the stour and into the woods, we all collectively captured the concept of 'Reflect'. With each click of the camera, we seized fragments of time, freezing moments that echoed the very essence of reflection. Looking back at the images from our photographers, it was amazing to see the remarkable breadth of creativity, underscoring the unique lenses through which each of us perceives and comprehends the world around us.

Once again, we were blessed with a wide array of creatives on this walk. All with an assortment of cameras, encompassing digital, film, and mobile. We couldn't be happier with how these walks have grown into really big meet ups, allowing like minded individuals to connect with each other and be in a really relaxed environment. Photography, as an art form, gives us the incredible gift of exploring the same location with fellow creatives while encapsulating it in vastly distinct ways. This concept in particular encouraged us to not only see the world through the lens of a camera but to embrace the power of introspection.

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